Friday, January 2, 2009


Etymologist Adrian Room notes that "It was Christopher Marlowe who wrote the magic words, 'Melodious birds sing madrigals,' and the word itself is so evocative that it conjures up a whole host of agreeable but unfortunately wrong associations, among them 'magical,' 'magnify,' 'melodical,' 'Magnificat,' 'musical,' 'canticle,' or some sort of heady blend of these. And the charm of the word is just as potent today as the songs themselves were in historic times." Room traces madrigal to the Medieval Latin matricale ("primitive") and Late Latin matricalis ("of the womb"), "perhaps referring to a 'maternal' poem or song, one that was sung in the mother tongue" (A Dictionary of True Etymologies, 1988).

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