doggerel ˈdɒɡ(ə)r(ə)l/ noun

verse or words that are badly written or expressed.

Its most famous poet is Mcgonagall

Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silv'ry Tay!

Alas! I am very sorry to say

That ninety lives have been taken away

On the last Sabbath day of 1879,

Which will be remember'd for a very long time.

Is there a term for similarly bad or totally ineffective expressions which is general to any art?


3 Answers 3


While it can be applied to things other than the arts, the term dreck is often used

(informal) Rubbish; trash: this so-called art is pure dreck

Oxford Dictionaries Online

Also derived from Yiddish, the term schlock is found, and can similarly refer to other goods or activities

Something, such as merchandise or literature, that is inferior or poorly made.

American Heritage

  • as with "schlock horror" ?
    – user99677
    Jul 7, 2016 at 12:54
  • 1
    @user3293056 It's schlock until it becomes a cult classic.
    – bib
    Jul 7, 2016 at 13:27

I suggest amateurish.

am·a·teur·ish (ăm′ə-tûr′ĭsh, -cho͝or′-, -tyo͝or′-): adj. characteristic of an amateur; not professional.

Some exemplar sentences:

  • The art critics find his paintings amateurish.

  • Very few of Mendelssohn's early compositions could be called amateurish.

  • His sculptures are, at best, totally amateurish.

  • His dance moves, which are painfully amateurish, are hard to watch.

  • Bonnie's amateurish soprano voice is suited best for choral groups, not for soloing.

  • I would characterize Jason's acting skills as obviously amateurish.

Despite the word amateurish having its etymological roots in one of the Latin words for love [French, from Latin amātor, lover, from amāre, to love.], a person's love of participating in an art form does not necessarily give birth to art which could be described as professional, accomplished, mature, seasoned, skillful, exquisite, sublime, nuanced, and so on.


The term parallel to 'doggerel' in the sense you intend, but "general to art", would be an adjective rather than a noun, modifying the noun applied to the particular art form ('music', 'painting', 'sculpture', etc.).

inaesthetic, adj.
Not æsthetic; void of æsthetic perception or taste.

["inaesthetic, adj.". OED Online. June 2016. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/93049?redirectedFrom=inaesthetic (accessed July 08, 2016).]

Alternatively, and perhaps more precisely but less frequently used,

unaesthetic (ˌʌniːsˈθɛtɪk) adj
1. not beautiful
2. not in good taste

(Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014. S.v. "unaesthetic." Retrieved July 8 2016 from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/unaesthetic )

The true aim of all art is esthetic quality (beauty), and insofar as art is effective or good it achieves that aim. "Bad" or "ineffective" art may aim for other goals--inculcation of morality, entertainment, promotion of right knowledge, etc.--or may simply miss the esthetic goal entirely due to the ineptitude of the artist.

This answer, however, sets aside a common understanding of 'doggerel' in favor of the sense you intend. 'Doggerel' is not universally understood to be "ineffective". Quite the contrary, 'doggerel' is often defined as effective in achieving particular goals (inaesthetic in themselves, but perhaps subordinated to an overall esthetic goal proper to art) by reason of its crudity:

loosely styled and irregular in measure especially for burlesque or comic effect; also : marked by triviality or inferiority.

(Merriam-Webster, emphasis mine)

Doggerel, a low, or trivial, form of verse, loosely constructed and often irregular, but effective because of its simple mnemonic rhyme and loping metre. It appears in most literatures and societies as a useful form for comedy and satire. It is characteristic of children’s game rhymes from ancient times to the present and of most nursery rhymes.

(Encyclopædia Britannica, emphasis mine)

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