Welcome to August. I am starting a new recurring theme for the the first Thursday every month. I will prattle on about a word, then try to use it in every other post for the month. Does that sound plausible?
1 : seemingly fair, reasonable, or valuable but often not so
2 : superficially pleasing or persuasive
3 : appearing worthy of belief
The word first appeared in writing around 1535 to 1545. Usually, a word was in use much earlier than it could be found in writing. The meaning at that time was basically “worthy of being applauded” and “approving”. According to Merriam Webster, “It comes to us from the Latin adjective plausibilis (‘worthy of applause’), which in turn derives from the verb plaudere, meaning ‘to applaud or clap.’ Other plaudere descendants in English include applaud, plaudit (the earliest meaning of which was ‘a round of applause’), and explode (from Latin explodere, meaning ‘to drive off the stage by clapping’).”
How interesting that the world of the stage is closely aligned with the world of a writer. I love Dictionary.com as a go-to for word confusion and was happy to find very nearly the same information there. The quotes from the web are insightful as well.
Of course, I would love to be able to subscribe to The Oxford English Dictionary as a writer of historical romances because they have always had the dates of when the word first came into usage. But many of the other dictionaries are doing that now. How cool is that?
Is it plausible that the other companies wanted to provide this date information all along but were afraid of being compared to the OED? (See what I did there?)
Finding the origin of words and how the meaning has changed over time is one of my hobbies. I often thought I would go into a field like etymology but it took too much schooling and the plausibility of finding employment in the field was lacking.
Some of my favorite words that have changed meanings include nice, feisty, and sincere. If someone in Regency England told you that you were too nice, you should not take that as a compliment. Not only was the word overused in many ways, it could mean fussy, too picky about things, or it could mean precise or careful.
Feisty became overused to describe strong heroines in Romances, but in truth the origin is funny. The term meant a smelly dog in Middle English and became associated with older women in Regency times who would blame their own flatulence on their lap dogs. Plausible but not a good comparison for your Main Female Character.
Some years ago, the story circulated that sincere meant without wax and came from the Roman markets where the honest vendors of religious idols did not fill the figures with wax to make them seem of better quality. That’s all an implausible urban legend of sorts. The word is more likely to come from Middle French and means whole and clean. There goes one of my favorite anecdotes.
I am thrilled to have found the On-line Etymology Dictionary and if you write historical novels you might want to bookmark it. And if you write fantasy or science fiction, you might discover words there that will work for you in world building.
Thanks for reading. If it’s plausible that you want to read more of my blog, you’re in luck. I’ll be back on Sunday.