Tuesday, February 27, 2007

An Odd Word that Keeps Coming Up: Palimpsest

I first came across this word just a few weeks ago while watching a PBS NOVA program on an old Archimedes text discovered hidden under a medieval prayer book (talk about recycling!).

According to dictionary.com it means...

a parchment or the like from which writing has been partially or completely erased to make room for another text.
[Origin: 1655–65; derived from the Latin palimpséstus, derived from the Greek palímpséstos rubbed again (pálin again + pséstós scraped, rubbed, verbid of psân to rub smooth)]

Fr. Ronald Knox uses it in a sermon on the Holy Eucharist in which he discusses the Canticle of Canticles...

And that book, as we all know, is a kind of palimpsest, in which the saints of every age have read between the lines, and found there the appropriate language in which to express their love for God, God's love for them. (from "The Window in the Wall", found in Pastoral and Occasional Sermons, Ignatius Press).

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