Saturday, February 7, 2015

Words Change Over Time

“I hope we have done right, Oyarsa,” it said.  “But we do not know.  We dipped his head in the cold water seven times, but the seventh time something fell off it.  We had thought it was the top of his head, but now we saw it was a covering made of the skin of some other creature.  Then some said we had done your will with seven dips, and others said not.  In the end we dipped it seven times more.  We hope that was right.  The creature talked a lot between the dips, and most between the second seven, but we could not understand it.”

“You have done very well, Hnoo,” said Oyarsa.  “Stand away that I may see it, for now I will speak to it.”

The guards fells away on each side.  Weston’s usually pale face, under the bracing influence of the cold water, had assumed the colour of a ripe tomato, and his hair, which had naturally not been cut since he reached Malacandra, was plastered in straight, lank masses across his forehead.  A good deal of water was still dripping over his nose and ear.  His expression – unfortunately wasted on an audience ignorant of terrestrial physiognomy – was that of a brave man suffering in a great cause, and rather eager than reluctant to face the worst or even to provoke it.  In explanation of his conduct it is only fair to remember that he had already that morning endured all the terrors of an expected martyrdom and all the anticlimax of fourteen compulsory cold douches.

- Out of the Silent Planet, chapter 20, by C.S. Lewis

I dunno whether it’s the immature twelve-year-old still in me or the pseudo-erudite amateur wordsmith, but, man, that final sentence still makes me chuckle out loud, every time I read it. 

Clive Staples, you the master! 

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