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folly. Eye-catcher, usually a building in a contrived landscape, often otherwise useless. It might be in the form of a sham ruin, a Classical temple, oriental tent, Chinoiserie pagoda, or other charming fabrique set in a Picturesque garden. It can also provide seats and shelter from which an agreeable view can be enjoyed, but more often it simply demands attention and gives pleasure by its eccentricity. One of the oddest follies in Britain is the giant pineapple at Dunmore Park, Stirlingshire, Scotland (1761). More recently the term has been given to buildings that are out of the ordinary, do not conform to any of the recognized styles, and are not necessarily placed in a landscape. The delightful King's Coffee House, King Street, Knutsford, Ches. (1907–8), built by Richard Harding Watt to designs by W. Longworth, could be regarded as a folly, as could the complex of open-work turrets of steel covered with broken pottery and glass, seashells, and other detritus by Simon (Sam) Rodia (1879–1965), known as Watts Towers, Los Angeles, CA Other C20 follies include the Bottle Village, Simo, Santa Susana, CA (c.1950–1970s), built by Tressa Prisbrey of bottles set in concrete to house her curious collection scavenged from rubbish-dumps. Esther McCoy wrote lovingly about ‘Grandma's Bottle Village’ in 1974. Mention should also be made of the Palais Ideal, Hauterives, Drôme, France (1879–1905), a fantastic dream-like castle of concrete and stone embellished with much decoration, built to a plan of great complexity by Facteur Ferdinand Cheval (1836–1924), who also designed and built his own mausoleum in Hauterives Cemetery (1913–15). There are other marvellous inventions that show the folly is more than whimsical, but the result of the creative longing of the human spirit, often coming within the category of Fantastic architecture.


A&A, lxviii (July 1951), 23–5;
H&M (1986);
Howley (1993);
Ba. Jones (1974);
M&T (1991);
Mott et al. (1989);
Prisbrey (1967);
Schuyt & and Elffers (1980);
Walker Art Center (1974)

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275. Folly

  1. Abu Jahl father of folly; opposes Mohammed. [Muslim Tradition: Koran 22:8]
  2. Alnaschars daydream spends profits before selling his goods. [Arab. Lit.: Arabian Nights, The Barbers Fifth Night]
  3. Bateau, Le Matisses famous painting, displayed in the Museum of Modern Art for 47 days before someone discovered it was being shown upside down. [Am. Hist.: Wallechinsky, 472]
  4. Bay of Pigs, the disastrous U.S.-backed invasion of Cuba (1961). [Am. Hist.: Van Doren, 577]
  5. Chamberlain, Arthur Nevil British Prime Minister attempted to avert war by policy of appeasement. [Eur. Hist.: Colliers, IV, 552]
  6. columbine traditional symbol of folly. [Plant Symbolism: Flora Symbolica, 173]
  7. dog returning to his vomit and so the fool to his foolishness. [O. T.: Proverbs 26:11 ]
  8. Fultons Folly the first profitable steamship, originally considered a failure. [Am. Hist.: NCE, 1025]
  9. Gotham English village proverbially noted for the folly (some-times wisely deliberate) of its residents. [Eng. Folklore: Brewer Dictionary, 410]
  10. Grand, Joseph spends years writing novel; only finishes first sentence. [Fr. Lit.: The Plague ]
  11. Hamburger Hill bloody Viet Nam battle over strategically worthless objective (1969). [Am. Hist.: Van Doren, 631]
  12. Howard Hotel after completing construction, the contractors installed boilers and started fires before discovering they had forgotten to build a chimney. [Am. Hist.: Wallechinsky, 470]
  13. Laputa and Lagada lands where wise men conduct themselves inanely. [Br. Lit.: Gullivers Travels ]
  14. Sewards Folly Alaska , once seemingly valueless territory which William Henry Seward bought for two cents an acre (1867), thirty years before the Klondike gold rush. [Am. Hist.: Payton, 610]


Fools (See CLOWNS .)

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fol·ly / ˈfälē/ • n. (pl. -lies) 1. lack of good sense; foolishness: an act of sheer folly. ∎  a foolish act, idea, or practice: the follies of youth. 2. a costly ornamental building with no practical purpose, esp. a tower or mock-Gothic ruin built in a large garden or park. 3. (Follies) a theatrical revue, typically with glamorous female performers: [in names] the Ziegfeld Follies.

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follydrily, kylie, Riley, shyly, slyly, smiley, Smily, wily, wryly •idly • kindly • wifely • likely • timely •Christly •knightly, nightly, sightly, sprightly •lively • fortnightly • housewifely •Barbirolli, brolly, collie, dolly, folly, golly, holly, jolly, lolly, Mollie, molly, Ollie, polly, poly, trolley, volley, wally •knobbly •Bodley, godly, oddly •wanly • Copley • fait accompli •costly •hotly, motley •softly-softly •Bengali, Cawley, crawly, creepy-crawly, Macaulay, Morley, Nepali, poorly, rawly, scrawly, squally •lordly •courtly, portly •jowly, Pauli •aïoli, coaly, coley, Foley, goalie, guacamole, holey, Holi, holy, lowly, moly, pinole, ravioli, roly-poly, Rowley, shoaly, soli •nobly • Oakley • homely •lonely, only •ghostly • Moseley •coyly, doily, oily

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folly quality or state of being foolish XIII; costly structure considered to have shown folly in the builder XVI. — (O)F. folie, f. fol foolish, FOOL1; see -Y3. In the second sense derived from a similar use of OF. folie.

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folly a costly ornamental building with no practical purpose, especially a tower or mock-Gothic ruin built in a large garden or park.