misused words

I have a lot of words that I use mostly-correctly, but when pressed to define them, I find myself unable to. Now whenever I use one, I am struck with self-doubt, so I always look it up (“define: profligacy” in the search window cuz google is awesome!) in another tab as I’m writing. Thank you, Internet. Thinternet.

I just found out that livid can mean a color, but that color is not red. Here is what I thought: I knew that livid meant really angry; I have been exposed to plenty of usages of livid to mean angry. Because of that, and because I imagine a person who is really really really angry to be red in the face angry, I sort of associated “livid” with the red of anger; not explicitly but in some capacity. However, “livid” actually can mean:
# ashen: anemic looking from illness or emotion; “a face turned ashen”; “the invalid’s blanched cheeks”; “tried to speak with bloodless lips”; “a …
# (of a light) imparting a deathlike luminosity; “livid lightning streaked the sky”; “a thousand flambeaux…turned all at once that deep gloom into a livid and preternatural day”- E.A.Poe
# furiously angry; “willful stupidity makes him absolutely livid”
# black-and-blue: discolored by coagulation of blood beneath the skin; “beaten black and blue”; “livid bruises”
wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

Ashen is totally not red.

Now that they mention it, perhaps I have seen “livid” to describe a lightning storm, but in that case again the “anger” part won out; I thought it meant “anger” before “deathlike/ashen” or before any color, so describing lightning as “livid” meant that it was flashing angrily, or with traits common to anger, like unpredictability, sudden lashing out, furious action.

So this is interesting to me because of the contemplation it has incited on the nature of anger. Maybe if you are SO angry, PAST the state of being “red with anger,” you fall deathly white? There are different kinds of anger, red being sputtering volatility, ashen being…

A while ago I used a word in front of KT, who asked me for a clarification of its definition, and although I later I determined that USED the word correctly because I got the “feeling” of the word, I got the DEFINITION wrong. I knew it felt wrong when I was saying it but had to look it up for the actual definition. Again it was a case of hearing the word to describe something (A, which also has qualities a and b) and associating it with that something (A) and then using the word to describe something else Z which also has the quality b (thus using A to describe Z, kind of like “Z happened in an A-ly way”). But I don’t remember what word it was so this whole story falls flat. My erroneous definition had to do with begging, but I really meant … I don’t remember. I give up. =(

1 thought on “misused words

  1. I always pictured livid as more of a purplish color, perhaps because of the last definition. Though I suppose I could see how it could be kind of a burst of pale/whiteness, like lightning.

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