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A foray into the awkward.
Words by Tom Faber. Photograph by Julian Song.

  • Arts & Culture
  • Issue 51

A foray into the awkward.
Words by Tom Faber. Photograph by Julian Song.

Etymology: Cringe, from the old English cringan, meaning “to yield” or “fall in battle.” The word evolved to mean “quake in fear” before acquiring its contemporary meaning of recoiling in embarrassment or disgust. It was generally used as a verb until the mid-2010s, when “cringe-worthy” and “cringe-inducing” went out of fashion and “cringe” became an adjective in its own right.

 Meaning: So many behaviors have been described as “cringe” recently that it can be hard to establish clear parameters for the concept. Generally, the word is applied to the vicarious awkwardness one feels when watching an action performed badly or tastelessly. Witnessing something cringe is almost a physical sensation: You wince and grimace in embarrassment for those poor souls who know not what they do. The one mercy of being deemed “cringe” is that the stakes are usually small—you


This story is from Kinfolk Issue Fifty-One

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