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beauty

beauty In Greek mythology, Paris was called to judge who of three goddesses, Aphrodite, Hera, and Pallas Athene, was the fairest. Eris, the goddess of discord, started the trouble when she appeared at a wedding, and threw a golden apple inscribed ‘For the Fairest’. The result was a disrupted wedding and later a war, as Paris abducted Helen to Troy. The gods were unable to make the decision, and Paris' task was not easy. Hera offered him wealth and power, and Athene promised honour and glory, but the ultimate bribe came from Aphrodite: with the promise of Helen, the most beautiful woman on earth, for his wife, Paris ended this beauty contest in favour of Aphrodite.

Like the ancient Greeks, we moderns ascribe high value to beauty and, like them, we have been unable to determine the concept of beauty, despite the fact that Miss Universe, Miss World, and a variety of other beauty contests are staged annually. With the contest still undecided, almost everybody is involved in the pursuit of beauty, and the huge profits of the beauty industry testify to its economic importance. Its significance for the individual can be judged by the time spent in the gym and in front of the mirror, and by the problems that arise from experiencing failure in this pursuit.

Bodily beauty can be defined as the deeply pleasurable experience of someone else's or one's own body. While the beauty of a person might include the person's character, spiritual quality, intelligence, and morals, the beauty of a person's body generally will not. Bodily beauty can be perceived through any of the five senses, and may be concerned with parts of the body, the whole body, or movements. Usually, however, beauty of the body refers to the visual impression of someone's body as a whole.

The origins of interest in bodily beauty were explained by Sigmund Freud, the founder of modern psychology, as being sexual drives: through a transformation, sexual attraction is moved away from the primary sexual characteristics (reproductive organs) and instead to the secondary sexual characteristics (e.g. women's more rounded forms and breasts; men's facial hair and deeper voices).

An anthropological explanation for the human interest in beauty has been offered by Robert Brain: human beings want to set themselves apart from non-humans, and therefore make alterations to the body that animals would not be capable of making. Admiration turns these alterations into marks of beauty. Exactly which alterations are admired depends on cultural preferences. Beautification strategies of one culture might, in another culture, be perceived as mutilations and as marks of ugliness. Body decorations can also mark the successful initiation or the identity of a person. But making a difference between humans and non-humans is, according to Brain, basic to those scarifications, tattooings, and colourings of the body that are associated with beauty.

Cultural variations in ideals

Neither the psychological nor the anthropological approaches above can explain the variety over time and between different societies as to what is considered beautiful. All in all, this variation makes a strong case against the idea of some universal components of beauty.

Ideals of beauty vary between and within societies: values, norms, and tastes differ from group to group; the different sexes are used for constituting different genders; and relations of power, e.g. between genders, ethnic groups, and classes, make one ideal of beauty dominant over others. Western cultures have attributed beauty to women to the point where it is difficult to talk of the beauty of men's bodies. The nineteenth-century term for describing a pleasant appearance in a man was neither ‘handsome’ nor ‘good-looking’, but ‘manly’, since beauty was reserved for women, and today ‘real men’ might be ‘handsome’ or ‘good-looking’, but ‘beautiful’ is considered too effeminate. The ancient Greeks were especially attentive to the beauty of young men's bodies, and the Nuba of Sudan and the Wodaabe men in Niger also have no difficulty in associating men and beauty. Indeed, the latter stage a beauty contest for men, gerewol, to express their special birthright of beauty and their true identity among African people.

The male beauties of the Wodaabe people in Niger challenge any Euro-American attempt to argue for the universality of beauty criteria, and point to the importance of ethnicity. To beautify themselves, the men apply yellow colour to their faces in order to lighten them, draw a line from the forehead to the tip of the nose to make the latter appear longer; blacken their lips; and, at the height of their striving for beauty, squint at the women. Taking the ethnic perspective further, the Nuba of Sudan found little beauty in the appearance of the English anthropologist James Faris; he had a beard, hair on his arms, and white skin. All were appalling features to a people to whom well-groomed hair, a smooth body, and a deep, rich black colour are central ingredients of the body beautiful. Indeed, to the Nuba it was shaving that distinguished humans from animals, and he appropriately got the nickname wõte — monkey.

The ethnic component also emerges in the Miss America, Miss World, and Miss Universe contests, which have been strongly hampered by the fact that the finalists and winners are predominantly women with white skin and Caucasian features. Women from other ethnic groups have had little chance of winning these contests, organized by white Euro-Americans, until recently.

Spiritual significance

The importance of bodily beauty has also varied through times and across societies. In Western culture the distinction between the material and the immaterial body, body and soul, and the values that have been attached to them have been central to how beauty was regarded. To the ancient Greeks a beautiful body reflected a beautiful soul and proximity to the gods. To the Gnostics (largely covering the first three to four centuries ad) the divine psychic body was caged in a physical body made by beastly creatures from the underworld. They renounced the material body and sexual drives, and strove for asceticism. In the early Christian era, where a dualism between soul and body prevailed, beauty was considered good if its appeal was spiritual and internal, but evil if its attraction was sexual and carnal. In medieval times the body and the flesh were associated with sin and women, and the immaterial soul with the divine. Thus an ethereal body ideal prevailed for women. Today, Euro-Americans seem to have gone back to an intense interest in beauty, but with a reversal of its significance: work-outs, jogging, and body-building do not any longer reflect a healthy soul, but are assumed to produce one. Further, whereas the ancient Greeks included ethics and cosmological harmony in their beautiful soul, Euro-Americans generally assume the healthy soul to be one that is up to the task of meeting the daily requirements of productive living.

A contrast to Western ideals of beauty and the importance assigned to them can be found in the study on body ideals for women in Fiji, in the South Pacific, by anthropologist Anne E. Becker. She found that the disparity between what Fijian women themselves identified as the most attractive body shape, and their actual robust appearance, did not pose a problem to them. Most women either thought that they should maintain their present weight, or actually increase it. Anne Becker explains the difference by distinguishing between an ideal of attractiveness, mainly concerned with sexuality and youth, and an ideal based on norms for what women and society ought to be like. In Fiji a robust body indicates a woman, or a man for that matter, who is embedded in a well-functioning network of family and friendship relations. This body, taken to indicate the successful practice of caring and sharing, is more important than the body of attractiveness.

Furthermore, since the Fijian body is primarily seen as constituted through the network of social relations in which the person takes part, beauty is the result of a collective effort and not, as in Western societies, an individual achievement. As a corollary, the body in Fiji was not seen as something that could be worked on and moulded. It is almost unnecessary to mention that no cases of eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia, were found in Fiji.

Changing western concepts

Of course, the slim, firm, and muscular body ideal for women which prevails in the West today, along with the tall thinness of models, are only the latest in the history of Euro-American body ideals. The rise in the sixteenth century of Neoplatonism, which saw concrete forms as expressions of divine ideas, and, as a corollary, saw the body as an expression of the soul, led to higher appreciation of beauty and a change in the ideal. As intelligence and force were divine gifts of the male body, beauty was the divine gift of the female body. Thus female beauty changed from being dangerous to being divine, and the previous ethereal female was succeeded by large, opulent beauties. During the eighteenth century this majestic type was superseded by a more slender and younger ideal for women, while the former, maternal type was denigrated to the status of ‘peasant’ beauty. This sylph-like early Victorian woman was followed by the voluptuous mid Victorian woman and the Edwardian woman of the late nineteenth century. Where the Victorians stressed a curvaceous hourglass figure, with a full bosom, small waist, and wide hips, the Edwardian woman was taller, weighed more, and had a larger bosom, but somewhat slimmer hips. Thinness was out of vogue and thin women were told to cover their ‘angles’.

Shortly before World War I a slender and serpentine type with smaller breasts, slimmer hips, and long legs was fashionable. This ‘boyish’ and youthful ideal reigned during the 1920s, succeeded by a sensual and voluptuous ideal in the 1930s. The ‘boyish’ and the 1930s fuller figure persisted throughout the 1950s until the thin look of the 1960s came to dominate. Since then thinness has reigned, with no come-back of the maternal ideal. Changes have taken place within the ideal of thinness, however. Today a woman does not only have to be slim, she has to have a compact, muscular look only achievable through weekly hours of exercise.

The above outline of the changing ideals of women in Europe concentrates on dominant ideology, and suggests a linear succession of different ideals, but the situation is, in reality, more complex. At any given point in time, there will be several competing ideals of beauty. One example, also providing an opportunity to make a small note on the opposite sex, could be mid-nineteenth century North America, where a number of alternative beauty ideals for men coexisted. There was the Byronic man, sensitive and heroic — especially popular amongst young men of the 1830s and 1840s, and modelled after Lord Byron with his leonine head, fair skin, and a body which was regularly subjected to dieting. At the same time, the muscular man of height and physical prowess existed; and a third ideal developed in the 1860s with the portly, rotund man, partner of the voluptuous female beauty, signalling maturity after the dislocating experiences of the Civil War in America and displaying his success in business. By the end of the century, however, the dominant ideal again became youthful, and now associated with the well-trained bodies of sportsmen. Classifying these ideals into the Byronic, the Muscular, and the Solid Man, these models of maleness are also found today.

The changing ideals of both men's and women's beauty is linked to society's perception of appropriate gender roles. The shifts from the maternal, robust body of the mid and late Victorian ages, to the slender ideal of the 1920s, to the compact, slim body of the present reflect changes in the perception of the proper role for women: from mother and caretaker of house and home, through the independent young women of the 1920s, to the active professional and disciplined women of the present.

Beauty, however, does not only relate to the ideal roles ascribed to men and women, but is part of ongoing social identification processes: a person might strive towards a certain ideal to signal man- or motherhood, or independence, but might also be judged differently by others. Furthermore, the interpretation of a body also changes with the context: a woman's thin, muscular body might be seen as representing the disciplined, independent, and professional woman of the 1990s, but seen next to the muscular body of a man she could still represent the fragility and vulnerability of woman.

The ideals of beauty today are defined through different perspectives as the healthy body, the athletic body, the muscular body, the natural body, the aesthetically pleasing body, etc. These ideals do not necessarily overlap. Eating healthy food, getting enough sleep, and having a daily walk might result in a healthy body, but would not produce a muscular body. Doing sports and being fit might result in an athletic body, but would not necessarily produce a healthy or a muscular body. The ideals might even be contradictory, since it is questionable to what extent it is ‘natural’ to spend hours in the gym to achieve a muscular body, and since the aesthetically pleasing body might be so thin as to threaten health. This is a crucial current issue where ‘Even Thinner-ness’ has become the ideal.

Bringer of happiness, enchantress, or femme fatale? In the intricacies of beauty are promises of happiness and prospects of disruption. Politics of power, gender, ethnicity, and culture are still, millennia away from the Greek gods, part of the indulgence that beauty incites.

Claus Bossen

Bibliography

Banner, L. W. (1983). American beauty. Alfred Knopf, New York.
Becker, A. E. (1995). Body, self, and society. The view from Fiji University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia.
Brain, R. (1979). The decorated body. Hutchinson and Co., London.
Lakoff, R. B. and and Scherr, R. L. (1984). Face value. The politics of beauty. Routledge and Kegan Paul, Boston.


See also beauty contests; body building; body decoration; eating disorders; female form.

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Beauty

Beauty


Beauty, according to the ancient Greek philosopher Plato (c. 427347 b.c.e.), is the most accessible of the Forms. Forms are transcendent sources of the essential qualities of things, the qualities that make things what they are. The proper relation among these qualities, their harmony, is what makes a thing beautiful. We are naturally drawn to beautiful things, wanting to possess them and to perpetuate their beauty in creations of our own. Our love of beauty leads us to seek it in increasingly more enduring forms of enjoyment and creation: from particular physical objects to friends and children, to public institutions and societal laws, to scientific theories and philosophical systems, and finally to Beauty itself. Thus Beauty is the harmonizing structure that give things their integrity, we desire it above all else, and in its presence we are able to create things of enduring worth. It is both the measure of our good and the enkindling agent for its accomplishment. Western notions of beauty since Plato are but a series of footnotes to these linked notions.


Objective interpretations

Aristotle emphasizes the notion of structure: The beauty of a thing lies in its formal and final causes, in the imposition of appropriate ordering principles of symmetry and unity upon indeterminate matter. He argues that for a work of art, such as a tragedy, to be excellent it must adhere to proper unities of time, place, and narrative sequence. Plotinus (205270 c.e.) emphasizes the notion of beauty's lure, the ascent by its means to the timeless. Beauty is not merely symmetry and unity; it is a power irradiating them, for which we yearn and through which we can transcend that about us which is perishing. The early Christian theologian Augustine of Hippo (354430 c.e.) identifies this power as God, through the beauty of whose Word our restless selves find salvation's rest.

Hence in Christianity, as in most religions, the actions and objects associated with worship are as beautifully crafted as possible, their beauty having the power to draw believers into the presence of the holy. Islam excludes the use of images, however, as did early radical Protestantism, finding them distractions rather than inducements. Contrast, for example, the severe elegance of Islam's Dome of the Rock mosque, or a clear-windowed New England Puritan church with the sculptured figures on the facade of the Roman Catholic cathedral at Chartres, or the ballet of icons and censors at a Russian Orthodox Eucharist.

Thomas Aquinas uses the beauty people see in the world around them, their sense of how things fit together, as a proof for the existence of God. Because they act together so as to attain the best result, they must be directed by a purposive being, as the arrow is directed by the archer. The ultimate source of such purposiveness is God. In the eighteenth century, William Paley (17431805) revived Aquinas's "argument from design," adapting it to the natural order described by Newtonian science. The well-ordered mechanistic intricacy of the world results from laws that cannot be fortuitous: the precision of a watch entails a watchmaker; the precision of the universe entails a God. People were no longer brought into God's presence through beauty, but from the beauty of nature at least it could be inferred that there must be a God who had created it.

The tendency since the rise of modern science, however, is to claim that nonsensible principles such as Beauty, although still timeless and necessary, are no longer understood as supernatural: they are the laws of nature. The Enlightenment philosophe Denis Diderot (17131784), for instance, defines beauty as the relations things possess by virtue of which we are able to understand nature in its genuine objectivity. Classicism in the arts is the claim that the timeless laws manifest in nature imply that there are rules derivable from those laws that apply to each artistic genre and that only if those rules are respected will the artist's work be beautiful. Similarly, scientists often argue that a machine works beautifully if it has been well designed, if its parts operate so that it fulfills its function smoothly and efficiently. The laws governing what works beautifully are themselves beautiful, and therefore laws that lack beauty are not likely to be adequate descriptions of what works. In this sense, a criterion of simplicity is often included in the conditions by which to assess a scientific hypothesis. For many purposes, Ptolemy's (90168 c.e.) astronomy may be descriptively and predictively accurate, but its array of circles and epicycles are unnecessarily complicated and mathematically awkward compared to Johannes Kepler's (15711630) elegant ellipses. As William of Ockham (c. 1280c. 1349) insisted, one should not multiply theoretical entities beyond necessity. Truth and Beauty, it would seem, have much in common after all.

Many thinkers, however, including most non-Western theorists, reject the notion that beauty is a universal objective reality. They argue that it is different in each of its instances. Beauty is the unique character of a thing, the way in which its specific elements are specifically related. The creation or the study of beautiful things is not a science but an art: conducting a tea ceremony, achieving inner peace through meditation or in action, freeing a statue from the marble block, telling an edifying story. For G. E. Moore (18731958), beauty is undefinable precisely because it is particular; it can only be directly experienced, like seeing the color red. Contemporary philosopher Mary Mothersill argues that a judgment of beauty is a logically singular judgment, based on radically contextual properties.


Subjective interpretations

Although there have always been those who claim that beauty is only in the eye of the beholder, modern science and the Cartesian separation of mind and body combined to reserve objectivity for physical bodies and their publicly-verifiable quantitative features. Beauty was therefore relegated to the realm of private mental things, to ideas and the sentiments. The Scottish philosopher David Hume (17111776) says that beauty is a matter of taste, a disinterested pleasure we take in certain of our sensations. The twentieth-century American poet and philosopher George Santayana (18631952) says beauty is pleasure objectified: pleasure experienced as the quality of a thing, our subjective responses projected onto their source.

The extreme version of subjectivism is found in the claim by C. K. Ogden and I. A. Richards, made in the 1950s, that aesthetic judgments have no truth functional significance: They are neither true nor false but rather emotive ejaculations akin to saying "wow." Marxist and Postmodernist forms of relativism make this subjectivism a function of race, ethnicity, religion (ideology), economic class, political power, or gender, critiquing objectivity claims as attempts to hide their self-serving character.

People often agree about what is beautiful, however, so even if beauty is a subjective feeling it can be argued that it has an objective cause. In the eighteenth century, the philosopher Francis Hutcheson (16941746), for instance, argued that on the basis of our sense perceptions we discern by a sixth sense a uniformity pervading their variety and call our pleasure in this beauty. Immanuel Kant (17241804) calls this sixth sense our common sense. As with all our other experiences, the experience of beauty involves both intuition and understanding, both sensations and concepts. But whereas for scientific and practical purposes the concepts are imposed on the sensations, ordering them meaningfully, when we experience something as beautiful we allow the free play of imagination to associate our perceptions with notions of meaning yet without their being imposed. We take what we experience as fraught with meaning but not any specifiable meaning. We take delight in this experience and so appreciate the world as involving more than what we can know about it or achieve by our actions upon it. Because these judgments involve conceptual and intuitive faculties that are the same for all human beings, they can be valid for others as well as ourselves: We have a common sense of beauty and hence our disputes about it can be rationally resolved.

Back to Plato

So Kant opens a way other than through politics, or religion, or scientific or philosophical theorizing for getting at the deeper realities underlying the world as it appears to usthrough aesthetic appreciation and through the creation of works of art. Thus in the nineteenth century, Alexander Baumgarten (17141762) claimed that beauty is the sensory recognition of a transcendent unifying perfection. In the twentieth century, Martin Heidegger (18891976) argued that the beauty of a work of art, by disclosing the workly character of things, unconceals the creative source of the world's beings, their Being. We are back once more with Plato: There is a nonsensuous Reality disclosed by sensuous beauty, toward which we are drawn because of Beauty's power to break us free from the constraints of scientific understanding and our practical endeavors, to open us to the Good they obscure.


See also Aesthetics; Kant, Immanuel; Order; Plato; Value


Bibliography

heidegger, martin. "the origin of the work of art." in philosophies of art and beauty, eds. albert hofstadter and richard kuhns. new york: modern library, 1964.

kant, immanuel. the critique of judgment (1790), trans. j. h. bernard. new york: haefner, 1951.

mothersill, mary. beauty restored. oxford: clarendon press, 1984.

ogden, c.k. and richards, i. a. the meaning of meaning: the influence of language upon thought and of the science of symbolism. new york: harcourt, brace, 1959.

plato. symposium, trans. alexander nehamas and paul woodruff. in plato: complete works, ed. john m. cooper. indianapolis, ind.: hackett, 1997.

plotinus. the enneads, trans. stephen mackenna. london: faber and faber, 1969.

santayana, george. the sense of beauty: being the outlines of aesthetic theory (1896). cambridge, mass.: mit press, 1988.

watts, alan. the spirit of zen: a way of life, work, and art in the far east. new york: grove press, 1960.

george allan

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beauty

beauty Beauty and the Beast a fairy story by the French writer for children Madame de Beaumont (1711–80), translated into English in 1757. In the story Beauty, the youngest daughter of a merchant, goes to live in the Beast's palace and agrees to marry him; she discovers that he is a prince who has been put under a spell, which is destroyed by her love for him, and her ability to see his true worth beneath the hideous exterior.
beauty draws with a single hair great beauty has a power of attraction often shown as outdoing physical strength; saying recorded from the late 16th century.
beauty is in the eye of the beholder beauty is not judged objectively, but according to the beholder's estimation. The proverb is recorded in English from the mid 18th century, but an earlier related saying in Greek of the 3rd century bc, ‘for in the eyes of love that which is not beautiful often seems beautiful,’ is found in the Idylls of the Hellenistic poet Theocritus (c.300–260 bc).
beauty is only skin deep physical beauty is no guarantee of a good character or temperament; saying recorded from the early 17th century.

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Beauty

61. Beauty

  1. Aglaia one of the Graces; embodiment of comeliness. [Gk. Myth.: Brewer Dictionary, 481]
  2. Blodenwedd created from oak flowers and meadowsweet. [Welsh Lit.: Mabinogion ]
  3. cowslip symbol of beauty. [Flower Symbolism: Jobes, 377]
  4. Euphrosyne one of the Graces; epitome of beauty in joy. [Gk. Myth.: Brewer Dictionary, 481]
  5. Graces three daughters of Zeus and Eurynome; goddesses of charm and beauty. [Gk. Myth.: Howe, 61]
  6. hibiscus symbol of beauty. [Flower Symbolism: Flora Symbolica, 174]
  7. Hora Quirini goddess of loveliness. [Rom. Myth.: Kravitz, 44]
  8. lilies of the field more splendidly attired than Solomon. [N.T.: Matthew 6:2829; Luke 12:2731]
  9. Mondays child fair of face. [Nurs. Rhyme: Opie, 309]
  10. peri beautiful fairylike creatures, guided way to heaven. [Pers. Myth.: Brewer Dictionary, 822]
  11. Thalia one of the Graces; bestowed charm on others. [Gk. Myth.: Brewer Dictionary, 481]
  12. Ugly Duckling scorned as unsightly, grows to be graceful swan. [Dan. Fairy Tale: Andersens Fairy Tales ]
  13. white camellia symbol of beauty. [Flower Symbolism: Jobes, 281]

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Beauty

38. Beauty

adonism
the beautification of a person, usually a male.
aesthetician, esthetician
1. a specialist in aesthetics.
2. a proponent of aestheticism.
aestheticism, estheticism
the doctrine that the principles of beauty are basic and that other principles (the good, the right) are derived from them, applied especially to a late 19th-century movement to bring art into daily life. See also 23. ART .
aesthetics, esthetics
a branch of philosophy dealing with beauty and the beautiful. aesthetic, n., adj. aesthetical, adj.
cosmetology
the art or practice of the beautification of the skin, hair, or nails. cosmetologist, n. cosmetological, adj.
philocalist
a lover of beauty. philocaly, n.
pulchritude
physical beauty, especially that of women. pulchritudinous, adj.

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beauty

beau·ty / ˈbyoōtē/ • n. (pl. -ties) 1. a combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, esp. the sight: I was struck by her beauty. ∎  a combination of qualities that pleases the intellect or moral sense. ∎  denoting something intended to make a woman more attractive: beauty products. 2. a beautiful or pleasing thing or person, in particular: ∎  a beautiful woman. ∎  an excellent specimen or example of something: the fish was a beauty, around 14 pounds. ∎  [in sing.] the best feature or advantage of something: the beauty of keeping cats is that they don't tie you down. ORIGIN: Middle English: from Old French beaute, based on Latin bellus ‘beautiful, fine.’

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beauty

beauty XIII. ME. bealte, beaute — OF. be(a)lte, biaute (mod. beauté) :- Rom. *bellitāt-, f. L. bellus; see BEAU, -TY.
Hence beautiful XV, beautify XVI.

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beauty

beautyalmighty, Aphrodite, Blighty, flighty, mighty, nightie, whitey •ninety • feisty •dotty, grotty, hottie, knotty, Lanzarote, Lottie, Pavarotti, potty, Scottie, snotty, spotty, totty, yachtie, zloty •lofty, softie •Solti • novelty •Brontë, démenti, Monte, Monty, Visconti •frosty •forty, haughty, naughty, pianoforte, rorty, shorty, sortie, sporty, UB40, warty •balti, faulty, salty •flaunty, jaunty •doughty, outie, pouty, snouty •bounty, county, Mountie •frowsty • viscounty •Capote, coatee, coyote, dhoti, floaty, goaty, oaty, peyote, roti, throaty •jolty •postie, toastie, toasty •hoity-toity • pointy •agouti, beauty, booty, cootie, cutie, Djibouti, duty, fluty, fruity, rooty, snooty, tutti-frutti

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"beauty." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Apr. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"beauty." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/beauty-0

"beauty." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved April 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/beauty-0