I saw the Mona Lisa once while I was visiting the Louve in Paris. Okay, SAW may be a bit of a stretch. Rather, I held my camera up above the crowd of people pressing in on all side, clicked blindly, glanced at the screen to confirm it had been pointed in the right direction, then pushed my way out of the throngs back to where I could breathe again. I felt like a free-diver, emerging from an underwater swim, and taking a few moments to catch my breath and reorient.
Recently, we watched a documentary called Mona Lisa is Missing, by filmmaker Joe Mederios. (Any work where they caption, rather than dub the speakers gets an extra star in my book!) Interestingly, although the words “Mona Lisa,” sound like they could be Italian, the Italian people interviewed never used them. Whenever they referred to the mysterious painting they called her a different name: La Gioconda. A quick investigation opened my eyes. Ah-ha! According to Wikipedia, Monna Lisa and La Gioconda are both ways to refer to the painting in Italian. But I never heard them say Monna Lisa; it was always La Gioconda. What does it mean? It is, apparently, the feminine version of the word giocondo which comes from the latin word jocundus. We keep the English variant of the latin word in our dictionaries: Jocund. Pronounced “JOCK-end,“ it means marked by or suggestive of high spirits and lively mirthfulness.
Wow. We all know the Mona Lisa has a certain mystical allure, but she is also quite…reserved. Not exactly mirthful, per se. So why then is she described as jocund?
I read a little further and found the answer. The model for the painting is believed to be Lisa Gherardina (that explains the Lisa part), wife of Francesco del Giocondo. So, her husband was Jocund; she simply acquired the name through marriage! I guess the old saying is true: Opposites DO attract…
What IS What a Wonderful Word Wednesday? I’m a fan of words. They’re just so darn interesting and super useful for conveying ideas, telling stories, and painting word pictures. I constantly come across unknown words…or words I’m familiar with but unsure of the precise definition…or underused words, wonderful words, words which (in my opinion!) really ought to be in circulation a lot more than they are! Enter WWWW. The purpose of these posts is to bring you an interesting word every week along with a visual to help solidify the meaning. I hope you stop in every once and again or, better still, join me every Wednesday on this lexical road trip to a richer vocabulary!