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Note that English is not my mother-tongue.

Would a native speaker understand that the following sentence is trying to convey that the protagonist is relieved by the fact that he'd been able to set down his heavy backpack, or would they rather be confused due to the theological origin of the term "salvific"?

The backpack thumped down on the parched ground with a salvific thud.

If the word is bewildering (or plain wrong) here, what would be a better alternative?

Update: After all the commotion I have reconsidered my word of choice and came up with an alternative, that, as I believe, is more apt in the context.

The backpack thumped down on the parched ground with an extricating thud.

  • Perhaps you could use saving instead? – tchrist Jul 21 '16 at 15:50
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    "a glorious thud" would transmit the idea that the weary traveller was taken to that spiritual place upon the sound of his heavy pack hitting the dusty earth. – grateful Jul 21 '16 at 15:59
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    I'll answer your actual questions, in simple terms. 'Would a native speaker understand that the following sentence is trying to convey that the protagonist is relieved by the fact that he'd been able to set down his heavy backpack?' ... Very, very few. I didn't. '[W]ould they rather be confused due to the theological origin of the term "salvific"?' No; they'd be confused because they didn't know the word. // 'Merciful' is often used as a transferred epithet (= signalling relief rather than giving mercy). – Edwin Ashworth Jul 21 '16 at 16:17
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    I wouldn't agree with 'OK to use'. I'd mark down a pupil using your sentence. The fact that it's not ungrammatical, and arguably semantically justifiable in some abstruse register, doesn't automatically shoot it to the top of the acceptability scale. And you did ask about whether it was 'bewildering', not just 'wrong'. If you wish to bewilder people , it works fine. // You misunderstand Max's response. '[I]t makes it sound like the really important thing here isn't the fact that the protagonist was able to finally stop carrying his heavy bag' is surely meant to discourage the usage. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 21 '16 at 16:24
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    @Sprottenwels, my comment was not intended to be sarcastic - I didn't previously know the word "salvific", and when I learnt its meaning, I wasn't very convinced of its use in this sentence. On second thoughts, that if you were writing a novel set in the US bible belt, or your character is a preacher, then I'd appreciate it more once I had looked it up. – grateful Jul 21 '16 at 16:31
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It's not a common word, but that doesn't mean it's a bad choice. Writers often use uncommon words.

However, according to the dictionary, salvific means "Having the intention or power to bring about salvation or redemption", and it seems that the usage here implies that the noise of it hitting the ground ("thud") is the thing that saves or redeems the protagonist, rather than them not having to carry it any more.

That is to say, it makes it sound like the really important thing here isn't the fact that the protagonist was able to finally stop carrying his heavy bag, but rather that he loved the sound it made when it hit the ground. If that's what you want to say, then I'd say it's fine as is. I suppose the sound of it hitting the ground could represent the act of releasing it.

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