If you’ve studied plot structure at all, you may have come across the word denouement. It’s that wrapping-up part of a story that happens after the climax, sometimes called the resolution.

We’ve been using this word in English since the 1750s, borrowed directly (of course) from the French. The French nouer, which means “to tie,” in turn comes directly from the Latin nodus, “a knot.” Add on that negative de- prefix, and we get a literal “to untie.” Which is to say, the mysteries or complications have all been unknotted, untied, laid out in a nice neat order. Makes sense, right?

What might not make sense, then, is why call the same things “tying things up” or object when too much is put in a “nice, neat bow.” Hmm…tying…untying… Well, as long as it’s not in knots!

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