Discuss word origins and meanings.
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Post by Ken Greenwald » Sun Dec 06, 2015 10:03 pm

<Tóibín, author of The Master, a fine-tuned novel on the lonely last years of Henry James, revisits, diminuendo, the wrenching finale of The Portrait of a Lady.”—Publisher’s Weekly Review of Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín's>
Beautiful-sounding word; not quite as exciting as a crescendo, but a with a certain mellow peacefulness all its own.


DIMINUENDO Adjective, adverb, noun, verb, plural –‘does.’ Music.

1) adjective, adverb: gradually reducing in force or loudness; decrescendo (opposed to crescendo).

2) noun: A gradual reduction of force or loudness.

3) noun: A diminuendo passage, Symbol: >

4) verb transitive: To become quieter or fainter; to grow less.

[1765-75; From Italian present participle of diminuire, to diminish from Latin dīminuere; see diminish.]

The following quotes are from the Oxford English Dictionary and archived sources:
<1776 “I stood still some time to observe the diminuendo and crescendo.”—Musical Travels through England (edition 4) by ‘J. Collier,’ page 65

<1826 “Let these notes be played . . . with perfect crescendos and diminuendoes.”—R.A.R. in W. Hone The Every-Day Book, II. page 1171>

<1890 “Certain violin-players take advantage of this in diminuendo terminations.”—Principles of Psychology by W. James, II. xviii. page 71>

<1891 “A similar trimming . . . on a smaller scale, edged. . . the bodice, and was repeated in a further diminuendo round the neck.”—Daily News (London), 26 October, page 3/3>

<1955 “Labour's promise to do away with the 11 plus examination for selective secondary education was another scheme that suffered a diminuendo.”—The Times (London), 26 May, page 11/6>

<1959 “He was looking a bit diminuendo, and smiled rather nervously.”—Encounter (London), August, page 34/1>

<1962 “He began to howl and diminuendoed down to a mutter.”—The Guardian (London), 19 October, page 11/7>

<1984 “ The April earthquakes, though, did not form the crescendo and diminuendo of a swarm that is usually associated with the movement of fluids in rock.”—Science, 1 June>

<1998 “Often Kirby seems not to have enough breath to complete a phrase, a condition she partially disguises by a careful diminuendo at the end of every musical sentence.”—Boston Herald (Massachusetts), 23 February>

<2007 “The "Bible War" may have peaked in the 1830's, as Dr. Whelan argues, but it continued diminuendo for many decades and arguably formed the crucible of modern Irish Catholic identity.”— The Catholic Historical Review, 1 October>

<2015 “Frequently it is reported that he voiced the word ‘never’ three times, but there was a fourth ‘never’. Paisley bellowed out the first three but then there is the slightest of pauses and a little diminuendo as he more tentatively uttered the fourth ‘never’ – as if there was some doubt in his mind, . . .”—The Irish Times, 14 November>

Ken G – December 6, 2015 (who’s slowly going diminuendo)
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Re: diminuendo

Post by Erik_Kowal » Tue Dec 08, 2015 3:52 pm

That 1959 citation ("He was looking a bit diminuendo") seems to be an outlier in terms of the OED's definition of the adjective ("gradually reducing in force or loudness; decrescendo"), inasmuch as the dictionary's definition definitely suggests the term is applicable to sound rather than appearance.

I certainly don't recall ever hearing or reading about the physical appearance of anything as being diminuendo, as distinct from diminutive — but it's always possible that I just need to get out more. :)
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