Generosity is one of the words — one of many words — which absolutely disproves by its very existence the various popular hypotheses that the words we use, their shape and fibre, affect (usually detrimentally, since those who brandish these theories are almost exclusively the pearl-clutching brigade) the way we think. Now, the trait of generosity is I think seen to be one of the most unambiguously positive a person can have, but the history of the word conceals a dark secret.

Ultimately, »generosity« stems from the same word as we find in armiger generosus, which we might translate as »knight by dint of birth«; that is, the sense is of behavior that befits one's heredity; so if we were to be silly (and indeed, what else should we be?) we might translate generosity as »inheritude«. You must recall now that for most of our recorded history it was everywhere understood that some people were simply better, that they not even deserved so much as ought for everyone's sake to have a more elevated position in society, and that they had in exchange, because they were of nobler nature, a responsibility to act accordingly. Magnanimity was perhaps the most prized of these attitudes, for reasons that ought to be obvious.

And yet, despite this horrendous elitism, people are perpetually going around praising generosity, even trying to be generous, without becoming subliminally sympathetic to dictatorship or even being aware there's a problem at all! Why, you might almost think that the only people who would think it was a problem were hunting for things to be outraged by, or had brains that had gone soft from reading too many of the wrong sort of books, like Eustace Scrubb and Don Quixote! I'm shocked. Are you shocked?

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Gen`er*os"i*ty (?), n. [L. generositas: cf. F. g'en'erosit'e.]

1.

Noble birth.

[Obs.]

Harris (Voyages).

2.

The quality of being noble; noble-mindedness.

Generosity is in nothing more seen than in a candid estimation of other men's virtues and good qualities. Barrow.

3.

Liberality in giving; munificence.

Syn. -- Magnanimity; liberality.

 

© Webster 1913.

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