I read the Don Phelps essay and had a lot of trouble with the writing. Sentence by sentence, I just couldn’t understand what he was saying. Can anybody here try a plain-English summary?
The governing, underlying charm of “quaintness,” I suspect, lies in the stable universe the word suggests a manifest willingness to abide, albeit in some obscure nook or oddly shaped frame — to which another widely disdained word, “cozy,” may be applicable. “Quaintness” suggests a residence that is stable, even static; it suggests, too, a heritage of peacefully disposed experience.
“Quaintness” is charming because it suggests a stable universe — even though that universe may be odd or obscure. “Quaintness” is also attractive because it refers to a peaceful heritage or tradition.
How often does one encounter the word today? Much less, with (even gently) approving overtones. “Outdated,” “folksy,” slightly moldy? Disdain for, impatience with, a sort of strangeness that is noncompetitive and nonaggressive. Even in the field of children’s art and literature. Take two leading names in this country: Dr. Seuss (aka Theodore Giesel) and Maurice Sendak.
Noah’s translation of second paragraph:
Today the word “quaintness” is usually taken as a negative. This is because people disdain strangeness which is noncompetitive or nonagressive. Quaintness is even disparaged in the work of Dr. Seuss and Maurice Sendak. [That last bit is my best guess; the prose actually seems to be saying that Seuss and Sendak dislike the use of the word “quaintness” — but I can’t believe that’s what he means. I think instead he’s trying to say that quaintness is denigrated, and that as a result it makes people dislike even the work of Seuss and Sendak.]
Does anyone have any more? Note: an explanation of “strangeness that is noncompetitive and nonaggressive” would go a long way toward helping me get this.