Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Plangent means a loud sound, often a melancholy, sad sound of lamentation.
His [Pope's] preface to the Iliad, published in 1715, is one of the most plangent descriptions written in English of the power of the Homeric poems. ... "No man of true Poetical Spirit," the young Pope had written, "is Master of himself while he reads him [Homer]; so forcible is the poet's Fire and Rapture." 
Why Homer Matters by Adam Nicolson

While plangent is obscure (around 300K Google hits, many of them definitional), its root has had an important impact on the English lexicon. The root is the Latin/Greek plaga meaning to strike or beat, in the context of beating one's breast or wounding one's enemies or even hitting a drum, evidentally. This root can be traced forward to both plague and plaintive, but we can see from the above example, plangent is not always a curse or a sadness, but can simply be a load, forceful sound as befitting its etymology.

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