Word of the Week: Lapidary

This week’s word has caused me a degree of confusion, and I suspect that there is a trans-Atlantic explanation.

I am currently reading, and greatly enjoying, Thomas Pakenham’s book ‘The Boer War’. For a topic so obviously full of who did what, where, when and to whom, the author makes the story very readable and, in places, quite humorous.

Today, I reached the end of the chapter covering the siege and relief of Mafeking, where Pakenham describes a contemporary statement made by Sir Alfred Milner, South African High Commissioner, as ‘lapidary’.

A quick Google for the definition of ‘lapidary’ brought up ‘adjective relating to the engraving, cutting, or polishing of stones and gems’ or, as a noun, someone who works with gems or stone, generally in an ornamental sense.

In a literary context, ‘lapidary’ describes a statement so concise that it is suitable to be captured in stone.

The word just feels to me as though it is missing a letter and should be ‘lapidiary'; indeed, there are many online references to my gut-reaction spelling but, of course, they could simply be wrong.

‘Lapidary’ has that American English flavour (flavor?) that puts it in the same abbreviated category as ‘specialty’ and ‘realty’.

20130128-200847.jpgThe Boer War’ on Amazon UK.

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About Nigel Utting

Former law firm project manager based in Jersey, British Channel Islands. Now he isn't project managing, he's shooting clay pigeons with a side-by-side, polishing his collection of kukris or digging his vegetable patch.
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