Delicate suggests many diverse meanings. Curiously, now and again what seems delicate may actually be quite strong, and conversely, when something appears heavy, mechanical, sturdy or awkward may have delicate functions, characteristics, or aspects. Here are some of my choices for the many meanings of delicate. How many of them might at the same time be surprisingly durable, hardy, vigorous or unyielding?
1. Pleasing to the senses, especially in a subtle way, and
2. Very subtle in difference or distinction. With its delicate beauty this dainty, paper-thin blossom, tinged with a hint of pink, entices human admirers as it attracts and feeds tiny insects.
3. Exquisitely fine or dainty: I am especially enamored with spider webs. After a light rain, these delicate strings sparkle like diamonds. All the while they seem delicate, spider webs capture insects, weather strong winds and rain, and even resist persistent humans who try to destroy them.
4. Frail in constitution or health. Like any elderly living thing, fallen leaves lose their suppleness as they age. When they first fall, they are colorful, and easy to gather. After a few months their delicate, frail forms crunch and break easily when touched. Even in their broken condition, they function as fertilizer and conditioner to improve the soil and retain its valuable moisture.
5. Requiring tactful treatment: a delicate situation. Most people consider a flag of the United States a symbol of strength, not something fragile or delicate, but I would argue that the delicate experiment of our democratic government is always only one generation from total collapse. If citizens are not vigil, the rights and privileges we enjoy in the United States can disappear.
6. Easily broken or damaged. I took many pictures as workmen replaced our 30-40 year old furnace with an efficient new model. One of the men asked for my pictures. He told me that working on a roof with a crane swinging a heavy HVAC unit towards them was extremely delicate work. One false move with the powerful arm of the crane, and the installers could be knocked off the roof, or the unit or roof structure ruined. Until I talked to him, I would not have thought of this as a delicate task, but he changed my thinking.
Another delicate operation is archaeology. In Jamestown students worked alongside experienced archaeologists to uncover secrets buried in the settlement established in 1607. Nothing here looked very delicate, but once they dug a large area down to a specific level, they started working with brushes and spoons rather than shovels, being very careful not to destroy fragile artifacts.
7. Marked by sensitivity of discrimination:
a. Considerate of the feelings of others.
b. Concerned with propriety.
c. Squeamish or fastidious.
These students reenacted the giants in the women’s suffrage movement. Although considered the delicate sex, the suffragists showed amazing strength in the face of danger and harsh punishment.
8. Fine or soft in touch or skill. Although the dandelion seeds are delicate to the touch, the dichotomy is that these hardy seeds weather strong winds, travel great distances, and reproduce many offspring.
9. precise, skilled, or sensitive in action or operation: Kalev got burrs stuck all around her mouth. Taking them out was a delicate matter because they were so close to her sensitive mouth. We didn’t have scissors, so we had to pull her tangled fur off each bur. A park ranger came to our rescue with a pair of surgical scissors, but even that was a delicate operation. Even if Kalev had been sedated for the delicate procedure, which she wasn’t, there was so little space between her skin and the bur that we could have easily cut her skin instead. We had to cut the bur into pieces, then pull gently. Success!!!
The dichotomy of delicacy intrigued me almost as much as the search for pictures to match the many definitions of delicate.
Sydney Fong is a funny guy from Singapore. I don’t mean he’s funny looking or acting or weird, but just plain funny. If you’ve read my blog, you know that I dearly love humor at the expense of almost all other things – even history. However, Sydney also has a soft spot in his heart as you will see with some of his posts. He hates violence, and loves the environment. What better combination can you get than that! Go to his most popular posts first. My favorite is, “Shall We Go for a Stroll? Let me tell you, if you go for a stroll with this architectural artist, you’ll end up needing stitches – in your side from giggling. I also loved Paw Driving.
Kalev liked this picture from Sydney’s blog, so if you want to see more like this, go visit his site.