Words: hideous, adj.

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"YOU'RE A hideous child!" So a mother jocularly remarked in a store, only to be asked, "What does hideous mean?" If one needs gradations of meaning, George Crabb (1778-1851) is the man.

He failed medicine (dislike of corpses), exchanged bookselling for the clergy, had doubts; taught; at 43, he graduated in Maths from Magdalen Hall; shyness was an obstacle at the Bar, but he wrote manuals on property - and a dictionary, English Synonymes Explained.

"Hideous refers to natural objects, and the ghastly more properly that which is supernatural . . . A mask with monstrous grinning features looks hideous; a human form with a visage of death-like paleness is ghastly." Grim is the countenance; grisly, colour. The mother was right: only hideous means sound.