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I’m an arrogant overeducated effete sumbitch. I’m looking at the contributions so far, and going, ha! I know that word. That word too.
But the Magister has tripped yours truly up as well. And not with big words (Greek and Latin are my gig, after all), but with really small ones.
The Magister loves limn.
In that book she translates Sappho’s poems, discusses the way the Greek originals speak, analyzes the way they think, and in some sense limns a convincing intellectual portrait, if not quite a biography, of this sublime poet.
Within these serious, even fatal, limitations, it limns an etiology, a history, and an anagogy for a growing body of chosen or elect humans, ab ovo per aspera ad astra. That’s its basic theme.
However, if we think about the verbally-indefinable emotional states his last major works seem to limn […] maybe he had found some kernel of peace, some palm at the end of the mind, some vision of the phoenix whose fire-fangled feathers dangle down.
Limn is a verb that means to represent or portray. It is most often used to describe the act of drawing or painting a portrait, but it can also refer to describing or outlining a scene or event.
The verb limn evolved from the Latin lumināre, “to illuminate.” The word referred originally to coloring (illuminating) manuscripts. The sense of “portray” or “depict” did not come into use until the late 16th century, but that meaning is close to the original, since someone who paints a portrait usually illuminates something about the subject’s character. The word is less often used of written description, as in “Her reviews tended to limn the worst aspects of the performance, ignoring the best.”