Sunday, July 10, 2011

Word of the Day: Legato

It flows, says the Italian, as if it is tied together, so smoothly that the joins cannot be detected. In that sense, legato has much more in common with the not-so-obvious 'ligature' than it has with the word 'legate'. Both, however, have common roots in some ancient Indo-European word which meant 'to bind' — a word, that however it might have sounded, has descendants in 'legal', 'ligament', 'ligature', 'delegate', 'legislate', 'league', 'allege' and 'allegiance'.

Strangely enough, if you hear the phrase a legato spoken aloud in public these days, it's more likely to be someone pretending to be Japanese — arigato means 'thanks' in that language, and is unlikely to have Italian or Latin antecedents.

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