A pixelated morning

This morning’s name: the verb pixelate. Based on the noun pixel, with at least three senses, in NOAD:

verb pixelate (also pixellate or pixilate): [with object] [a] divide (an image) into pixels, typically for display or storage in a digital format. [b] (be pixelated) (of an image on a computer screen or other display) be enlarged so far that the viewer sees the individual pixels that form the image, the enlargement having reached the point at which no further detail can be resolved. [c] display an image of (someone or something) on television as a small number of large pixels, typically in order to disguise someone’s identity.

It’s sense c that I’m especially interested in here. That, and the ambiguity of


between pixelated, the PST/PSP of this V, and a very different Adj pixilated.

Pixelation for disguise. A typical example of a face pixelated for disguise (to protect privacy, in particular):

(#1) No, not Abraham Lincoln: Leonardo Di Caprio

Pixelation is also widely used for modesty, as one scheme to conceal X-rated body parts: penises, female nipples, anuses. Ah, the magic of the pixelated penis:

(#2) Young man, partying with a pixelated penis

For some people, this modesty extends to simulacra of penises, as in phallic food. On this blog, I’ve assumed that phallic cookies, candy, and so on aren’t banned by WordPress, Facebook, or Google+ — but who knows what gives with the new, more demure Facebook?

In any case, some food sites pixelate images of naughty-bit-shaped food on first presentation, to make them SFW (safe for work); you then have to click furtheron in the site to get to the NSFW image. So, the delish site shies away from showing this semiotically complex penis cake up front (as it were):

(#3) Penis-simulacrum as symbolic male head and neck

and offers it on its front page in pixeated form:


Did you mean pixelated or pixilated? From the Grammarist site:

Though pixelated is the standard spelling of the word meaning rendered with visible pixels, there’s a good reason that spell check does not catch pixilatedPixilated is an old, seldom-used Americanism dating from the middle of the 19th century and peaking (in this use) in the middle 20th century. It meant (1) crazed, bewildered, or whimsical, or (2) intoxicated.

I’ve always been charmed by pixilated ‘drunk’, because it sounds so cute. And indeed it’s got pixies, the fairy-like supernatural beings, in it. From NOAD:

adj. pixilated (British also pixillated): crazy; confused. ORIGIN mid 19th century: variant of pixie-led, literally ‘led astray by pixies’, figuratively ‘confused’, or from pixie, on the pattern of words such as elated and emulated

In any case, from pixie, while pixelated is based on pixel, a 1960s abbreviation of picture element (compare pix ‘pictures’).

One Response to “A pixelated morning”

  1. joecab Says:

    It’s also a Fairy-type move in Pokémon games. https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Pixilate_(Ability)

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: