Posted: 02 February 2018 11:53 PM   [ Ignore ]
Total Posts:  862
Joined  2013-10-14

An interesting etymology for Magdalene/maudlin according to an old book I’m reading titled, Word Origins The Romance of Language ,published in 1949. Would maudlin be considered a back-formation of Magdalene?

A Magdalene is a reformed prostitute. The derivation is from Mary Magdalene, or of Magdala, a town on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  She is first mentioned as having had seven devils cast out of her (Luke viii. 2) and as ministering to Christ of her substance. She, with other woman, is said to have followed Christ, but Mary Magdalene is not specifically named again until the Crucifixion.
The word maudlin derives from the same source; probably in particular reference to the frequent portrayals in early art of the Magdalene as a weeping figure.

OED seems to have a similar etymology.

Forms:  ME Magdalein, ME Magdaleyne, ME Magdeleyne, ME–15 Magdaleyn, ME–15 Magdelen… (Show More)
Frequency (in current use):
Origin: A borrowing from Latin. Etymons: Latin Maria, Magdalena.
Etymology: < post-classical Latin (Vulgate) (Maria) Magdalena, Magdalene < Hellenistic Greek (Μαρία ἡ) Μαγδαληνή , (Mary) of Magdala < Μάγδαλα name of a town on the Sea of Galilee ( < Aramaic Magdĕlā , lit. ‘tower’) + -ηνη -ENE suffix.
The popular form of the word is MAUDLIN n.; the pronunciation
Brit. /ˈmɔːdlᵻn/
U.S. /ˈmɔdlən/
represented by this spelling is still current for the names of Magdalen College, Oxford, and Magdalene College, Cambridge.

In the course of the history of the two forms, there has been an almost complete overlap of usage (compare senses at MAUDLIN n.), although apparently never for very long in each sense. The spelling Magdalen or Magdalene became established for references to Mary herself, and in senses relating to her identification as a reformed prostitute; maudlin , except in the names of plants, only for ‘mawkish sentimentality’, after MAUDLIN adj.


Forms:  ME maudelaine, ME maudelayne, ME mavdelen, ME mawdelayn, MEmawdelayne, ME ... (Show More)
Frequency (in current use):
Origin: Formed within English, by compounding. Etymons: English maudelain , MAUDLIN adj.
Etymology: < maudelain, maudelen, etc., Middle English forms (see below) of the name of Mary Magdalene, ultimately (probably via Old French) < post-classical Latin MariaMagdalena (see MAGDALENE n.). In branch II. < MAUDLIN adj.
See MAGDALENE n. for the semantic overlap of the two forms of the word.

Posted: 03 February 2018 01:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Total Posts:  1259
Joined  2007-03-01

The Gospel accounts of Mary Magdalene say that Jesus had cast out devils from her before she became a disciple, but nothing about her being a sinner, That idea comes from an identification of her with the unnamed ‘woman in the city, who was a sinner’ in Luke 7:36-50. Naturally, given the preoccupations of the Church Fathers, it was this woman’s imagined sexual sins that most interested them, so by the 6th century Pope Gregory the Great was confidently asserting that she had been a woman of ill repute.

The characterisation of Mary Magdalene as a penitent prostitute was so clearly understood that when in the 18th century asylums began to be founded for the reclamation of prostitutes it came naturally to call them ’Magdalene hospitals‘, even in Protestant countries.

Posted: 03 February 2018 06:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Total Posts:  6610
Joined  2007-01-03

Would maudlin be considered a back-formation of Magdalene?

No. A back formation uses the removal of an affix to create a new sense and a different part of speech. For example, the verb to burgle is a back-formation of the noun burglar. The verb to resurrect is a back-formation of resurrection. It’s “back” because affixes are usually added to, not removed from, a root.

In this case, we’ve got two parallel forms that have existed since the word’s introduction into English. One, originally maudelaine, influenced by Old French and eventually coming to be used for the adjective in the present-day maudlin, and the other direct from the Latin Magdalena and coming to be used for the proper name of the biblical character and the prostitutes.

(As Syntinen Laulu points out, the idea that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute has no biblical basis.)