From the life of words, part 2

I am picking up where I left off last week. At first sight, nothing could be more straightforward than the adjective still. It has always meant “fixed, not moving.” We sit still, come to a standstill, and enjoy still lifes (that is, pictures of living things in a state of rest). The Germanic cognates of the English word mean the same. One short step separates still “motionless” from still “silent,” known from dialectal use and the idiom the small still voice (that is, the voice of consciousness; we’ll return to consciousness below).

Nature morte, or still life. We still enjoy Snyders and the works of his contemporaries.

Given such facts, the adverb still “without change of position” does not come as a surprise. Yet this is where the danger lurked. Phrases like still better appeared only in

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