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New Word: Limitrophe

"Limitrophe" is not a new word. It is an old word. But it was new to me when I encountered it a few days ago. It means "situated on a border or frontier."

I must have encountered it previously but it made no impression on me the first time. It is found in Churchill's war memoirs, the first volume, "The Gathering Storm" and it comes in a memo he gave to the war Cabinet on September 25, 1939. He wrote: "The Russians have mobilized very large forces and have shown themselves able to advance fast and far from their pre-war positions. They are now limitrophe with Germany, and it is quite impossible for Germany to denude the Eastern Front."

This is a very useful word and it is not surprising to discover it in something Churchill wrote. He is the one statesman I can think of who won a Nobel Prize for literature. When I finsihed my book and completed my duties regarding last month's Rerum Novarum conference, I permitted myself an indulgence to celebrate. I took up the memoirs to re-read them for my bedtime reading. Sometimes, I am sleepy and only consume a few pages. Other nights, I can't put them down.

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I first acquired my copy of these memoirs about fifteen years ago and read them start to finish. Since that time, I have had occasion to search for a specific quote, found it, but was then unable to stop reading. Therefore, there are parts of the memoirs that I have read half a dozen times. But, I had not gone back to the first volume in some time and I highly commend them to anyone who has not read them. They belong in any personal library. Over the next months as I read them a bit at a time, I shall share certain observations of Churchill's that strike me as either apt today or interesting in their own right regardless of contemporary significance.

Churchill has something of cult-like following in certain circles. It is good to remember that he was wrong about almost everything - wrong about India, wrong about Ireland, wrong about free trade - but he was right about the most important thing he needed to be right about, the need to make no accomodation with Hitlerism and to defeat it utterly. He does not warrant a cult. He does warrant attention.

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