The problem is that the huge sums flowing into alternative investments have given rise to a new breed of hedge fund, one that's a gussied-up mutual fund masquerading as a hedge fund to collect gaudier fees.

What's the meaning of "gaudier feeds" in this sentence? gaudy's dictionary meaning is showy. I guess it means very very expensive fees without much benefits or returns?

  • 1
    I'd guess that you guess correctly.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Oct 8, 2015 at 23:44
  • 1
    Well it doesn't mean, "very very expensive". 'gaudier' is a comparative. It means, "much more expensive". Then you ask: More expensive than what? The answer is: More expensive than for an ordinary mutual fund. Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 0:05

1 Answer 1


The quote is from Fortune Magazine, an article by Jon Birger dated May 11, 2006 (See: http://archive.fortune.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2006/05/15/8376864/index.htm). The expression 'gussied-up' should have given a clue that this was written by an American in any case. What is apparent from examining the writer's wider material is that he has a fondness for an idiomatic style of written expression. His latest books, 'Date-onomics', a treatise on the application of economic science to the subject of dating appears to be a model for something that might usefully illustrate both the terms 'gussied-up' and 'gaudy'.

Notwithstanding this, the questioner unquestionably exhibits greater refinement than the article's author in that he or she has discovered in this dross of economic commentary, a gem. Whereas 'gussied-up' is a well understood expression in the United States (and ably explained here: http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/gussied-up.html), gaudier (derived from gaudy) has much deeper and tangled roots.

Gaudy in the original sense, according to the OED, had very positive attributes:

[ad. L. gaudium joy. In some senses the word may represent L. gaudē ‘rejoice thou’, as used in hymns or liturgies; and there may also be mixture of OF. gaudie n. of action f. gaudir to rejoice, make merry.]

  1. = gaud n.1Obs. 1434 E.E. Wills (1882) 102 A payre bedes of blak gaudys of siluer & gilt. 1483 in Arnolde Chron. (1811) 116 Item a pair of coral beedis the gawdies gilt wrythen....

  2. A bright-coloured ornament; a toy, bauble, gewgaw; = gaud n.2 2. Obs. 1555 Eden Decades 209 They make also little brasselets whiche they mengle with gaudies of golde...

  3. Rejoicing, joy; a festival, merry-making. 1535 Joye Apol. Tindale (Arb.) 18 Hauyng no respecte..to the gaudye and reioyse of our aduersaries. Ibid. 43. 1540 Palsgrave Acolastus i. iv. G iij b, That we maye make our tryumphe .i. kepe our gaudyes, or let vs sette the cocke on the hope, and make good chere...

  4. A grand feast or entertainment; esp. an annual dinner in commemoration of some event in the history of a college. 1651 Randolph, etc. Hey for Honesty v. 40, I know Some that have spent whole Hecatombs of Beef To give the gods their gawdies. 1686 Wilding in Collect. (O.H.S.) I. 264 Towards a Gaudy..00 01 00. c 1893 J. A. Symonds in Biogr. (1895) I. 224 My father had recently sat next him at a Magdalen Gaudy.

So where did the negative sense creep in? Well, quite early. Again the OED:

▪ III.gaudy, a.2 (ˈgɔːdɪ) Forms: 6 gaudie, -ye, 7–8 gawdy, 7 -ie, 6– gaudy.

[Of somewhat uncertain formation. Sense 1 looks like an attributive use of gaudy n. 4; cf. quot. 1540 there. In senses 2 and 3 the word may have been apprehended as if f. gaud n.2 + -y1.]

  1. a. Brilliantly fine or gay, highly ornate, showy. Now chiefly in disparaging sense: Excessively or glaringly showy, tastelessly gay or fine. 1583 Stubbes Anat. Abus. ii. (1882) 37 To the ende they may seeme gaudie to the eie, they must be stitched finelie. 1602 Shakes. Ham. i. iii. 71 Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy; But not exprest in fancie: rich, not gawdie. 1655 Fuller Ch. Hist. iv. ii. §2 Scriveners use with gaudy flourishes to deck and garnish the initial characters of Copies. 1663 Cowley Verses & Ess., Hymn to Light v, The Gawdy Heav'nly Bow. 1665 Boyle Occas. Refl. iv. iii. (1845) 191 They..almost worship a Man for wearing a Gaudy suit of Cloaths. 1709 Steele Tatler No. 151 ⁋1 Gawdy Ribands and glaring Colours being now out of Use. 1720 Gay Wks. (1745) II. 181 There from the gawdy train select a dame. 1722 Sewel Hist. Quakers (1795) I. iii. 184 He wrote..against pride, gaudy apparel [etc.]. 1838 Dickens Nich. Nick. vi, An intricate winding of gaudy colours. 1876 M. E. Braddon J. Haggard's Dau. II. vii. 154 The gaudy daffodils were flaunting everywhere.

Perhaps the author of the article was thinking of this definition, from Webster:

Webster's Third New International Dictionary: gaudy I. gaudy adjective -er/-est. Etymology: gaud (I) + -y. ostentatiously fine making a pretentious but often hollow show of excellence, elegance, beauty, richness, or worth having show without substance Synonyms: tawdry, garish, flashy, meretricious: gaudy may suggest cheap showiness of taste, over-bright coloration, or vulgarly excessive and conspicuous ornamentation...

meretricious may suggest the tawdry allure of false show or promise his smile was wide and rather meretricious, that exaggerated photograph-smile so often seen (as if only happiness should be recorded). She could imagine how it had faded the moment the camera clicked — Elizabeth Taylor girls who deck themselves with gems, false hair, and meretricious ornament, to chain the fleeting fancy of a man — W.S.Gilbert

Indeed one might speculate that the author first had in mind to use meretricious, and sought via his Webster-based computer thesaurus a simpler word to sway his readers. If so, in so he lost some clarity, but laid an interesting trail for the literate-curious to follow.

But one mystery remains. How did gaudy which started as a strongly positive term that was closely linked to the early Church - gaudy beads are part of the rosary, while gaudy is another word for the candles used in churches - turn to a derogative sense? Well in part it may have been linked to a Protestant reaction to excesses of the Catholic Church in the 1500's. But the explanation may also lie in the very original root of the word

Just as the OED confirms gaudy has its roots in the Latin gaudium, so it also alludes at several points to the word gaud as a possible source for some of the understandings of the word gaudy. The OED has this to say about gaud:

▪ II.gaud, n.2 (gɔːd) Forms: 4–9 gaude, 4–7 gawde, 4–7, 9 gawd, 6– gaud. [perh. an AF. n. f. gaudir to rejoice, make merry, to jest, scoff at, ad. L. gaudēre to rejoice.]

  1. A trick, prank; often, a device to deceive, a piece of trickery, a pretence; also a game, sport, or pastime. Obs. c 1386 Chaucer Pars. T. ⁋577 Þay maken folk to laughe..as folk doon at the gawdes of An Ape. a 1400–50 Alexander 2732 Sire vanite & vayne-glori & vices of pride Þa ere þe gaudis, as I gesse þat all gods hatis. Ibid. 2966 Sone þis gouernour of grece is of þis gaude ware... 1576 Gascoigne Steele Glas (Arb.) 59 These Enterluds, these newe Italian sportes And euery gawde, that glads the minde of man. 1603 Harsnet Pop. Impost. 32 There was never Christmas Game performed with moe apish indecent slovenly Gawdes then your Baptising and Super-baptising Ceremonies are.

b. A jest, scoff; also, an object of mockery. Obs. c 1440 Promp. Parv. 188/2 Gawde or iape, nuga. 1538 Bale Thre Lawes 122 Without vayne gaudes or fables. 1563–83 Foxe A. & M. (1583) 2102 The sayde John Apowell mocked hym..with contrary gaudes and flouting wordes. 1650 Trapp Comm. Gen. xxi. 9 [Ishmael mocked] at that mystical name Isaac, as a gaud, or laughing-stock.

So the OED has it that gaud in the sense of a jest also has its roots in the Latin gaudium, but it is left up to us to observe that there is religious joy and the joy of observed beauty (gaudy) on one hand, and the joy of jest and mockery (gaud) on the other. Again, an American definition might show that the author of the article had something quite specific in mind when he used the word gaud(ier):

Webster's Third New International Dictionary gaud I. noun -s Etymology: Middle English gaude, probably from Old French gaudir to enjoy, rejoice, have a good time, from Latin gaudēre to rejoice — more at joy 1. archaic a gay trick or jape; sometimes a deceitful trick or artifice fraud

All up, I am inclined to suspect that the author of the article was attracted to use the word gaudier because of it's alliterative appeal alongside _'gussied-up', rather than because he sought perfect clarity in its meaning, and for it's suggestion of tawdry in the sounding of it. But fundamentally he was right, even if it was the thesaurus that led him there. Nevertheless, I suspect 'meretricious' would have been a more accurate rendering of the thought he intended to convey.

From our friends at Google:

Meretricious ˌmɛrɪˈtrɪʃəs/

  1. Apparently attractive but having no real value.

Which is very close to your original surmise "I guess it means very very expensive fees without much benefits or returns?", but subtly different in that it also adds weight to the intention to lure and deceive. Gaudier in the original article most likely meant "more expensive and fraudulent' rather than "more attractive" or simply "more expensive".

  • 1
    That's an awful lot of words to say, "Yeah, you're right."
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 21:06
  • @HotLicks. I admire concision, I just don't practice it. And 'why it is' interests me more than 'how it is'. But if your point is about earning reputation points for stating the 'bleeding obvious', I don't disagree. I'll recycle them out onto a bonus within a few days.
    – John Mack
    Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 21:30
  • I simply mean tl;dr.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Oct 10, 2015 at 1:50

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