Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Etymology

I have always been interested in what linguists call "elevation", how insults become complements (and conversely how accolades becomes pejoratives, viz. "liberal" and "intellectual"). Notice the word nice, as in "Ohhh, she's so nice. This word was once an insult. In the Victorian Age, this word meant a person who behaved properly only as a means of fitting in, or setting up a sale; it was an affected mannerism of the fawning tradesman, as opposed to behavior practiced as an end of itself, which is the sign of a gentleman. Same thing with the word stupid. It once meant not a lack of intelligence, but a refusal to apply one's intelligence beyond that which made a worldly profit.

By the way, I'll post later on viz., as well as op. cit., cf., ibid., and the rest of the unholy host later...

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