You Don't Say John E. McIntyre writes about language, usage, journalism & arbitrarily chosen subjects.

In a word: plinth

The Baltimore Sun

Each week The Sun’s John McIntyre presents a relatively obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar, another brick to add to the wall of your vocabulary. This week's word:

PLINTH

Statues don’t stand on the ground like us; they must be elevated so that we can see, mark, and admire them. The base or block on which a statue has been placed is called a plinth (pronounced as spelled, if you can).

A plinth can also be a square slab at the base of a column, a plain thing that holds prouder things up.

The word comes from the Greek plinthos, “tile,” “brick,” “squared stone,” later plinthus in Latin.

Example: From “Washed Ashore” by Geraldine Brooks, Smithsonian, February 2009: “Nearby, a newer monument moves me each time I pass it: a simple granite plinth, inscribed with a Star of David and a Christian cross, the names of two men and their dates of birth and death. On one face ofthe plinth, two circles interlock. Underneath, the words: ‘Since 1958.’ ”

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