The common usage of cute seems to mean 'Ugly, but it's all right'.

Babies are ugly. Or to put it another way, babies are not beautiful. Wrinkled, mishapen quasi-functioning bodies. Babies are also mentally deficient. I'm not complaining. Babies are cute.

Bambi was cute. Too cute. Legs wouldn't work, mouth always hanging open, limited speech capabilities, and eyes the size of saucers. Those are the same eyes we give to aliens. But it was cute.

Horses are cute.... No, wait, they're not, are they...? Horses may be beautiful or majestic or all kinds of other adjectives. But not cute. Maybe baby horses.

Shetland ponies are cute. Legs shorter than their bodies. Hair over their eyes. Come up to your kneecaps. Cute.

Deformed overbred mutant animals.

Cute deformed overbred mutant animals.

Attractive in some way but harmless or mostly harmless. Something that is cute does not intimidate by its appearance or behavior. Often used to describe children, childish behavior, small animals and MOTAS whom the speaker is potentially interested in.
No specific trait is always considered cute, resulting in statments like cute people are cute as attempts at short or universal definitions.

The key to understanding the implied meaning of this word (for there do be a large discrepancy between the definitions) lies in knowing the sex of the person uttering it.

Male: For the most part, a man will only use the word cute to describe a woman who's attractive, but not hot, nor dressed to make herself look like a sex object. The kind of girl your mother would want you to settle down with.

Female: When a woman says that something is cute, what she means is that it's something she perceives herself as able to control. It gives off the appearance of being weak, defenseless, small, needy, and undeveloped; something she thinks she could possibly mother, although it will probably grow into a strong, self-sufficient being later on. Nearly any mammalian baby that isn't hideously disgusting in apperance (humans aside) is a good candidate for the female version of the "cute" label. Every once in a while you might hear them refer to certain parts of a man's anatomy as cute (the phrase "cute butt" comes to mind), but I'm pretty sure they're just desperately trying to act like they can be as superficial as men are in the mate-selecting game (this is not possible).

This concept was inspired by the stupid women in the movie Evolution who thought that the little green creature hiding in the kitchen closet was cute because of its timid, helpless, puppy dog face, in spite of the fact that the rest of its entire body was wrinkly and disgusting.

An old school jazz standard by Neal Hefti. Performed by just about everyone that ever sang in a lounge, including everyone from the Rat Pack, Bobby Darin, Count Basie.

Drummers, take note. This is the song for you. If you play jazz, you've probably played it. The song was designed for crazy fills in between each line. Basically, the lyrics are performed in a call and response with the drums.

Most times, the song is actually performed without a vocalist, with a saxophone or trumpet contrasting the melody with the drums.

Mind if I say you're cute?
In every way, you're cute.
Those big blue eyes,
That turned up nose,
That cool and carefree pose.

Drums Drums Drums

I mean I like your style.
That sly intriguing smile.
Your every move
Your attitude
Just add up to you're cute!

More Drums Drums Drums

Even more Drums Drums Drums

CUTE
Charming cleaner for your name
Long-handled dust pan with broom
No more bending or stooping
Use teeth to clean filthiness

- found poetry, from a dustpan label in downtown Los Angeles

In most parts of the world, the sense of the word "cute" given by Webster -- "Clever; sharp; shrewd; ingenious; cunning." -- has been replaced by the more common sense of "attractive, especially by means of smallness or prettiness or quaintness". However, the original sense of the word is still current in Ireland, where it is quite common to refer to a cunning, devious person as "cute".

In this usage, cute indicates that the person referred to is smarter than he/she looks, knows more than he/she is letting on, etc. It is a very useful word, as it indicates both admiration and distrust. By calling someone cute, you are paying his/her intelligence a compliment, while indicating a wariness as to his/her motives. For this reason, you would rarely call someone cute to his/her face, except in jest.

This usage of cute is commonly teamed with the an Irish pronunciation of the word whore: hoor or whoor. When pronounced in this way, the word loses its literal meaning of "prostitute", and becomes a playful, all-purpose insult, similar to fecker. Thus, if somebody calls you a cute hoor, they do not mean to say that you are an attractive prostitute, but that you are a clever person, a dark horse, someone whose wits are a force to be reckoned with.

Perhaps one reason this usage survives is that there is an analogous word in the Irish langauge: glic. This word is sometimes imported into Hiberno-English in place of cute, to avoid confusion.

Cute (k?t), a. [An abbrev. of acute.]

Clever; sharp; shrewd; ingenious; cunning.

[Colloq.]

 

© Webster 1913.

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