Liminal

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Dr. Goodword
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Liminal

Postby Dr. Goodword » Wed Dec 06, 2017 11:28 pm

• liminal •


Pronunciation: li-mi-nêl • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. On the threshold, just passing over a threshold, incipient, as 'a liminal understanding of oneself'. 2. Barely perceptible, as 'a liminal odor or liminal sensation on the skin'. 3. (Cultural Anthropology) Transitional, referring to a period in human life when a person is changing, moving from one state (across the threshold) to another.

Notes: Today's strikingly beautiful word is slipping far too quickly out of fashion. Look at all the wonderful meanings it has! We hear subliminal "below the threshold (of consciousness)" much more as a result of the impact of Freudian psychology on the Western world. Today's word comes with a noun, liminality, and may also, of course, be used adverbially, attired in the appropriate suffix: liminally.

In Play: Have you ever finished a meal and felt like saying, "The main course had the liminal flavor of fish. Did I guess right?" How many times have I said to a student, "I have a liminal sense of what you just said but I can't quite grasp the point." Don't forget that liminal can imply a threshold: "Ida Claire lives in some liminal state between student and teacher that her education degree didn't push her through." I don't know if that is good or bad.

Word History: Today's word comes from the Latin word limen "threshold" capped by the adjective suffix -al. Exactly where this word's root came from is unknown; however, we do know that it is related to another Latin word limes, limitis "field boundary, limit." Both these words may have been inherited by Latin from Proto-Indo-European leim- "bend" + suffixes -in and -it. This word also came through Old Germanic to English as limb. As you can see, this story leaves us with a very big hole to fill: the semantic gap between "bend" and "boundary" is wide and treacherous and no one knows how to get across it. (We hope today's Good Word suggestion is a liminal contribution from Professor Kyu Ho Youm, First Amendment Chair of the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication—liminal in the first sense, of course.)
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George Kovac
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Re: Liminal

Postby George Kovac » Thu Dec 07, 2017 11:16 am

Reza Aslan, an Iranian-American scholar, is an interesting and controversial author. What is not in controversy is the beauty and clarity of his writing. The first time I saw “liminal” in print was in his 2013 book “Zealot: the Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth” (at page 83):

“The Jews revered water for its liminal qualities, believing it had the power to transport a person or object from one state to another: from unclean to clean, from profane to holy.”
“The messy layers of human experience get pulled together, and sometimes ordered, by words.” Colum McCann “But Always Meeting Ourselves” New York Times, June 15, 2009

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LukeJavan8
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Re: Liminal

Postby LukeJavan8 » Sat Dec 09, 2017 1:27 pm

That is a beautiful concept. Thanks.
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Perry Lassiter
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Re: Liminal

Postby Perry Lassiter » Sat Dec 09, 2017 8:19 pm

Oddly for me, I findmyself agreeing that liminal is a beautiful word. usually words with a short I don't hit me as beautiful. I prefer longer vowels, similar to classic Castilian Spanish as taught in schools rather than street talk.
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