Friday, August 22, 2008


GENTLEWOMAN, n. The female of the genus Gentleman. The word is obsolete, gentlewomen, for no fault of their own, being now known as "ladies."
The wretch who first called gentlewomen ladies,
Being first duly hanged, arrived at Hades
Where, welcomed by the devils to their den,
He bowed and said "Good morning-gentlemen."
2008 Update:  A woman with sophistication enough to reassure a man with none.  
"My chin is bare, my hair is dressed!
I'm reduced to a young girl, no less!
Is the bearded lady on the midway,
A gentlewoman would you say?"


Kyahgirl said...

Hi Doug :-)

I know lots of gentle women but I have to agree, 'gentlewoman' is obsolete. Maybe 'gentleman' should be too. In the interest of equity and all that.

Anonymous said...

GENTLEWOMAN, n. One who graciously looks after the (ahem) gentleman's affairs, Quilly. No, not those affairs ...!

Bierce's wretch was clearly a punster, who, on observing those public figures who insist on being titled "Miss", concluded that it was all about eligibility and came up with ...

TLP said...

I think one has to be at least middle-aged to be called gentlewoman. Use caution.

As for bearded ladies: those hairs are stray eyebrows.

Anonymous said...

Not wishing to be a traitor to my gender, I thought of keeping still; however it seems to me that the term gentlewoman could very well have expired in the light of truth -- probably about the same time we came to be associated with the words volatile and unpredictable, which was 17.3 seconds after the onset of Eve's first menstrual cycle.

Jamie Dawn said...

I'd rather be known as a gentlewoman than a bull in a china closet. Of course, "lady" is preferred by all of us who perceive ourselves to be ladylike. I shed "tomboy" long ago, but I like to arm wrestle now & then.

Jim said...

Gentlewoman: She might be the gentleman's 'old lady.'

Gentlewoman: In the South we have 'Southern Belles!'

Tom & Icy said...

Use those terms very loosely.

Unknown said...

stop yanking our 'g' strings, Douglas

fiirhxk: first i was amazed, i was petrified

Doozie said...

I'm really not much of a gentlewoman. I'm not even sure why I would want to be?

Anonymous said...

What Soft -- Cherubic Creatures --
These Gentlewomen are --
One would as soon assault a Plush --
Or violate a Star --

Such Dimity Convictions --
A Horror so refined
Of freckled Human Nature --
Of Deity -- ashamed --

It's such a common -- Glory --
A Fisherman's -- Degree --
Redemption -- Brittle Lady --
Be so -- ashamed of Thee --

Scarlet said...

Gentlewoman doesn't suit me. I need to work on the "gentle" part. ;)

PS - I'm visiting from Jamie Dawn's place.

Doug The Una said...

Hey, there, Kyah. A gentleman never obsolesces words in the interest of equity.

Amoeba, eligibility is worth denying.

TLP, I'll be careful, lassy.

Quilly, those 17.3 seconds demonstrate that we weren't paying close enough attention even then.

JD, I'm sure you arm wrestle like a perfect lady and your gentleman brother lets you win.

Jim, I recommend "Southern Belle" rather than "old lady."

Icy, as loose as the object.

Karma, gentlemen tug.

Doozie, welcome. This is a descriptive dictionary, not a prescriptive one.

Cooper, did you write that? You should totally get AP credit.

Welcome, Scarlet. I remember you from JD's place. I think you probably want to be only just so gentle in Miami.

Anonymous said...

Dickinson wrote it.

I am faulty in thinking everyone knows her entire body of work. ;(

Doug The Una said...

My brain is another thing with feathers.

Anonymous said...

You'll notice...I stayed faaaaaar away from this word.

Anonymous said...

gentlewoman: the part played by Michael Learned on the old tv show.

anti-nymn: any part played by Bea Aurthur.

good-night, john-boy.

Doug The Una said...

Good that you avoided it, Jenn. If I had your picture I'd have used it as an illustration.

Hadn't heard it before, Actonbell? I bet you're the gentlewoman of every bar you stagger out of.

Great memory, Sauerkraut! Good night, Sauerkraut.

javajazz said...

i'm a big fan of gentle anything
at this rare.

Doug The Una said...

JJ, I like gentle things, too. Especially rare.

tsduff said...

Gentlewomen were of a different era. I think they are extinct today.

Anonymous said...

I think of gentlewomen as backbones with manners.
But I like Dickinson's interpretation too.