Not what a statue is

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - VOICES -

As an art his­to­rian who also has an un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree in English, I am go­ing to be the gram­mar po­lice here.

Both news cov­er­age on tele­vi­sion and in the Ar­kan­sas Demo­crat-Gazette re­ferred to the Ten Com­mand­ments mon­u­ment sev­eral times as a “statue.” On live TV, Sen­a­tor Ja­son Rapert stated that “a new statue has al­ready been or­dered.”

I re­al­ize dic­tio­nar­ies are scarce now, but most peo­ple have ei­ther a smart­phone or com­puter. I in­vite you to Google “statue.” A statue is a three-di­men­sional rep­re­sen­ta­tion of a hu­man be­ing, a myth­i­cal be­ing, or an an­i­mal. It is free-stand­ing, full-length (not a bust), and is not in re­lief, as is the mon­u­ment.

The mon­u­ment is a stele, “an up­right stone or slab with a sculp­tured sur­face …” (Web­ster’s). Michelangelo’s David is a statue; the Code of Ham­murabi and the Rosetta Stone are ex­am­ples of ste­les (or ste­lae). The Ten Com­mand­ments mon­u­ment is not a statue, it is a stele.

I cringe ev­ery time I hear or see this er­ror. It is like call­ing a land­scape a por­trait. If you do not elect to use the word “stele” to de­scribe it, please use the word mon­u­ment. Ei­ther is cor­rect.


Lit­tle Rock

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