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Dr. Goodword
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Postby Dr. Goodword » Thu Oct 18, 2012 11:42 pm

• dignity •

Pronunciation: dig-nê-ti • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1 The pride of knowing you're worthy of respect or esteem; nobility. 2. The respect and honor associated with an important position. 3. An important position, especially in government or the church.

Notes: This word is seldom used in sense (3) above in the US, but it has left traces in other words. A dignitary is a person holding high office. The verb from this noun, dignify, means to "invest with dignity, honor". The verb also has an abstract noun, dignification, and a personal one, dignifier.

In Play: Dignity usually flows from pride: "When Hermione threw her martini in Gladstone's face, he gathered all the dignity he had left and replied, 'Thanks, I needed that. It's stifling in here.'" It can be associated with people or positions in some organization: "Mortimer ran for dog-catcher because he wanted to return to the office the dignity that he thought it deserved."

Word History: English borrowed this one, as usual, from Old French dignité "dignity", which it inherited from Latin dignitas "worthiness". The Latin word is a derivative of dignus "worth", a word that it inherited from Proto-Indo-European dek-no- "to take, accept". We borrowed this same French word at a different stage of development as the English word dainty. In the 12th century Old French had a word deintié or deinté "pleasure, tid-bit", the remnant of Latin dignitatem "beauty, greatness, worthiness", also from dignus. (French is known for eliminating certain sounds and letters from words over the course of their development from Latin.) It entered English as deinte "excellent, excellence", but over the years the meaning slipped from this sense to "delight, pleasure", then to "delicacy", and finally to what it means today. (We thank Annette Anderson with all the dignity we can muster for suggesting today's Good Word.)
• The Good Dr. Goodword

David Myer
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Postby David Myer » Fri Oct 19, 2012 6:29 am

Well, this one is most interesting. You say: The pride of knowing that you're respected. But that surely isn't right? Is it not possible to behave in a dignified manner (with dignity) without any witnesses? Is it not possible to carry yourself with dignity when you care nothing for other people's opinion? Is it not possible to be dignified and without pride?

So is dignity the knowing you are respected? Or is it, as my online dictionary says, merely the being worthy of respect (regardless of whether or not you are aware of your own worthiness?

It is the being worthy rather than the sense of one's being worthy. And this is what the origin of the word suggests.

My inclination is that the online dictionary is closer to the mark than the Agora suggestion.

What do you think, people?

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Postby Philip Hudson » Fri Oct 19, 2012 9:27 am

David Myer, Instead of "The pride of knowing that you're respected," the first definition is "The pride of knowing you're worthy of respect or esteem; nobility." Is that not the definition that Dr Goodword gave? On rare occasions, Dr. Goodword revises his definition after it has been posted. Perhaps he did that in this case but there is no way for me to know. However, I would leave out the word "Pride" in this definition. One "acts" if he/she is dignified no matter what the world says. There should be no matter of either pride or recognition in dignity.

Dolly Parton felt, and rightly so, that her coat of many colors was a great gift from her mother, and that it lent dignity to her. The other school children mocked her and she felt undignified, but on reflection, her dignity was restored. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1zJzr-kWsI.
This is the dignity of righteousness.

My wife had the honor of knowing Grady Nutt as a college classmate. You might not know who Grady was. He died young, but he was a noted humorist among Baptist youth in the 1950s. Grady had written a little ditty in which his refrain was "My righteousness got indignated, and you know how painful this could be." See this for a sample of Grady Nutt:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6w-HkQrxgQ. You might not want to listen to it all unless you went to Baylor Univesity in the 1950s.
Indignation cannot usually be justified. Indignation has no dignity. I have been there and it doesn't work.
It is dark at night, but the Sun will come up and then we can see.

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Postby MTC » Fri Oct 19, 2012 10:27 am

It is an interesting question, isn't it.

I would not equate "dignity" in any of its senses with pride. Rather dignity is the self-respect we evidence in our bearing and behavior. For instance, we say, "He carried himself with great dignity." Just as a tree falling in the forest with no one to hear arguably makes no sound, this sense of "dignity" demands an appreciative audience.

Pride, on the other hand, is a sometimes misplaced pleasure in our accomplishments. Unlike dignity, we can feel pride without an audience. We can conduct ourselves with dignity, but without pride. Conversely we can behave proudly, but without dignity. Vanity and haughitness are synonyms of pride, but not dignity. Dignity is an overwhelmingly positive word, while pride is condemned by the Bible. Dignity and pride have different meanings.

In another sense "dignity" is a philosophical or moral concept meaning inherent worth. We often see dignity employed this way in the context of human rights. The Preamble of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights begins:
"Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world..."

As an inherent quality this grander sense of "dignity" requires no audience. For instance, a political prisoner like Nelson Mandella isolated in his lonely cell had great dignity without an audience or a Declaration of his rights.

These are my impressions about the meanings of "dignity," whether dignity takes an audience, and how it differs from "pride."
Last edited by MTC on Fri Oct 19, 2012 1:29 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Postby LukeJavan8 » Fri Oct 19, 2012 12:47 pm

Great discussion, I want to keep up on it.
-----please, draw me a sheep-----

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Postby Perry Lassiter » Fri Oct 19, 2012 1:03 pm

Good word to explore. Pride as used here is a feeling. It is a slippery word, sometimes a major sin, at other times a valuable asset. "Have you no pride?" implies its opposite, either shamefulness or inferiority. In a very different sense pride means putting oneself above others and even God. In that sense some theologians have described pride as the root of every sin. In other words, "It's my life and I'll do what I want with it." but that is not the meaning in relation to dignity.

My personal association is that dignity first points to one's bearing or behavior. He entered with dignity and did not lower himself to his detractor's level. Yet in reference to certain people the term can obviously mean distinguished.

The Human Rights Declaration describes the way each person should be treated. Its meaning is similar, yet different to the others. Biblically, I would suggest the Golden Rule or Jesus's injunction to love others as you love yourself.

Philip Hudson
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Postby Philip Hudson » Fri Oct 19, 2012 11:46 pm

When a topic is going as well as this one, my heart swells with gratitude, not pride. What wonderful minds, starting with that of the Good Doctor, I am privileged to know on Alpha Agora. Keep it up.
It is dark at night, but the Sun will come up and then we can see.

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