Sunday, May 15, 2011

Gentlemen?


I always thought the word "gentleman" denoted a man of good behavior, but in fact the definition derives from a man of good breeding. I looked it up last night because I've had a pet peeve for a while now, and that is the use of the word to describe someone who has committed a horrible crime. Here are 2 recent examples:

"Apparently this gentleman without any motive or any reason, although for this there is no reasoning, entered the shop and then cut this woman's neck and took the head in his hand outside up to the sidewalk."~Local councilor Manuel Reveron, who saw a 28-year-old homeless Bulgarian man exit a supermarket in Tenerife, Canary Islands, after using a knife from the shelves to behead a 62-year-old British woman and before he was tackled by Spanish police

The way I would describe it is, when people are standing at Ground Zero and the White House chanting ‘USA, USA,’ I am really glad for the U.S. that we were able to bring justice to the gentleman who killed my brother and my friends, but it’s not the sort of thing we would celebrate.”~Wall Street broker Howard W. Lutnick about the military take-down of Osama bin Laden (1957-2011), director of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that killed hundreds of Lutnick's employees and his younger brother.

Dictionary.com defines a gentleman as refined, cultured, and courteous. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary site characterizes him as chivalrous and well-behaved. And the Oxford English Dictionary clarifies a gentleman as a man in whom gentle birth is accompanied by appropriate qualities and behavior. No matter their genealogy, the men referred to above are neither gentle - the opposite of violence - nor genteel.

Image: "Wanted" poster of John Wesley Hardin (1853-1894), who killed a man at the age of 15 and fled, then killed a 2nd man. After being arrested a couple years later for a murder he didn't commit, Hardin escaped from prison. By age 21, he was wanted by the Texas Rangers, and killed 5 more men while he was a fugitive. He was finally sentenced to life in prison, but was pardoned on the grounds of self-defense after 15 years. He is said to have killed a total of 40 men - many of them lawmen - by the time he was shot and killed at age 41.

1 comment:

  1. Good old Geoffrey Chaucer nailed it all those years ago:

    Vice may wel be heir to old richesse,
    But ther may no man, as ye may wel see,
    Bequethe his heir his vertuous noblesse.

    And but his heir love vertu as dide he,
    He is nat gentil, though he riche seeme,
    Al were he mitre, crowne, or diademe.

    ReplyDelete

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