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Dr. Goodword
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Postby Dr. Goodword » Tue Feb 15, 2005 12:15 am

• lament •

Pronunciation: lê-ment • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Transitive verb, Noun

Meaning: 1. [Verb] To express grief, mourning, sorrow. 2. [Verb] To regret, feel grief or sorrow. 3. [Noun] A written or oral expression of grief or mourning, such as a poem or song.

Notes: Today's word has a rich if not happy family. The noun is derived from the verb, which also gave us lamentation "the process of lamenting" and lamenter "a person who laments". The active adjective is lamenting, as the lamenting son, and the passive adjective is lamentable "deserving to be lamented", i.e. pitiful, unfortunate.

In Play: We thought this a good word for today, since we lament our omission of the sound files for our past two words. (They are on the website now.) Today's word, though, is good for any situation involving regret or sorrow, "Everyone laments the loss of critical information caused by replacing the water cooler with fountains in the hall." A lamentation is usually reserved for a major tragedy, but laments may be more modest: "It was lamentable that Madeleine forgot to set the emergency brake when she parked her car at the top of the hill, but leaving the gear in neutral proved catastrophic."

Word History: Today's Good Word is a rubbing of Old French lamenter, the descendant of the Latin adjective lamentarius "mournful, tearful", based on the noun lamentum "lament". The origin of this word is a bit mysterious. Apparently it contains an older root *la- + the suffix –ment, mentioned recently in connection with mantra. The same root underlies Armenian lam "to cry", Albanian leh "bark, bay", and Russian layat' "to bark". This root, however, seems to have avoided Germanic languages, except for the borrowing mentioned above, so interesting connections with English are not to be found.
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Postby tcward » Tue Feb 15, 2005 12:39 am

"Lamentations" always brings to mind the lamentatione Ieremiae (the Lamentations of Jeremiah), as well as Henry Purcell's famous aria, "Dido's Lament", from his opera Dido and Aeneas.

"Dido's Lament" is such a moving piece... Although I haven't read anything to corroborate this, I have a theory. The piece utilizes what is called a "ground bass" or a "ground round", where there is a tune played over and over in the bass line, and the melody and harmony do different things over the bass line to add unexpected color, etc.

Remember that name, "ground bass".

The opening line of the aria is "When I am laid... in earth..." That sounds like a hidden musical joke of sorts, doesn't it? But the music is written so beautifully and is so moving in the context of the words, you forget all about that as you listen to it.

Kind of a sad topic to follow on the heels of Valentine's Day, isn't it?


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Postby Apoclima » Tue Feb 15, 2005 3:42 am

Perhaps not the most inspired version, but I did find a midi of "Dido's Lament" on this page.

Purcell in near the bottom of the page!

Thanks, Tim.

'Experiments are the only means of knowledge at our disposal. The rest is poetry, imagination.' -Max Planck

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