Wednesday’s Word: Limpid
So at first glance this word hardly looks that special. It seems to suggest something wilting, like a flower that has spent too long in a vase and needs to be tossed out. It’s hard to imagine anything starting with the word limp and coming up smelling like roses but that is just the case here. Because the word means “completely clear” or “unclouded”. It could be used with water or to refer to a person’s eyes. It could even refer to a clear, melodious note in music.
I stumbled across this word recently while reading Around the World in Eighty Days (you can check out my review of this wonderful book if you’d like). Verne used it to refer to water and it made no sense from the context so I had to look it up. And I was pleasantly surprised when I did.
This is one of the wonderful advantages to reading older books. Words go in and out of fashion all the time, but there are some perfectly good ones which have fallen out of favor. And when I stumble across one, it’s like finding a little treasure hidden away in some forgotten grotto. Perhaps it won’t be a word you could ever use much in everyday speech or even in writing, but I think such verbal discoveries are worth it all the same.
Learning new words expands your mind. It shakes the dust off and pulls us out of the ruts we get into as linguistic creatures. We learn a new way of expressing ourselves and, wonder of wonders, we may actually find that we prefer the new way of saying things or at least grow fond enough of it to insert it into our vocabulary now and then. Or you may find that a new word offers a subtle shade of distinction which allows you to say exactly what you meant when other, more common words will not suffice.
And it’s not just a broadened vocabulary and more avenues of expression that stand to be gained by the reading of older books. For not only are the words at times out of fashion, but the way older authors think may also be as well. And yet, just as the old words may still have value, so too there may be ideas buried within these archaic tomes that our present age no longer seems to have a use for.
But I myself would be schooled by the wise from all ages, not merely this present one. For may it not be that through their eyes, I will uncover something that my own limited experiences and those of my contemporaries might have missed? Might not there exist old truths that have been lost through the vagaries of time which we would do well to remember? I think so. As Rene Descartes said,
The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest minds of past centuries
And what delightful conversations they can be. So three cheers for old books and old words. Sometimes those are the ones that say best what needs to be said.