Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Making words translucent

Normally a blog about Jan Cox would not quote from someone not him, and partly because fresh phrasing goes along with fresh thinking. (Though fresh thinking is so much an understatement as to be very misleading). But, today we are quoting a newsletter by Anu Garg, about words, and today's word was:

limn -- verb tr.:
1. To portray in words.
2. To draw or paint, especially in outline. 

Via French, from Latin luminare (to illuminate), from lumen (light). Ultimately from the Indo-European root leuk- (light), which is also the source of words such as lunar, lunatic, light, lightning, lucid, illuminate, illustrate, translucent, lux, lynx, and lucubrate. Earliest documented use: 1440

And I quote the above because the word reminded me of Jan Cox: it was a word he used to describe what he was doing on stage, thousands of nights, to enable others to see in the direction he could. A task he shouldered knowing it was inherently contradictory---using words to point beyond words.  

Jan said once, that if you don't know the origins of a word you cannot use it correctly. His example that night was 'cakewalk.'  If you can wad up lightning, lynx, lunatic and translucent, in one instant, you might also get a glimpse of what he was pointing to.

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