Monday, June 12, 2006


From Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day:

revenant   \REV-uh-nahng (the final "ng" is not pronounced, but the vowel is nasalized)\ noun: one that returns after death or a long absence

Example sentence: The play is about a family of revenants who come back to their ancestral home after years of political exile.

Did you know? Frightening or friendly, the classic revenant was a ghost — a specter returned from the dead. Even in figurative uses, death played its hand. When Sir Walter Scott, in his 1828 novel The Fair Maid of Perth, used "revenant" in one of the earliest uses of the word in English, he was referring to a criminal who had survived the gallows, who "was cut down and given to his friends before life was extinct, and . . . recovered." Eventually, though, we appended a more earthly meaning: a revenant can be a flesh-and-blood returnee when we use it simply to mean a person who shows up after a long absence. We borrowed "revenant" from the French, who created it from their verb "revenir," which means simply "to return," as does its Latin ancestor, "revenire."
"Revenant" has two associations for me. The word turns up in the lyrics of the first song of Sufjan Stevens' Illinois, "Concerning the UFO Sighting near Highland, Illinois":
When the revenant came down
We couldn't imagine what it was
And it furnishes the name of a great record label, Revenant Records, devoted mainly to reissues of neglected American music. Revenant is the label responsible for Screamin' and Hollerin' the Blues: The Worlds of Charley Patton, the best boxed set I've ever seen.

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