Pronunciation: Say it like you see it. Sooth(rhymes with ‘tooth’)
Origin: A very, very old word of at least a thousand years. Variants of this word appear in middle-English, Norse and Sanskrit.
Why this word?
In sooth, I know not why I am so sad. It wearies me; you say it wearies you. But how I caught it, found it, or came by it, what stuff ’tis made of, whereof it is born, I am to learn. And such a want-wit sadness makes of me, that I have much ado to know myself.
That is the opening speech of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. When I was thirteen years old, I had to study this play for an English exam. To this day – twenty years on – I can still remember the opening line. I can recall telling my father at the time that I was studying the play. His immediate response was to quote this opening line …
I’ve always liked the word ‘sooth’ – though both Chrissy and I agree that it is a word that has rightly become extinct in the modern world. Disagree? Well then, lets rewrite this famous scene between Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise.
Jack: You want answers?
Tom: I want the sooth!
Jack: You can’t handle the sooth!
See? It doesn’t sound nearly as punchy.
For a while, sooth applied to ‘soothsayers’ – essentially medieval proto-psychologists/witch doctors. Soothsayers were people you went to to be told what you couldn’t figure out.
How to use this word?
Don’t. The only – and we mean only – way in which it should be used is to quote the opening speech of the Merchant of Venice when your kid tells you they are studying it. Apart from that, it is extinct. And do you know what? In sooth, I am not sad about that.