Which substance is behind the word aplomb?
You may hear tell of someone who displays much aplomb. You may, as I always did, associate that with someone who spoke with a plum in their mouth. The notion of determined correctness could come to my mind. A person with aplomb was always imagined by me as being severe and unpleasant.
Certainly the word does speak of someone who is unflappable. It speaks of poise and self-control. It doesn’t require a sense of severity, but of being balance and well managed.
The word derives from the idea of a plumb-line. That’s a string with a weight on the end, which is suspended from a height so that gravity keeps it straight. Builders, bricklayers and other people involved in construction might use a plumb-line to ensure their vertical structures are truly ‘vertical’.
Now, my question was, Which substance is behind the word aplomb?
The answer is, lead. It comes from the Latin word for that soft, heavy metal, ‘plumbum’. If you studied chemistry in school you will know that the chemical symbol for lead is Pb. That’s because Pb is an abbreviation of ‘plumbum’.
So aplomb is a concept that developed from the use of lead weights on a string.
Which substance should come to mind? No, not String!!! But lead.
And, for you Biblophiles (or is it Bibliophiles? – I mean “Bible lovers”), the prophet Amos saw a vision of a plumbline and heard God say the people would be judged against God’s standard. The Apostle Peter then spoke about judgment beginning at the house of God – among God’s people. So, he asks, what hope do the heathen have? (See 1Peter 4:17).
Tags: aplomb, apostle peter, bible, bibliophiles, latin, latin word, logophile, meanings, plumbum, prophet amos, Vocabulary, words
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