question for safire's column [livid]

Frank Abate abatefr at EARTHLINK.NET
Tue Aug 1 17:55:06 UTC 2000

----- Original Message -----
From: <Mark_Mandel at DRAGONSYS.COM>
Sent: Tuesday, August 01, 2000 1:27 PM
Subject: Re: question for safire's column [livid]

> A. Murie <sagehen at SLIC.COM> replied to Kathleen Miller's question thus:
> >>>>>
> My unprofessional guess is that, as with many words, its similarity in
> sound to another word has caused it to accrue to itself a new meaning.
> While no doubt it once meant deathly pale, its similarity to /vivid/
> allowed it to be misconstrued in the expression "livid with anger" as
> probably bright red. Now we have "livid sunsets" as a result.
> <<<<<
> Although this isn't proveable either way, I doubt that similarity to
> "vivid" had much to do with it. How often has anyone here actually seen a
> person turn bluish-grey with rage? Usually the face turns red. I suspect
> that most people encounter the word only in this context, and by inference
> attach to it the typical color of an angry ("white") person's face.
> IOW (in other words), I'm agreeing with sagehen about misconstrual in the
> expression "livid with anger" -- these days maybe more often something
> "He was *livid*!" (which may lead in future, or even already?, to a
> semantic shift referring to emotion rather than color) -- but expressing
> doubt about the relevance of the similarity to "vivid".
>    Mark A. Mandel : Dragon Systems, a Lernout & Hauspie company
>  Mark_Mandel at : Sr. Linguist & Mgr. of Acoustic Data
>  320 Nevada St., Newton, MA 02460, USA :
>                      (speaking for myself)

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