Maudlin people are weepy, emotional, foolish, or gushily sentimental. Maudlinness can be someone’s general disposition or can be brought on by alcohol or an emotional situation.
Maudlin was first used in the early 1500s, and we get it from the biblical character Mary Magdalene. In medieval art, Magdalene was almost always shown weeping, either washing Jesus’ feet with her tears or weeping outside his empty tomb. People of the time referred to anyone who had a similar weepy look or disposition as Magdalene. Over time, the pronunciation became slurred and the spelling changed to maudlin.
A few years ago, I was especially delighted when I saw a news article about the declining number of nuns that quoted a nun using the word maudlin. She said, “We can't be maudlin about [it],” which struck me as an excellent use of the word.
This article is based on an entry in Grammar Girl's book 101 Words to Sound Smart. Buy it now:
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