Saturday, October 25, 2003

Etymology Today from M-W: maudlin \MAWD-lin\
1 : drunk enough to be emotionally silly
2 : weakly and effusively sentimental

The history of "maudlin" owes as much to the Bible as to the barroom. The biblical Mary Magdalene is often (though some say mistakenly) identified with the weeping sinner who washed Jesus' feet with her tears to repent for her sins. This association led to the frequent depiction of Mary Magdalene as a weeping penitent, and by the 16th century even the name "Magdalene" suggested teary emotion to many English speakers. It was then that "maudlin," an alteration of "Magdalene," appeared in the English phrase "maudlin drunk," which, as one Englishman explained in 1592, described a tearful drunken state whereby "a fellow wil weepe for kindnes in the midst of his Ale and kisse you."

Usage Nuances from M-W: beguile \bih-GHYLE\
1 : to deceive by cunning means
2 : to draw notice or interest by wiles or charm
3 : to cause (as time) to pass pleasantly

"Deceive," "mislead," "delude," and "beguile" all mean to lead astray or frustrate, usually by underhandedness. "Deceive" implies imposing a false idea or belief that causes ignorance, bewilderment, or helplessness (as in "they tried to deceive me about the cost"). "Mislead" implies a leading astray that may or may not be intentional (as in "I was misled by the confusing sign"). "Delude" implies deceiving so thoroughly as to obscure the truth (as in "we were deluded into thinking we were safe"). "Beguile" stresses the use of charm and persuasion in deceiving (as in "they were beguiled by false promises").

• Previous Usage Nuances here and here
Previous E.T.

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