Use this forum to discuss past Good Words.
User avatar
Dr. Goodword
Site Admin
Posts: 4563
Joined: Wed Feb 02, 2005 9:28 am
Location: Lewisburg, PA


Postby Dr. Goodword » Mon Feb 10, 2014 12:22 am

• plaintive •

Pronunciation: playn-tiv • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Melancholy, mournful, expressing grief or sadness.

Notes: The trick with today's word is not to confuse it with plaintiff "complainant in a court case". They were once one and the same, but they drifted apart once English borrowed them. The English word is built on the noun plaint "mourning, lamentation", also borrowed from French. The adverb and noun are straightforward enough: plaintively and plaintiveness.

In Play: Plaintive is a word of soft beauty: "The plaintive song of a nightingale outside the window made the cafe the perfect setting for Matt Tremony's proposal." Today's word first and foremost signifies a sad beauty, like the blues: "Bertha D. Blues, mother of the Blues Brothers, sang a plaintive song of her childhood, of a history piled high with regrets."

Word History: Today's Good Word is from Old French plaintif "complaining" based on the noun plainte "a complaint; a lament". French inherited this word from Latin planctus "lamentation, wailing, beating of the breast", the past participle stem of plangere "to lament, to strike". (Part of ancient complaints was beating of the breast.) This word reached English by way of its Germanic ancestors as fling "to throw". Without the Fickle N, it came to be Latin plaga "a blow, a stroke", which Old French turned into plague. It had already come to mean "illness" in post-Classical Latin. English at this point treated itself to the word. (Lest we make Gene DuBose plaintive, let's thank him for his suggestion of today's lovely Good Word.)
• The Good Dr. Goodword

User avatar
Grand Panjandrum
Posts: 3981
Joined: Fri Oct 09, 2009 6:16 pm
Location: Land of the Flat Water

Re: Plaintive

Postby LukeJavan8 » Mon Feb 10, 2014 12:27 pm

mea culpa-ish
-----please, draw me a sheep-----

Perry Lassiter
Grand Panjandrum
Posts: 3212
Joined: Wed Jan 03, 2007 12:41 pm
Location: RUSTON, LA

Re: Plaintive

Postby Perry Lassiter » Mon Feb 10, 2014 5:47 pm

Reminds me of a guy I saw one time in New Orleans. It was night, and he was leaning against the wall in Pirates Alley. He was playing blues on an alto sax. Wonderful time!

Return to “Good Word Discussion”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 7 guests