"sable [gentry]"

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Thu Jul 21 17:47:07 UTC 2011

I suspect searching for "sable" with other terms
besides "gentry" would turn up many more
instances in the early 19th century.  (I think I
once complained to Jesse that the use to refer to
people seemed more than merely "joc.")

In Hawthorne's "Old News I", written probably in
1828-1829 and first published in 1835, he uses "sable" twice:

"There was a coachmaker at this period, one John
Lucas, who seems to have gained the chief of his
living by letting out a sable coach to funerals."

"The sable inmates of the mansion were not
excluded from the domestic affections: in
families of middling rank, they had their places
at the board; and when the circle closed round
the evening hearth, its blaze glowed on their
dark shining faces, intermixed familiarly with their master's children."


At 7/21/2011 12:10 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:

>On Jul 21, 2011, at 10:39 AM, George Thompson wrote:
> > ...
> > *Breach of the Marriage Promise*. -- A
> gentleman from Ulster county, who was
> > present at the trial of the sable gentry
>Talk about your euphemistic avoidance—“the
>sable  gentry”!  Apparently this was not
>uncommonly used at the time (judging from Google
>OED has this for adjectival “sable”:
>2. gen. Black. Chiefly poet. and rhetorical.
>a. Of material objects, persons, animals, etc.
>At one time applied joc. to black people.
>his sable majesty (also his sable excellency):
>applied to a dark-complexioned potentate; spec. the Devil.
>Jocular in origin, no doubt, but “sable
>gentry” seems to have become a
>conventionalized euphemism with or without
>intended jocularity.  (The OED lacks any
>specific entry for this collocation.) There are
>187 hits in Google books, most or all
>exemplifying or citing 19th c. usage.  In one
>book, Louisa Anne Meredith, who recorded her
>travels in Tasmania in the 1840s, characterizes
>“sable gentry" as an instance of “that false
>elevation of language, a preposterously inflated
>lexis, deliberately employed to mock”.
> > for a breach of the marriage
> > promise, the report of which originally appeared in this paper, says, that
> > when the jury awarded ten dollars damages, Cuff darted out of court -- shot
> > the pit as the fancy call it -- and was pursued through the village by Coon
> > Crook, the constable, and half the boys, when he was caught and brought
> > back. Cuff has been admitted to the privileges of the limits at Big
> > Sopus. *N.Y.
> > Nat. Adv*.
> >
> > A I 4 †*c.* to shoot the pit : of a fighting cock, to rush out  of the
> > cockpit from cowardice. Often *fig.* *Obs.*
> > 1675    A. Marvell *Let. to Sir H.
> >
> Thompson<http://ezproxy.library.nyu.edu:31797/view/Entry/178501?rskey=7roKNU&result=1&isAdvanced=true>
> > *,   He hath a month ago shot the pit‥he hath thought convenient to passe
> > over into Holland.
> > 1681    *Heraclitus
> >
> Ridens<http://ezproxy.library.nyu.edu:31797/view/Entry/178501?rskey=7roKNU&result=1&isAdvanced=true>
> > * 30 Aug. 2/2   Two or three more such
> stroaks will make them shoot the Pit.
> > *a*1734    R. North
> >
> *Examen<http://ezproxy.library.nyu.edu:31797/view/Entry/178501?rskey=7roKNU&result=1&isAdvanced=true>
> > * (1740) ii. v. ⁋19 327   Which made the whole Party shoot the Pit and
> > retire, as not caring to be pointed at with ill-favoured Reflections.
> > --
> >
> > GAT
> >
> > George A. Thompson
> > Author of A Documentary History of "The
> African Theatre", Northwestern Univ.
> > Pr., 1998, but nothing much since then.
> >
> > ------------------------------------------------------------
> > The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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