"Renaissance Man"

Discussion in 'General Language' started by Qcumber, Dec 9, 2005.

  1. Qcumber

    Qcumber Well-Known Member

    Ceit, this is my humble opinion about it. You'd better avoid using the expression "Renaissance men" for historical figures belonging to other periods than the Renaissance otherwise what you say becomes highly ambiguous. Besides the usage you mention is not mentioned in the Collins Cobuild English Language Dictionary which is the reference in matters of good current usage in Standard English. :)
  2. Ceit

    Ceit Well-Known Member

    Perhaps for non-native speakers it is confusing, but I've never had, or caused, a comprehension problem with the phrase before. Maybe it's more of an American usage if it's not in the Collins, which is strongly slanted toward British usage in my opinion. Both Oxford and Merriam-Webster list that short little definition for "Renaissance man" on their online dictionaries.
  3. wer

    wer Well-Known Member

    Hi QCumber and Ceit, nice disputation,

    In Czech we use this phrase in the same meaning as Ceit wrote.

    Největší renesanční člověk je samozřejmě Jára Cimrman. :D
  4. aspasia

    aspasia Member

    *renaissance* was used in my sentence as an *adjective*, (ie., renaissance man), NOT referring to the period ..

    I consider Rizal a rennaissance man from the standpoint that he was a man of many skills and profession - doctor (studied medicine), surgeon, writer, poet, nationalist, spoke many languages fluently, etc...
  5. gementricxs

    gementricxs Well-Known Member

    I moved your answers from wrong posted post. Here is it:

  6. Qcumber

    Qcumber Well-Known Member

    Thanks a lot, Ceit, I have learned something, but I'll never use the expression "Renaissance man" in this sense because of the ambiguity it generates. :)

    Wer, that the same expression should exist in Czech is striking. Is it a calque from English or a genuine Czech expression?

    Perhaps it's English that calqued the expression from Czech. :lol:
  7. aspasia

    aspasia Member

    it is unfortunate that i learned to write and read english from american educators; hence incorporating the term "renaissance man" into a very humble pool of seemingly unfit knowledge... nevertheless as my professional and social interactions occur among americans as well as academes, i may have no future fear of misrepresenting the term "renaissance man" ..

    having said that, in the united states, both in popular culture and academia the term renaissance man is used to refer to one who has continuously manifested genius ... one American figure who is considered a renaissance man is Benjamin Franklin ...

    below are various US based articles that have used the term loosely ...

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/09/10 ... naissance/

    http://www.technologyreview.com/article ... aphone.asp

    the evolution of language, as in evolution of things, through osmosis, mutations, synergy or disassociation, bring new meaning to words ...

    apologize for visiting this site, i could not help responding to seeing my country's name in one of the threads...
  8. Ceit

    Ceit Well-Known Member

    Sure, why not? Apparently we got "cold feet" (http://www.slate.com/id/2117944/) from German.
  9. wer

    wer Well-Known Member

    I don't know what's origin of this idiom. As I recall from my German lesson, in German language there's also this phrase (Renaissance-Persönlichkeit). I think we (=Czechs) accepted it from German.
  10. Qcumber

    Qcumber Well-Known Member

    Aspasia :
    Why on earth apologize? :?

    P.S. Like many in Europe, I have a great admiration for US scholarship. On the other hand I am sometimes puzzled by some words that spread into the common language of American academics. For example I remember this US scholar doing some field research in the Philippines. He was constantly using the term "differential", but it didn't tally with what followed so I eventually asked him if he was referring to differential equations. He had never studied them, and confessed he used "differential" instead of "difference" because his dissertation adviser did so. :?
  11. Qcumber

    Qcumber Well-Known Member

    From what you say, Wer, it seems the original expression was German and was calqued by Czech and English. Very interesting. Perhaps this happened before WWII when German Jewish professors emigrated to Britain and the United States of America.
  12. wer

    wer Well-Known Member

    Hi Qcumber,

    I'm doubtful about it. This expression is definitely older. I saw it in one Hašek's story (before WWI) and I think it was old at that time. And your assumption of German origin is ungrounded. I think German is only mediator.
  13. Qcumber

    Qcumber Well-Known Member

    This an exciting question, Wer. Let's hope someone will be able to tell us where the expression was coined first.
  14. gementricxs

    gementricxs Well-Known Member

    What I found about renaissance man:

    The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition:
    • A man who has broad intellectual interests and is accomplished in areas of both the arts and the sciences.

    WordNet 1.7.1 by Princeton University:
    • Meaning #1: a modern scholar who is in a position to acquire more than superficial knowledge about many different interests
      Synonym: generalist

    • Meaning #2: a scholar during the Renaissance who (because knowledge was limited) could know almost everything about many topics

    Online Etymology Directory:
    • Renaissance
      "great period of revival of classical-based art and learning in Europe that began 14c.," 1840, from Fr. renaissance des lettres, from O.Fr. renaissance, lit. "rebirth," usually in a spiritual sense, from renaître "be born again," from V.L. *renascere, from L. renasci "be born again," from re- "again" + nasci "be born". An earlier term for it was revival of learning (1785). In general usage, with a lower-case r-, "a revival" (esp. of learning, literature, art), it is attested from 1872. Renaissance man is first recorded 1906.
  15. Qcumber

    Qcumber Well-Known Member

    I have the second edition of the thin paper Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary (1951).
    Of course it has the entry "Renaissance", but the only derivative mentioned, and entered separately, is "Renaissance architecture".

    "Renaissance man" is not entered, so I may conclude this expression, with the meaning mentioned in this thread, entered common academic speech well after WWII.

    "Renaissance man" is not entered in the Oxford English Dictionary (1971) either.

    The origin of this US expression is really puzzling. :)
  16. Ceit

    Ceit Well-Known Member

    Oh, I don't think it's so puzzling...the Renaissance was a time of great advancement in both art and technology, often through the efforts of the same man; da Vinci is the shining example, although I'm sure he's not the only one. It makes sense to use the term for somebody who uses both sides of the brain, the artistic right side and the logical left side, about equally.
    I wonder if some novelist (or some movie maker, since we can't seem to find pre-20th century examples) used the term and it then caught on in mass culture. That's what happened with "catch-22" anyway.
  17. Sova

    Sova Well-Known Member

    The expression is in the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary, and lists the first recorded usage as 1906, as gementricxs indicated.

    BTW, this topic was split from the original thread The Czech Republic and the Philippines as the discussion had veered off the original topic.
  18. Qcumber

    Qcumber Well-Known Member

    So the expression was coined at the turn of the 20th century. This is very interesting, Sova.

    I take this opportunity to thank Aspasia for teaching me, and probably a few others, the expression "Renaissance man".

    By the way, to refer to a person who is knowledgeable in many fields, I use the term "polymath".
  19. aspasia

    aspasia Member

    u wrote:
    "I take this opportunity to thank Aspasia for teaching me, and probably a few others, the expression "Renaissance man". "

    and i thank you all for teaching me something much more valuable ...
    the necessity to cultivate understanding through exploring meaning and
    semantics in depth, to garner feedback constantly in order to ensure that the map is indeed the territory, the word is the thing...

    in doing so, perhaps love won't falter, certain wars would not have been waged ...

    u wrote:
    ' By the way, to refer to a person who is knowledgeable in many fields, I use the term "polymath". '

    hahaha, ! my ex-boyfriend used to call me a polyhedron ...


    he refers to the many facets of my personality, my curiousity in most and every field ... and perhaps sometimes my ... moods ...
  20. Ceit

    Ceit Well-Known Member

    And "polyhistor"? :D

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