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Moved to tears.

Dear Editor:

I'm never sure about the word maudlin. I recently heard it used to mean "depressed" or "self-pitying," but I've also heard it used to mean overly emotional.

H. E.

Compton, California

Maudlin means "showing or expressing too much emotion especially in a foolish or annoying way" or "drunk enough to be emotionally silly." The word in both senses comes from the name Mary Magdelene and from the depiction of her as a weeping penitent.

Mary Magdelene, who was so called because she was thought to have come from the Palestinian city of Magdala, is portrayed in the Bible as one of Jesus' most devoted followers. The popular pronunciation of Magdalene in early Modern English is indicated by spellings such as Maudlen and Mawdlin.

By the 16 th century, Mary Magdelene was traditionally portrayed as weeping in scenes of the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. She became so identified with weeping that by the 17th century maudlin had come to mean "tearful." Later the word was used to describe a tearful show of emotion and especially the overwrought display of emotion brought on by drunkenness.

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Date:Aug 1, 2015
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