The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

13 May 2004

What's a Grecian urn?

Up to now, efforts to quantify physical attractiveness have relied on arbitrary measures like the millihelen, which is defined as that quantity of beauty required to launch one ship.

Obviously something this banal wouldn't do for People's 50 Most Beautiful People: they must have science, and indeed they do. Per Dr Francis Palmer's point system, you get 75% of the points for your cheekbones, 10% for eyes/eyebrows, 7% for lips, and 2% each for jaw, chin, and neck; sleek nose; clear skin; and "general harmony of features."

There are, I think, major problems with this formula. For one thing, it makes me look a lot better than I actually do: the cheekbone/jowl conflict doesn't compute. More to the point, it makes the preposterous assumption that every last bit of visual appeal is located in areas north of the clavicle. A certain consistency is to be desired, I suppose — I'm not all prepared for someone who looks like Sharon Stone from here down and like Broderick Crawford from there up — but as a practical matter, not everyone's best feature is facial. Sometimes it's not even tangible.

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According to some biographers, young Winston Churchill and friends would stand around at parties and rate women on a very specific Helen Scale. I.e., "that one is worth two gunboats and a barge", etc.

Posted by: The Proprietor at 1:53 PM on 13 May 2004

There were times I would have happily dated a woman whose beauty would have unloaded a canoe from atop the car but carried it nowhere near the water.

Posted by: McGehee at 7:55 AM on 14 May 2004