By Maeve Maddox
A while back, I made a note of a radio announcers comment that Edward Snowden, who had been granted asylum in Russia, “has actually remained in purgatory” in the Moscow airport.
Considering that Snowden was just existing in the airport up until such time as he might go into a nation, I believed that the more appropriate word here would be limbo, not purgatory.
Limbo and Purgatory are concepts in Roman Catholic belief. Through the centuries, official teaching has shifted, however in the popular imagination– and therefore in a sense relevant to its metaphorical use– Purgatory is a place of penalty. Limbo is merely a location or state of waiting, no discomfort included.
Limbo, from Latin limbus (border, edge, fringe, or hem) is situated on the border of Hell. Its imagined as a passive, tranquil location where the souls of exemplary individuals who lived before Christ wait till Judgement Day. The souls of unbaptized children also go there. Some Christians think that the souls of more current righteous non-Christians who never ever had the chance to understand Christ, may also wait for judgment in Limbo.
Purgatory, on the other hand, is a location of spiritual cleansing and filtration.
The Latin verb purgare methods, “to clean out.” The noun purgatio is “a clearing out,” and purgatorium is a place of purging and cleaning. Purgatory, therefore, is a location where cleansing occurs.
Modern Catholic belief does not stay on the punishment element of purgatory. According to John Thiel, professor of spiritual research studies at Fairfield University, “purgatory practically vanished from Catholic belief and practice considering that Vatican II.” Nevertheless, in the popular creativity, purgatory is a location of torment, if only momentary. Because of that, in numerous examples of the purgatory metaphor in the media, limbo frequently appears the better choice.
The offer, revealed in 2015, is still stuck in regulatory purgatory in Taipei.
Presumably, the offer is simply waiting for approval.
The expression regulatory purgatory started climbing on the Ngram Viewer in 1975, peaking in 1990, at which time it started a precipitate decrease that experienced a turn-around in 2014.
A Google search for the phrase raises 3,550,000 hits. From what I can tell, the phrase refers to the way government guidelines tend to postpone the plans of designers.
The following extract from a post with the heading “Escaping regulatory purgatory,” recommends that authors who use the expression are in truth thinking about limbo, however reach for purgatory since it sounds worse:
Without any practical debate at the top, the big issues go unsolved, and managed business are left in a type of limbo, requiring relief but not understanding how to help themselves. Many companies, convinced that there is no escape from this regulative purgatory, do not even attempt to enhance their relations with regulators.
Often, possibly, speakers truly believe that limbo and purgatory suggest the same thing.
A British reader of a blog site in The Atlantic composes:
Im searching for a word for the products of clothing which sit perched on a chair in my bedroom, waiting to be reworn. They are not yet all set for the laundry bin (given that I plan to rewear them), but they are no longer appropriate for the wardrobe (which I schedule for clean clothing). I presume others keep their gently worn clothing in a comparable purgatory?
Again, as no torment is included, the better suited metaphor for the state of the temporarily homeless clothing would be limbo.
Heres an example of an apt use of purgatory:
Families suffer when someone they enjoy comes down into the purgatory of addiction.
This usage is apt due to the fact that drug addiction is definitely a torture, but with treatment, it can be short-term.
In browsing for instances of purgatory being misused for limbo, I discovered two interesting bits of string: St. Patricks Purgatory and the legal term, oath purgatory.
St Patricks Purgatory is the name of a cavern on Station Island in Lough Derg, County Donegal. Ireland. According to legend, Christ appeared to St Patrick there and revealed him a deep pit with a narrow opening that was an entrance to Purgatory. Using purgatory in the name might precede the church teaching of Purgatory as a location of punishment in the afterlife. The cave might have been used as a literal purgatorium– a location of cleaning, like a Native American sweat lodge. In Ireland, individuals would go into such a little enclosed place to breathe in medical smoke produced by burning different plants.
Blacks Law Dictionary specifies oath purgatory as “the term applied to a sworn statement where a person purges himself and attempts to clear himself of incorrect doing or misconduct.”
Bottomline: being in limbo implies remaining in a state of waiting; being in purgatory indicates short-lived suffering as start to something much better.
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Limbo and Purgatory are ideas in Roman Catholic belief. Through the centuries, official doctrine has moved, but in the popular imagination– and therefore in a sense relevant to its metaphorical use– Purgatory is a location of punishment. Purgatory, therefore, is a location where cleaning takes place.
For that reason, in lots of examples of the purgatory metaphor in the media, limbo frequently appears the better choice.
The usage of purgatory in the name might precede the church doctrine of Purgatory as a location of penalty in the afterlife.