Sunday, January 07, 2007

feeling slightly dislimned

In the Times Literary Supplement of November 3 2006, our favourite curmudgeon J.C., wishes to ban the use of the word 'limn' from reviewing pages, which is fair enough, and points out that the only two users of its opposite, dislimn, so far as he knows, have been John Buchan (eg from The Thirty-nine Steps - "The plump men's features seemed to dislimn, and form again") and Shakespeare. Well, it seems De Quincy also used the word, rather appropriately one would think, at least according to Speller's Diary which says that:


-- 'Dislimn has nothing to do with removing arms or legs. It reverses "limn"-- which means to paint, delineate or describe. [Yikes, I can see a mini-essay on THAT word someday...]. Thus, "dislimn" means to obscure or efface. A secondary meaning is to vanish. The Bard has pride of place in using it. From Antony & Cleopatra, "Sometime we see a clowd that's Dragonish, A vapour sometime, like a Bear, or Lyon..That which is now a Horse, even with a thoght, The Rack dislimes, and makes it indistinct..."(4.14). "The Rack" here is a bank of clouds. We see a shape in the clouds and then, poof, it is gone. The clouds shift their position or fade in color and all of a sudden the lion or bear we saw has disappeared.Why say "the rack dislimns" rather than "the clouds efface?" Well, why study words rather than watch reality TV? I don't know, but I don't take it as my task to write protreptics. Didn't Jesus say, "Those who have ears to hear, let them eat cake?" Something like that.

Well, you can tell that dislimn at least affected one writer. In the 19th century De Quincy could say, "The flash..of colourable truth, being as frail as the resemblances in clouds, would, like them, unmould and 'dislimn' itself." An amarathine splendor never dislimns, but anything that aids in the fading process, anything that obscures or wipes out, can be said to "dislimn" something. I think the word has lots of life left in it.' --


I think there have been times when I've felt a tad dislimned, especially in 2006. And 'dislimes' is great. Who will use that in 2007?

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