Gloom, glum, gloaming

I wonder if most writers when they are looking through their work find they have been repetitive with their vocabulary? It’s something which I notice when I’m reading; someone uses an unusual word – argute for example,meaning shrewd, for example, and I marvel at it, and tuck it away in my mental filing cabinet as original, unusual and maybe useful, and then I find it again fifty pages on; because it’s so unusual it stands out… and then it crops up again, until you begin to think it’s either a favourite word of the writer, or s/he’s trying to get it into his story a record number of times!

I carefully go through my stories – even weeding out the repetetive use of ordinary little words such as just, also, however. Even so, once the book is published, I still find those annoying and jarring repeats! In my effort to weed them out of the book I’m just finishing now (finishing the last couple of edits!) I came across a page where I had used gloomy twice – and glum also appeared! I changed a gloomy and a glum, but then used the glum somewhere else… and I got to wondering about the words – did they come from the same root? What did the words originally mean? Or did they always mean gloomy and glum?

I wasn’t surprised to find that gloom was originally Scottish, it sounds Scottish to me somehow. It meant pretty much what it means now, back at the end of the sixteenth century, sullen, displeased and it probably came from glouman which was a mysterious now vanished Old English word. That in turn may have come from West Europe where there are similar words all to do with facial expressions.

We now use gloomy in regard to other things – very often the weather and that and also feelings and emotions, not just facial expressions. Glum is an internal feeling as well as appearance, and I came across a fantastic word which you may well find in a future book by me, glump which was the origin of an expression of having the glumps what a wonderful word, and doesn’t it just some up the feeling and the expression!

Do gloom and gloomy have any connection at all with the now rarely used word, gloaming? Gloaming means twilight, that time between day and night, that magical and mysterious time, and the word comes from Old English. It may have come from something meaning to glow, and the sky at that time in the evening does seem to have a glow.

Back to work now, checking and rechecking my book… I must add that I do use repetitive language for some of my characters speech, because we all do that in the way we talk – so if you notice Thomas Radwinter saying ‘good grief!’ a lot – that is deliberate; I have however cut out quite a few of them – I don’t want to be irritating!

Here is a link to my Radwinter books – I would love your comments on them, and would really appreciate a little review on Amazon – or a big review if you’re feeling inspired!




  1. David Lewis

    Good Grief is a lot better than using the f… word. I worked with a chap who when he got mad would say Jeepers Cripers. He had become a born again Christian so you can imagine what he would have cussed before then!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lois

      It’s difficult with writing stories – the characters have to be believable but I don’t want to use as much bad language as some of my characters would if they were real!


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