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Aug 16, 2022This week’s theme
Words that aren’t what they appear to be
This week’s words
A.Word.A.Daywith Anu Garg
1. To decorate a manuscript, book, etc., with colors, gold, silver, etc.
2. To paint in red, titles, headings, or important parts of a book or manuscript.
From Latin miniatus (illuminated), past participle of miniare (to color red with cinnabar), from minium (cinnabar, a red mineral of mercury). Earliest documented use: 1610.
What’s the defining characteristic of a miniature painting? You might say that it’s very small and you’d be right, but if you believe the meanings of words shouldn’t be allowed to change, your miniature art can be in red only. It’s an etymological fallacy to insist that a word should mean what it originally meant. The word miniature is not related with the words such as minimize, minimum, and minor, which are from Latin minimus (least). Rather, the word miniature is from Latin minium (cinnabar, a red mineral). A miniature painting originally was one that was illuminated with minium, and because such paintings were small, the word miniature came to be associated with small things.
A similar story goes with the word rubric. Today, a rubric doesn’t have to be in red even though originally it was, from Latin ruber (red).
“There, after the fall of the Soviet empire, the goods from distant Asian lands -- Siberian caviar, miniated manuscripts, Uzbek fabrics, ... were now back in full display.”
Arianna Dagnino; Transcultural Writers and Novels in the Age of Global Mobility; Purdue University Press; 2015.
See more usage examples of miniate in Vocabulary.com’s dictionary.
A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:We perceive when love begins and when it declines by our embarrassment when alone together. -Jean de la Bruyere, essayist and moralist (16 Aug 1645-1696)
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