April 2, 2002

Gloomy Words

I was invited to attend a Tenebrae service on Good Friday. This is a service associated with Holy Week, at which candles are used and are, one by one, extinguished, leaving the church in darkness. I was disappointed that I was unable to go to the service, as I have never actually experienced Tenebrae. The name comes from the Latin for darkness, which seems appropriate. There are several potentially useful English words, admittedly obscure, that come from the same root. Tenebrific, for instance, can refer to something that tends to darken or obscure, or it can simply mean obscure or dark. One could, I suppose, use this word symbolically, though this use may be uncommon. (Whereas the first speaker was insightful, the second was tenebrific.) This is apparently a newer word than tenebrous or tenebrious, which both mean dark and gloomy. Dark-and-gloominess is, of course, tenebrosity. The most wonderful word of this rather odd lot, however, is the five-syllable tenebrionid, which is someone who avoids light. I must find a use for this word.

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