September 17, 2009

"That utterly preposterous spewing of fiction": An ABC of Tim Gunnisms

Thank you, Johnny, for giving us a memorable Tim Gunn moment. I'm sorry that you will now probably feel empty, but perhaps not as empty as you did when you were in the bottom three last week, because that was "the most empty feeling" you ever felt. It sounds as if life didn't really treated you all that badly.

The challenge was to create a design (any design) out of newspapers. Not exactly the most original challenge ever (see Jeffrey's dress from season 3's garbage challenge on the left), but at least it limited the designs in some way. After several weeks of pretty cocktail dresses made of regular fabric, you kind of yearn for a dress made from car parts or plastic cups.


And the results were quite interesting. True, some designers didn't shine. Nicolas's design, for example, was described as insect-like and reminded the judges of cockroaches. Gordana's fault was that her design was "very wearable," which, apparently, in fashion lingo means that it's too J.C. Penney. (Interestingly, in the workroom, Tim Gunn said about the same design that it was the "antithesis of ho-hum" and that it was "stunning". Go figure.)

Irina won with a striking ruffled trenchcoat, which the judges (again, a no-show of Michael Kors and Nina Garcia) fawned over as "Coco Chanel meets Yves Saint Laurent." If you say so.


Johnny was "out" with a sloppily constructed dress inspired by pop-art (read: he chose newspaper pages with images on them). But that was not really what made this episode stand out. The high point came at the very end of the show: Tim Gunn was outraged that Johnny had fibbed his way through the judging. Johnny's story was that his design was so poor because his first design, which he described as "very Dior", was destroyed by a sputtering iron when he steamed it. However, there was no steaming iron, and there was most certainly no "very Dior" dress. There was only "a craft project gone awry, like a bunch of kindergarteners did it," as Tim Gunn put it, and everybody knew it.

It was certainly not the only lie of the evening. Irina told the judges that as soon as she knew she had to use newspapers she had decided to do a trench coat. Excuse me? Her first design, which she wisely ditched, was a stiff mini dress, but at least she realized herself that was not presentable.

This episode will not go down in PR history for the fashion that was presented (nor, as advertised, for the "biggest lie in PR history"). It was really all about showing us a new facet of Tim Gunn. He never before took personal offense at a candidate's behavior on the runway -- and there was plenty of fibbing and lying in previous seasons (shoegate, anyone?). But never before did he have an outburst like last night. He angrily tugged on his cuffs in order to avoid as much as a handshake with Johnny. After Johnny had left the room, he said what will hopefully become a classic:
I'm incredulous of that utterly preposterous spewing of fiction.
This may be a good time to add to an ABC of Tim Gunnisms that I posted about three years ago. New entries are in green.

[links go to merriam-webster online]



  1. ancillary (from the Latin word for "handmaid"), antithesis (from the Greek word for "opposition), awry (based on an Old English verb for "move forward")
  2. bifurcate (from the Latin word for "two-pronged"-- the word is related to "fork")
  3. chacun à son goût (French for "each to his own taste")
  4. daunting (from Latin "domitare", to tame)
  5. egregious (from the Latin word for "flock", as in "towering above the flock")
  6. faux bois (French for "false wood")
  7. grievous (from French, related to "grave")
  8. haute couture (French for "high sewing"), ho-hum (from the interjection expressing boredom)
  9. idiosyncratic (from Greek "personal mixing"), incredulous (from the Latin word for "believe")
  10. joie de vivre (French, "joy of living")
  11. kindergarten, as in "kindergarten play of camelot" (from German for "children's garden", "camelot" is the name of King Arthur's castle), also kindergarteners
  12. lexicon (from the Greek word for "of words")
  13. malfeasance (from French, "wrong doing", -feasance is related to "faire", "do" in French, or "facere" in Latin, which is the source for the English word "fact", "that which has been made")
  14. nominations sought!
  15. omniscient (from Latin "all-knowing")
  16. preposterous (from Latin the Latin word for "absurd, reversed", from "prae" + "posterus", "before" + " coming after")
  17. quilt-like appliqués (from Old French "cuilte", the word for "stuffed sack" or "mattress")
  18. reverie (from Old French, "rejoicing, rage", related to "rave")
  19. Sturm and Drang (from German, "storm and urge", the title of a play by the German author F. M. Klinger (1776), seized upon by the historians of literature as aptly expressing the spirit of the school to which the author belonged [OED], used for young writers characterized by extravagance in the representation of violent passion [OED])
  20. trepidation (from Latin, "trapidus", meaning "scared, alarmed"), spewing of fiction (from the Old English word fro "to spit")
  21. ultra-glamorous (from Latin, "ultra", meaning "beyond", first used in French in the combination "ultra-royaliste", related to "ulterior")
  22. voluminous (from Latin, "volumen", meaning "roll, coil")
  23. woeful (from an Indo-European interjection expressing grief or lamentation)
  24. x-uberant [sorry, had to cheat on this one]
  25. nominations sought!
  26. zaftig (from Yiddish "zaftik", "saftig" in German, meaning "juicy)

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