This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Thing Not To Be Today: livid.

I stood, my heart pounding, as the door opened to reveal the massive staggering figure of the steward. The livid spots on his seamed cheeks bespoke a horror which chilled me, as though death itself, emanating from the doomed figure, had wrapped me in its clammy embrace...

...hey, you know something? I get paid good money not to write stuff like that.

It's rather a pity, really.

Anyway, livid. Mostly when we're livid we're absolutely furious, and it's true that sometimes we do need to be. Mostly, though, even when the really annoying things happen, like people not putting their shoes on the shoe rack, or people stirring their cup of coffee wrong (the spoon has to scrape along the bottom of the mug!) they aren't quite worth being livid about when an exasperated snarl is quite as effective.

But what about those livid cheeks (see above?). The steward is dying, not angry (though, fair enough, I don't suppose he's actually all that pleased about it.) What does livid mean here?

Well, people usually go red with anger, but livid here usually means either grey, or the bluish colour of a bruise. A livid sky will probably be an ugly orange-and-purple. But livid can occasionally mean flushed red (which gives us the connection with anger) or, on the other hand, deathly pale.

The great thing is that, when we read the passage above and didn't quite know what livid meant, well, we're in good company - because neither does anyone else.

Thing Not To Be Today: livid. This word comes from the Latin līvēre, to be black and blue, or to be envious or spiteful. 

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