Printable Version
Pronunciation: me-lê-drah-mê Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A drama characterized by exaggerated displays of emotion through overwrought acting. 2. Any situation or circumstance presented as melodrama in the first sense, such as the melodrama of TV commercials.

Notes: Today's Good Word comes with two versions of an adjective, melodramatic and melodramatical. The former is preferred but, as with all adjectives ending on -ic (except politic), the extended form must be used in spelling the adverb, melodramatically, even though it isn't pronounced. Notice also the meaningless suffix -at inserted between stem and ending as in all words borrowed from Greek whose last consonant is M: emblem : emblematic, schema : schematic. Melodramatics are melodramatic actions.

In Play: Melodrama is used in eleemosynary commercials on TV that use mistreated animals and malnourished children to appeal to us for contributions. However, many of us use melodrama when we appeal for anything we want desperately: "Mikey, cut out the melodrama! You can't have a motorcycle, and that's my last word on the subject." Operas are all melodramatic and "soap operas" are so called because they, too, are melodramatic stories whose original purpose was to sell soap and detergent to housewives.

Word History: English borrowed today's word from French mélodrame "musical comedy" based on Greek melos "song" (whence also melody) + French drame "drama". It is thus one of those odd words originally made up of parts from multiple languages (an extreme example is unremacadamized). In English the word's meaning soon drifted to "a sensational romantic play with a happy ending", because musical comedies often assumed this form. Melos originally meant "limb (of a person or animal)". It was used figuratively as "refrain" and, then, on to "song". French drame, of course, came down from Greek drama "deed, act", whose meaning moved from there to "drama", i.e. acts on a stage. (Without melodrama we now thank our long-standing South African friend, Chris Stewart, for recommending today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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