I found the following on a poster of a professional photographer:

A smile cures the wounding of a frown

The sentence seems awkward and wrong to me. I think something can cure a disease and heal wounds. So, the object should be wound and not wounding, and the verb should be heal and not cure.

But if I say, "A smile heals the wound of a frown", is this still correct and does it sound right? (I am assuming that a lot of things may be grammatically correct but will sound awkward and weird, and so should not be used.). Or should it be "A smile heals the wounds of a frown"?

  • 4
    It should definitely be the wounding of a frown, because the frown itself isn't the wound, the frown wounds other people (the ones being frowned at), and the smile heals that. If you say "A smile heals the wound of a frown", you're saying the frown itself is the wound. But you are right in that diseases are generally cured and wounds healed. – Peter Shor Jul 21 '12 at 14:55
  • yes, i agree. the frown definitely isnt the wound. – karthik Jul 21 '12 at 15:03
  • @PeterShor but when you say wounds of war, you do mean wounds caused by the war, isnt it? Please correct me if I am wrong. – karthik Jul 21 '12 at 15:14
  • @karthik you are quite welcome! I meant no offense and I hope I didn't alter your meaning. :) – cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Jul 21 '12 at 15:19
  • @cornbreadninja of course not. :) – karthik Jul 21 '12 at 15:23

The term cure comes form Latin, curare, which generally means to take care of, and later to cure or heal. It seems totally appropriate in this context.

The term wounding is a more active form than wound, suggesting the process of causing the pain, not just its aftereffects. As such, it seems more expressive. A slightly clearer phrase might be wounding by a frown which clarifies that the observer of the frown is probably the one wounded, rather than the frowner.

Having said all that, the overall sentence, as is, has a lyric ring. While there may be more precise ways to be certain that the sentence is totally unambiguous to every reader, poetic expression can tolerate a little lack of exactitude.


The words being used metaphorically and the photographer very likely employing artistic license, I'd think the sentence is open to varying interpretations. In a word, it also depends on how the reader would appreciate it.

First, about "cure" and "heal," for me, the word "heal" implies a longer process of treatment. This is why I thought the photographer preferred "cure" to "heal."

The expression "the wounding of a frown" also first came across to me as something in the general direction of "a pained expression."

But I also recognize the interpretation that "wounding" refers to the negative feeling that the expression throws at other people.

In any case, the OP is right in saying that being too grammatically clinical with the whole thing might actually reduce the effect and poetic quality of the words.

  • +1 for pointing out that it's plainly a metaphor and thus paraphrasable. To the O.P.: personally, I rather like "A smile heals the wound of a frown" even better than what the photographer had in his studio. – J.R. Jul 22 '12 at 1:07

Well, "cure" can mean "to cover" so, in that case, a smile could "cure" a wound. As for the business of "wounding of a frown" then if we assume that a frown has caused a wound and is not itself the wound, I suppose the smile could "cure" the "wounding" just as much as I can stop the spilling of water from a cup (here we assume that someone is frowning and someone else is smiling, some sort of epic staring contest, perhaps).

But you are correct in that it's difficult to understand.

A better wording could be "A smile may heal the wound left by a frown" or something like that.

  • I am sorry, I dont know about the 'cover' usage of 'cure'. Can you please elaborate a little more on that? – karthik Jul 21 '12 at 15:09
  • It's obsolete now, and really is a reduced form of a Middle English word, so actually it doesn't count here but I was just pointing it out because one could use it that way if one wanted to. Still, it would introduce a lot of confusion and I would suggest against it. – user22244 Jul 21 '12 at 16:34

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