paid their respects

Nathan Bierma nbierm65 at CALVIN.EDU
Wed Jan 3 00:51:31 UTC 2007

Here in Grand Rapids (home not only of the Ford Museum, but also Calvin
College, where I work and write my "On Language" column), I'm keeping an eye on
the Ford ceremonies and trying to keep my temperature down every ten times a TV
anchor solemnly says (of mourners famous and anonymous) "paid their respects."

The relevant OED citations for the noun "respect" involve honor, deference,
courtesy, etc. (see defn. 17) But none, apparently, involve honor specifically
in the context of mourning a death.

Can anyone shed light on whether "paid their respects" could historically refer
to paying homage in the context of mourning, and was later narrowed to mean
only homage-in-mourning--or whether the mourning-only was a usage that
developed later?

If you do, I won't wait till your funeral to pay you respects.


Nathan Bierma
"On Language"

The American Dialect Society -

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