I was listening to British prime minister David Cameron sometime last year and noticed that he used the word plaudit. This English noun is an imperative in disguise, and a Latin imperative at that: plaudit is a shortening of the three-syllable plaudite, a second-person plural command meaning “applaud [, you guys].” The infinitive of that Latin verb was applaudere, a compound of ad, the forerunner of Spanish a, and the plaudere that meant ‘to clap, strike, beat.’ Spanish and English have turned to that compound verb for aplaudir/applaud, and to its past participle for aplauso/applause.
But before you applaud, there’s more. From Latin plaudere English has the uncommon adjective plausive, which the American Heritage Dictionary defines as ‘Showing or expressing praise or approbation; applauding.’ Much more common is a word that Spanish and English share, plausible, which originally meant ‘worthy of being applauded.’ Later the sense expanded to ‘worthy [until contradicted] of being considered true; conceivably true.’ It’s unfortunately the case that with deception in mind, some people say things that sound plausible but that they know aren’t true. As a result, the English plausible has added a few senses (which Spanish doesn’t share): ‘Giving a deceptive impression of truth or reliability; disingenuously smooth; fast-talking.’
The corresponding abstract noun is plausibilidad/plausibility, and English also has a version with one of its native noun-forming suffixes, plausibleness.
© 2012 Steven Schwartzman