What's in a Word | All Blogs


Rhapsody in white, purple and yellow

By Debra Dobbins

The word “rhapsody” immediately brings to mind George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” with its sterling clarinet glissando as the beloved piece’s clarion call. For quite some time I’ve understood the word both in its musical sense and in the senses of “great delight” or an “utterance of great enthusiasm.”

What I didn’t know until today is that the word stems from the Greek word rhapsoidos, which meant a person who strung songs together, “a reciter of epic poetry,” according to Webster’s. In its earliest sense, “rhapsody” was a “part of an epic poem suitable for a single recitation,” the dictionary also notes.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word’s meaning of “exalted enthusiastic feeling or expression” started in the 1630s. The meaning of “sprightly musical composition” was first recorded in the 1850s, according to the same dictionary.

Driving to schools around the valley today, I felt like rhapsodizing over all the stately irises in bloom. Now flaunting gorgeous hues of white, purple and (my favorite) yellow, they’re indeed worthy of an epic poem or two.


 

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