question for safire's column

Fred Shapiro fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Thu Aug 3 02:07:48 UTC 2000

On Mon, 31 Jul 2000, Kathleen Miller wrote:

> He has me looking into the word livid and how it went from pale-bluish to
> enraged. The OED suggests "as if pale with rage."
> Merriam-Webster offers that livid can also mean reddish. I would more readily
> associate anger with "reddish" than "pale".
> Which one is it - or is it something else entirely?

The OED has this one right.  Although "livid" has a number of different
color meanings, the meaning of "pallid" is the one that gave rise to the
sense of "enraged."  Charles Darwin explained it in his book, The
Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals:  "The action of the heart
is sometimes so much impeded by great rage, that the countenance becomes
pallid or livid."

Fred R. Shapiro                             Coeditor (with Jane Garry)
Associate Librarian for Public Services     TRIAL AND ERROR: AN OXFORD
  and Lecturer in Legal Research            ANTHOLOGY OF LEGAL STORIES
Yale Law School                             Oxford University Press, 1998
e-mail: fred.shapiro at               ISBN 0-19-509547-2

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