question for safire's column

Fred Shapiro fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Thu Aug 3 14:06:51 UTC 2000

On Wed, 2 Aug 2000, Frank Abate wrote:

> I still feel that the pallid idea is not part of the real signification
> of "livid", based on its etym and the examples presented in OED.  I
> would be pleased to give way to other examples that show the association
> between "livid" and paleness.

All right, here are some examples showing the association of "livid" with
paleness.  I have not been precise about editions and page numbers,
because my purpose here is not to trace a first use but rather to
illustrate a common association:

1851 Herman Melville _Moby-Dick_  Threading its way out from among his
grey hairs ... you saw a slender rod-like mark, lividly whitish.

1880 Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu _The Purcell Papers_  This announcement
wrought no apparent change in Sir Arthur, except that he became deadly,
almost lividly pale.

_Id._  Lord Glenfallen became ashy pale, almost livid.

1883 Robert Louis Stevenson _Treasure Island_  The sabre cut across one
cheek, a dirty, livid white.

1890 Arthur Conan Doyle _The White Compnay_  His swarthy features blanched
to a livid gray.

1893 Arthur Conan Doyle _The Adventure of the Yellow Face_  Its colour was
what had impressed me most.  It was of a livid chalky white.

1897 Bram Stoker _Dracula_  The last unconscious effort which imagination
made was to show me a livid white face bending over me out of the mist.

1904 Joseph Conrad _Nostromo_  Sotillo's ebony moustache contrasted
violently with the livid colouring of his cheeks.

1906 Joseph Conrad _A Set of Six_  Their passage did not disturb the
mortal silence of the plains, shining with the livid light of snows.

Fred R. Shapiro                             Editor
Associate Librarian for Public Services     YALE DICTIONARY OF QUOTATIONS
  and Lecturer in Legal Research            Yale University Press,
Yale Law School                             forthcoming
e-mail: fred.shapiro at

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