Prufrock's Page

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Removing Stones

"The father and son writers Kingsley and Martin Amis once had a good row about the word 'dilapidated'. Kingsley said you should use the word however you wanted. His son insisted on sticking to its exact sense: from lapis, meaning 'stone', dilapidatus means 'having stones removed'. According to Martin, you should really only use it strictly - in the sense that a part has been taken away from the whole. So Martin Amis acknowledged that you could say that the Parthenon was dilapidated, because the ancient Greek temple had lost lots of its stones in the last 2,500 years. But he wouldn't call, say, the Royle family's sitting room dilapidated because, although run down, it remains structurally sound."

- From an interesting article on the continuing influence of Latin


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