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'Airbrush' Your Way to Perfection

FILE - A person with airbrushed body paint.
FILE - A person with airbrushed body paint.
'Airbrush' Your Way to Perfection
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And now Words and Their Stories from VOA Learning English.

On this program, we explore words and expressions in the English language.

Today we talk about the pursuit of perfection. Or at least the things we do to try and make things seem perfect.

If you paint something with a brush, it often leaves brush marks. When you paint with a roller, you might still have lines left behind by the roller.

Some consider this a flaw (something bad you that you don't want) in the paint job. So, people came up with a process to cover things up with a perfect layer of paint called “airbrush.”

The Airbrush Museum says in 1876, F.E. Stanley created a device that could spray watercolor and ink. Three years later Abner Peeler came up with a paint distributor that was later sold as an “airbrush.”

However, this may have not been the first attempt at airbrushing. Some archeologists claim that early cavepeople, Neanderthals, used the process to airbrush some of their paintings by blowing paints through hollow bones.

Back in the modern day, we also use airbrush as a verb to describe painting or changing something to cover imperfections with or as if with an airbrush.

For example, let’s say some vandals painted offensive words on the side of your house. If you do not want to see the words ever again, you airbrush over the words to cover them completely.

Here is another example: If you apply beauty products, or makeup, on your face, you can airbrush just about any mark on your skin.

In some publications, workers often use software called Photoshop to change an image. They could use it to airbrush all the flaws in an image or even remove pieces of the image completely. The term photoshop has since taken on the same meaning as airbrush.

There is another way we use the term airbrush.

If someone is accused of airbrushing history, they are being accused of changing something bad in the past as if it did not happen.

Now, let’s hear these two friends use the term “airbrush.”

A: Hey let’s meet for coffee tomorrow!

B: Sure! How about Hal’s that new coffee shop down the street? I hear the coffee is really good.

A: Umm, let’s go somewhere else. I don’t like the owner.

B: Why? What’s wrong with Hal?

A: Don’t you remember? He ran for office two years ago. And during the campaign, some really bad stuff came out about him.

B: Really? I don’t remember that.

A: That’s because he airbrushed it all from history. Removed. Gone. It’s like it all never happened.

B: Well, people cover up bad things from their past all the time. Besides … he makes really good coffee.

A: I will find another coffee shop!

And that’s all the time we have for this Words and Their Stories. Until next time, I’m Anna Matteo.

Anna Matteo wrote this story for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

flaw – n. a small fault or weakness

hollow – adj. having a space inside : not solid

spray – v. to scatter or let fall in a fine mist

distributor – n. a person or company that supplies stores or businesses with goods

vandal – n. one who willfully or ignorantly destroys, damages, or defaces property belonging to another or to the public

apply – v. to put to use especially for some practical purpose