Mug shots

An ugly mug on a mug

When listening to the Answer Me This podcast today I heard some discussion of mug shots, which got me thinking about the origins of that name.

According to Wiktionary, a mug shot (or mugshot) is:

1. A photograph taken of the head and shoulders, often from the front and in profile, usually taken in conjunction with somebody’s arrest.

2. An unflattering photograph of a person’s face (Britain slang)

The police mug shot is also known as a police photograph or booking photograph. According to Wikipedia, “Photographing of criminals began in the 1840s only a few years after the invention of photography, but it was not until 1888 that French police officer Alphonse Bertillon standardized the process.”

Mug is a slang word for face and shot comes from snapshot, another word for photograph, especially one taken quickly.

The origins of the word mug are uncertain, but its use as a slang word for face possibly comes from the grotesque faces on some drinking vessels.

Are there other interesting words for face in English or other languages?

This entry was posted in Language.

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