Monday, February 9, 2009

My word

The other day I was looking something up in the dictionary and was stopped in my tracks by a word I'd never heard or seen: plagal. It's an adjective, a musical term meaning 'having the keynote on the fourth scale step', when referring to church mode, or 'progressing from the subdominant chord to the tonic' when referring to cadence.

And it suddenly struck me: there must be a lot of terms completely natural to people in my community who specialize in areas other than mine - terms that are completely foreign to me. It's like there's a closed world with a coded language out there that even having so many musicians in the family, plus a dictionary, can't help me decipher. I mean, honestly, was I supposed to have a clue what either of those definitions meant?

At the same time, few of the words common to my existence are likely to be foreign to others. Chocolate, procrastination, naps, warm socks... there's nothing in there that other people around me can't recognize. I find this one-sided distance very interesting even if it does turn out to be a reflection on my intelligence. And you know I am totally remembering 'plagal' next time I play Scrabble.

1 comment:

Kathleen Taylor said...

I'm not sure that knitting has as many specialized words, but it has a few that mean one thing to us and something else to everyone else. For non-needle types, frogging is something you do with a net and a flashlight. And *stash* rarely brings sheep to mind for the mainstream.

Then there are those who see knit and think *crochet*.

But plagal is new to me too, though the definition didn't mean anything to me either... (being a non-musical knitting writer)