This turn of the moon is proving exitious for the eximious. Lemmy, Bowie, Rickman, and in fact a few more, cancelled by cancer all. That vision of the Thin White Duke looking more exiguous than would be exigent. One day he exists; the next, he exits. No one is exempt, not even the exemplary.
Out, out, brief candle. Exit: Latin for ‘he goes out’, conjugated from Latin ex ‘out’ + ire ‘go’. Something that causes things or people to go out was exitialis, and by “go out” we don’t mean pass through a literal door. From that we got English exitial and exitious, meaning ‘harmful, fatal, destructive, catastrophic’, and so on. These words are rarely used now; I will not say they are valetudinarian, but they are not being taken out much. Unlike our three late luminaries.
But they do stand out. These fine words are not famous (if they were, they would be thriving); they are likewise not eminent, though they are impressive. But I’d buy them for a dollar, caveat emptor be damned. And I’d buy Lemmy, Bowie, and Rickman for more than a dollar – in fact, I’ve buffed up my Bowie collection since he was pre-empted. Isn’t it funny how much more often artists get taken out after they’ve been taken out.
And isn’t it funny that while ‘go out’ is exire, which gives us exit and exitious, ‘take out’ is exemere, which gives us exempt – and eximious, which means ‘exceptional, outstanding, choice’. And yet we have seen that even the exceptional are no exception, the eximious are not exempt, even the eminent are immanent and will sooner or later meet imminent elimination or at least manumission to luminosity. But in the world of Latin metaphor, being famous and talented and so on is something that happens to you – you are taken out – while dying is something you do: you go out.
Such a small difference and such a big difference. That switch from t to m is a switch from empty to eminent, and it adds a syllable too. Adding a side of irony is the fact that in Cyrillic handwriting and half-uncials, m is the shape for small T (small M is just a small M). But this is Latin. And this is life, borrowed time – and some of us pile up more interest than others. However recognizable your ™, you will in the end pay your IOUs; the price exacted, you will be an ex-act.