Wednesday, August 03, 2011

One Hand Clapping

When we say that something is plausible, we mean that it is reasonable, probable, and believable. In other words, it is in the realm of the rational. The origin of the word, however, involved the realm of the emotional. It signified something that met general approval and acceptance. It was so pleasing, in fact, that it might be met with applause. The word came from the Latin plaudere, to strike or to clap the hands.

Another word that came from the same Latin verb is plaudits, an expression of approval. Again, that could well involve applause. The spelling was originally plaudite, a command that meant “give these folks a hand.” It was the customary request from actors at the end of a play in old Rome.

Two surprising words that come from the Latin word meaning clapping are explode and implode. Originally, a disapproving audience would drive an actor off the stage by hooting, shouting, and clapping so loudly that he couldn’t be heard and had to beat a hasty retreat. While explode was an outburst, implode was an inburst.

There’s an obsolete and rare word also based on plaudere that might be useful even today, especially in the stands at sporting events. The word is supplode, and it meant to stamp with the feet – to applaud underneath.

Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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