Being a response to the Daily Prompt:

Profound, and its more common synonym deep, are quite versatile words. There’s the literal sense of the words, measuring how far down something goes. Though we tend to use just deep for that. You’re hardly going to go to the profound end of a swimming pool, perhaps to discuss Proust and the films of Ingmar Bergman.

And then there’s the more abstract meaning of the words, to describe something with an important, valuable intense meaning. Someone can be a very deep person, or a novel can have a very profound meaning. You can feel something, deep down in your heart. We tend to use profound more often in this sense though. You might make a profound statement, or have a profoundly inspiring experience. What makes profound so special that we reserve it for when things are so, well… profound?

I think, as is so often the case with English, it’s all about the sound. Deep, with its single little syllable, and the slightly ridiculous ee sound, just seems so light, so disposable. Who could take it seriously?

But profound, now that’s a word! Those round vowel sounds make it so much more elegant and sophisticated than deep! I think the respective etymology of each word is also important. Modern English words can generally be divided between words of Latin and Germanic origin. In this case, profound derives from Latin, and deep from German. I’ve already written about how we still tend to treat words of Latin origin with reverence. They tend to be used to describe anything of religious, scientific, or psychological importance, whereas Germanic words tend to refer to more everyday things (e.g. haus/house). It makes sense then that we’d save the word profound for really special occasions.

It still amazes me of how that we still see the effects of how this strange mongrel language developed well over 1,000 years ago. To think that we could look at the language in a superficial way and see traces of how people were using the language well before the modern age is just incredible.  It really is a profoundly interesting language!

13 thoughts on “Profound

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