In a word: Lachrymose

Weekly vocabulary feature

September 27, 2010|By John McIntyre, The Baltimore Sun

Each week, The Sun's John McIntyre presents a moderately obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar -- another brick to add to the wall of your working vocabulary. Use it in a sentence in a comment below, and the best sentence will be featured next week. This week's word:

LACHRYMOSE

If you are tearful or given to weeping, people may call you lachrymose. One of the most lachrymose figures in literature is Mary Magdalene, who was conventionally represented in the Middle Ages and Renaissance as tearfully mourning the death of Jesus. Richard Crashaw's "The Weeper" represents Magdalen's eyes as "Two walking baths, two weeping motions, / Portable and compendious oceans." They're not writing verse like that any longer.

The word, from the Lartin lacrima, "tear," pronounced LAK-ri-mohs, can also mean inducing tears, and is sometimes resorted to by critics describing strongly emotional works.

Example: When I saw "Titanic," the theater was so full of lachrymose adolescents that the danger of drowning there was almost as great as on the ship.

From last week: The best use of gnomic in a sentence came not from a comment but in a personal message from Juana Jordan: A gnomic man from the Roemmich clan made his home in Nome.

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