• lagoon •
Pronunciation: lê-gun • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A shallow bay protected from the open sea by a sand bar or coral reef, or a lake inside a coral reef. 2. A completely enclosed lake close to and usually connected to a larger body of water. 3. An artificial holding pool for animal wastes, sludge or sewerage.
Notes: This Good Word has literally fallen from grace into the smelliest of sewers. It began its life as a centerpiece in our dreams of a tropical paradise. It was a dreamy place like the Sleepy Lagoon in Lawrence and Coates' 1940 song: "A tropical moon, a sleepy lagoon . . .and you". "Blue Lagoon" was a synonym for romance. Today it is more likely a holding pit for pig and sewerage wastes, whose odor turns us blue. (Oh, the bestial things we do to our language!) The adjective is lagoonal; all other relatives have abandoned it.
In Play: Here in central Pennsylvania when the temperature is 5° and the ground is covered with 6" of snow, we still dream of a sleepy blue lagoon like that pictured above, surrounded by palm trees, grass-skirted girls, and a punctual breeze that arrives just when the temperature becomes annoying. What do we get? Well, when our septic tank clogs, a stinky lagoon in the third sense above creeps over our backyard.
Word History: This good word may have come from French lagune or Italian laguna. Both these words go back to Latin lacuna "pool, hollow, gap", from lacus "lake", the word that gave us our lake. Related words are Greek lakkos "cistern, pond" and Gaelic loch "lake, pond", as in Loch Ness or Loch Lomond. Russian luzha "pool, puddle" is also connected. Here is another word that provided a lexical bounty for English as this language fed on it repeatedly over time: lake, lacuna, and lagoon—all from the same Latin word.