The clown facial

Today’s Rhymes With Orange, with a clown facial:


From NOAD, the nouning of the Adj facial ‘of or affecting the face’:

noun facial: a beauty treatment for the face.

Then the noun facial ‘facial treatment (for beauty)’ serving as head in the N + N compound clown facial (for a pieing — a pie-in-the-face — involving a clown or clowns), which contrasts in interpretation with the compounds cum facial (for a sexual practice in which semen is ejaculated onto the face) and beauty facial (used to clarify that the ‘facial treatment’ sense is intended).

That gives us three compounds, with three different ranges of semantic relationships between the modifier (N1) and the head (N2) facial, denoting an act (an action, activity, or achievement):

(1) beauty facial: N1 denotes the purpose or goal of the act

(2) clown facial: N1 denotes a participant in the act (the actor, patient, or beneficiary)

(3) cum facial: N1 denotes a source material or ingredient in the act

At least one other cartoonist has taken on pieing at the spa: Mark Anderson in this Andertoon:

(#2) The women are getting facials with cucumbers and face masks; the clown is getting a facial with pie

Cultural practices. For each type of N1 + facial compound, a cultural practice denoted by that compound.

(1) The beauty facial. From Wikipedia, an article that describes the acts, but without the slightest nod to their sociocultural specificity in the modern world or their cultural history:

(#3) From the 1/7/19 Allure magazine: “Facialist applying face mask to woman lying on table during facial treatment” (note the technical term facialist)

A facial is a family of skin care treatments for the face, including steam, exfoliation, extraction, creams, lotions, facial masks, peels, and massage. They are normally performed in beauty salons, but are also a common spa treatment. They are used for general skin health as well as for specific skin conditions. Types of facials include European facial, LED light therapy facials, and mini-facials.

Then the establishments that provide such services. From Wikipedia:

A beauty salon or beauty parlor (beauty parlour), or sometimes beauty shop, is an establishment dealing with cosmetic treatments for men and women [very predominantly, women]. Other variations of this type of business include hair salons and spas.

And from NOAD:

noun spa: [a] a mineral spring considered to have health-giving properties. [b] a place or resort with a mineral spring. [c] a commercial establishment offering health and beauty treatment through such means as steam baths, exercise equipment, and massage. [d] a bath or small pool containing hot aerated water.

This entry alludes indirectly (in a and b) to a history going back to the public baths of ancient times, and then (in c) forward to modern commercial establishments called spas, which, like beauty salons / parlors, cater primarily to women. All these modern establishments are likely to provide facials.

(2) The clown facial. From my 4/10/18 posting “Two cartoons from friends”: in #1 there, a Dale Coverly cartoon with a pie in the face —


and a substantial section on pieing; pies in the face have been a feature of public comedy in the West for over a hundred years, and recent times have seen a revival of throwing food (more generally) as a symbol of protest (see my 5/25/19 posting “Brenda the Civil Disobedience Penguin”).

Though it happens that clown facial (a type (2) compound) has come to be the conventional way to refer to this comic or protest practice, pie facial (a type (3) compound) would have been equally suitable. As it turns out, a type (3) compound pie facial is attested, but it refers to a subtype of beauty facial — in which pie ingredients are used to make a facial mask. I am not making this up.

I refer you to the Skincare Lounge in the Arroyo Grande (CA) Trailer Park, which proposes to offer both pumpkin pie and apple pie facials, the former illustrated here:

(#5) Linguistic note: the spa staff includes “a licensed esthetician, electrologist, and a massage therapist”

(3) The cum facial. A topic that’s gotten some coverage on this blog, because of the psychological significance of semen for many gay men; there’s a Page on this blog with an inventory of postings on cum — two of which are of special interest here.

— on AZBlogX, a 4/7/13 posting “Scruff cum”, about scruffy or bearded men taking cum on their face; and more generally about cum facials (and related forms of bukkake)

— on this blog, a 11/27/16 posting “Face work”, on cumfaces and cum facials, and the vocabulary in this domain; with a note on the objections of many women to the practices; and with a photo of a calmly satisfied man with a cumface (the point of a cum facial in the world of mansex being to provide pleasure to the target of the act)

The semantic relationship types. The treatment of the three (ranges of) semantic relationships between N1 and N2 was tailored for compounds with N2 denoting an act (in particular an act affecting the face) . But these distinctions apply to compounds well beyond the world of acts affecting the face.

Corresponding to beauty facial, there are other goal or purpose compounds like beauty rest and beauty sleep, plus compounds like wisdom quest. But goal / purpose compounds will generally denote acts of some kind — though the notion of purpose can take us into the domain of  use compounds denoting objects or substances.

However, leaving the world of acts in favor of objects or substances, we encounter some well-known distinctions in the interpretation of compounds: parallel to the cases in (2), what are sometimes referred to as Use or Object compounds; and parallel to the cases in (3), what are sometimes referred to as Source or Ingredient compounds. I won’t try to develop a general account of these distinctions here, but will just illustrate the parallels to (2) vs. (3) above with some familiar cases from the literature on the interpretation of compounds.

To anticipate: contrast

spaghetti sauce (a Use compound), which can be (made) from clams or tomatoes

vs. clam / tomato sauce (Source compounds), which can be used for/on spaghetti

Then, from this blog, two postings (from a fair number on interpreting compounds):

— from my 10/20/17 posting “A processed food flavor”:

Source compounds vs. Use compounds. Some would object to the compound pumpkin spice because it’s not a Source compound: pumpkin spice isn’t made from or with pumpkin(s); there’s no pumpkin in it at all. In fact, it’s a Use compound (very crudely, it’s (a) spice for pumpkins), and both Source and Use compounds are widely attested, with many entertaining contrasts; from earlier postings on this blog:

Source mink oil vs. Use saddle oil; Source cucumber soap vs. Use saddle soap; Source lobster salad vs. Use fish sauce and lobster sauce

(All of these compounds are in fact potentially ambiguous between Source and Use, though only one interpretation has been conventionalized, usually for good reason.

Nevertheless, mink oil could be (an) oil to use on minks (to make them slipperier) as well as (an) oil made from minks, and saddle oil could be (an) oil made from saddles as well as (an) oil to use on saddles (to preserve them and make them more pliable); lobster salad could be (a) salad to use for lobsters (by feeding it to them) as well as (a) salad made from lobster(s), and lobster sauce could be (a) sauce made from lobster(s) as well as (a) sauce to use on (cooked) lobsters.)

— from my 2/4/19 posting “Cowboy casserole”, on:

the N + N compound cowboy casserole. Clearly not an Ingredient compound (‘casserole made from cowboys’ [ugh]), but instead a Use compound, roughly ‘casserole for cowboys (to use)’, or — most likely — an Object compound, roughly ‘casserole of the sort that cowboys (like to) eat’.


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