From ‘coat of arms’ to gentleness

vivekananda

In the 5th edition  of En.Britannica (1815), “a gentleman is one, who without any title, bears a coat of arms, or whose ancestors have been freemen.”

In the 7th edition (1845) it still implies a definite social status: “All above the rank of yeomen.”

In the 8th edition (1856), this is still its “most extended sense”; “in a more limited sense” it is defined in the same words as those quoted above from the 5th edition; but the writer adds, “By courtesy this title is generally accorded to all persons above the rank of common tradesmen when their manners are indicative of a certain amount of refinement and intelligence.

Now, gentleman means one who keeps a certain superior standard of conduct, due, to quote the 8th edition once more, to “that self-respect and intellectual refinement which manifest themselves in unrestrained yet delicate manners.”

The gentle , originally implying a certain social status, had very early come to be associated with the standard of manners expected from that status. Thus, by a sort of punning process, the “gentleman” becomes a “gentle-man”,one with the quality of being kind and careful.

“Your gentleness with  a frightened stray dog will eventually convince her to let you feed and pet her”.

 

 

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