Poor Wickfield is down in the doldrums: (UsingEnglish.com) in the dumps, down in the mouth – feeling sad and lacking the energy to do anything, filled with melancholy and despondency. Not that I know if Dickens used the term, but he describes Wickfield’s depression well with the following sentence: “When he came in, he stood still; and with his head bowed, as if he felt it.”
Samuel Taylor Coleridge used it in Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. But whatever is a doldrum? To find out we must turn to the sea. According to Wikipedia:
The doldrums is a colloquial expression derived from historical maritime usage for those parts of the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean affected by the Intertropical Convergence Zone, a low-pressure area around the equator where the prevailing winds are calm. The low pressure is caused by the heat at the equator, which makes the air rise and travel north and south high in the atmosphere, until it subsides again in the horse latitudes. Some of that air returns to the doldrums through the trade winds. This process can lead to light or variable winds and more severe weather, in the form of squalls, thunderstorms and hurricanes. The doldrums are also noted for calm periods when the winds disappear altogether, trapping sail-powered boats for periods of days or weeks.
The term appears to have arisen in the 18th century (when cross-Equator sailing voyages became more common). It is derived from dold (an archaic term meaning “stupid”) and -rum(s), a noun suffix found in such words as “tantrum”.
In the Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster, it’s a place, inhabited by the Lethargarians who do nothing all day. Maybe not quite the same place Mr. Wickfield find himself.
Another term we don’t hear much, outside of literature, is crestfallen: “Tom’s cheeks burned. He gathered himself up and sneaked off, crushed and crestfallen.” (Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, 1876).
Please don’t let this WIX post, or the turkeys, get you down!
PS: Bea Bellingham, a fellow SkADaMoer in Australia, is featuring my work on her blog today, for Spotlight Wednesday.