Who You Callin’ “Gentleman”?

English: Cover of The Country Gentleman magazi...

English: Cover of The Country Gentleman magazine, April 20, 1918 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Gentleman” is not a synonym for just any man or male. It specifically refers to a noble or at least an honorable man, not just any human with XY chromosomes. And yet a day rarely passes that I don’t hear this word misused:

“The driver was clocked at 80 mph in the residential neighborhood and finally came to a stop when he crashed into a brick wall. The gentleman exited the vehicle and was placed under arrest.”

“The gentleman exited the vehicle.”  (How about “The driver/man got out of the car”?)  Chances are someone who endangers people by driving recklessly is no gentleman.

Similarly, “lady” is also misused in a parallel way, although not as frequently.  There is a difference between “lady,” “woman” and “female.”  Words have connotations that directly affect your writing.

As Mark Twain said, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is like the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.”  Aim for lightning.

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Filed under All things having to do with the English language

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