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Today's Word



Jul 13, 2021
This week’s theme
Words coined after buildings and venues

This week’s words
Grand Guignol
chamber of horrors
Hawthorne effect

Grand Guignol
Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol, Paris

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Grand Guignol

(grahn gee-NYOL)
[the first syllable is nasal]

noun: An event, entertainment, etc., of a sensational or horrific nature.
adjective: Gruesome, grotesque, or horrifying.

From Le Grand Guignol (literally, The Great Puppet), a theater in Paris that specialized in such entertainment. Earliest documented use: 1905.

Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol started in 1897 in a former chapel in Paris. Its specialty was gruesome and gore. A typical evening featured a series of short plays. It’s said that the theater measured the success of a play by how many in the audience fainted. As a marketing gimmick, the theater management hired doctors to be in attendance. The theater closed its doors in 1962. Charles Nonon, its director at the time, said: “We could never compete with Buchenwald. Before the war, everyone believed that what happened on stage was purely imaginary; now we know that these things -- and worse -- are possible.”

“The contemplation of suicide, blatant racism, and a family of ‘trapped’, emotionally stunted snobs: nobody expected Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s interview with Oprah Winfrey to be as dramatic as it was, or as grim. ... One bombshell and within-palace-walls horror story followed another, one numbing thud after another. ... This Grand Guignol was just getting started.”
Tim Teeman; Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s Oprah Interview Was a Royal Family Depth Charge; The Daily Beast (New York); Mar 8, 2021.

See more usage examples of Grand Guignol in Vocabulary.com’s dictionary.

If life had a second edition, how I would correct the proofs. -John Clare, poet (13 Jul 1793-1864)

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