Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Interesting words: Plangent

Definition: Plangent means "resounding loudly, especially with a plaintive sound, like a bell".  It has a mournful connotation. Plangent is an adjective; the noun form is plangency.

Pronunciation: Like the two words "plan" and "gent".

Origin: According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, "plangent" comes from Latin plangens meaning "to strike or beat".

Why use it?  Not only does plangent not seem to have any real single-word synonyms, but I think it can be used in many more figurative ways. Disaffected voters and their spokespeople often sound plangent in a figurative way, even when speaking in a normal tone of voice. And many slow-moving tragedies have a plangency -we can see them happening, but there is nothing we can do from a distance.

Plangent was used by Alice Walker in "By the light of my father's smile" in this passage:

She moans along with the woman who is singing -- wailing, really -- her hands gripping the steering wheel to the plangent cries of the singer and the sobbing of violins.

But plangent is also used more figuratively, in the Washington Post, Blake Gopnik used plangent to describe the artwork of Corregio and Barocci, and others have used it to describe various paintings, as well. (see the Wordnik site listed below, for many examples).

Sources:  In addition to those cited in the text: Wordnik

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