This week, as those in the U.S. celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving, we will focus on words of gratitude and blessing. It may be a short week, for the sad fact is that there seem to be very few such words beyond the obvious and familiar ones like 'gratitude'.
Indeed even our first term-of-thanks is usually used ironically, though OED gives only the positive sense. Our quotes amusingly illustrate the irony.
non nobis – 1. interjection, expressing gratitude or thanksgiving (also 'non nobis, Domine'). from the next meaning 2. a hymn of that title, used in 'popular entertainment. (Each meaning often ironic.)
The hymn takes the opening words of Psalm 115:1, saying "The glory of the deed is not ours, but God's".
(Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory
In Shakespeare's Henry V the hymn celebrates the victory at Agincourt. "Do we all holy rites: Let there be sung ‘Non Nobis' and ‘Te Deum'." (This is an anachronism in that, at that time, the hymn had not yet been written.) A modern version of that play converts the hymn to a very different meaning.
– Sarah Hatchuel, Shakespeare
– Charles Dickens, Sketches by Boz
We can eat no more. We are full of Bacchus and venison. But a great rap, tap tap proclaimed grace, after which the [hired singers] sang out, "Non Nobis'" and then the dessert and the speeches began. … Mr. Chisel, the immortal toast-master, roared out, “Non Nobis;” and what is called “the business of the evening” commenced.
– William Makepeace Thackeray, Sketches and Travels in London
the modern advocate, after having confounded all the ancients … will not be satisfied to condemn the rest of the world without applauding himself; and falling into a rapture upon the contemplation of his own wonderful performance…. [He should] have as had as much grace as a French lawyer … who, after a dull and tedious argument, that had wearied the court and the company, when he went from the bar was heard muttering to himself, Non nobis, Domine, non nobis; but this writer …. would not have [the victory] ascribed to the grace of God, [or] have his own perfections and excellencies owing to any thing else but the true force of this own modern learning: and thereupon he falls into this sweet ecstasy of joy, wherein I shall leave him till he come to himself.
– Sir William Temple, commenting on Swift's work, in J. Swift (ed.), Miscellanea. The Third Part (1701).
Nice theme, and Happy Thanksgiving to the Americans!
beatitude – 1. supreme blessedness or happiness 2. Heaven (in the sense of a place)
(also, any of the "blessed are" declarations in the Sermon on the Mount)
The heaven definition, though not in OED, seems to me supported by usage, such as that below. The first will help you remember the word.
(And a quare sight you will be in that attitude)—
Some day, where gratitude seems but a platitude,
You’ll find your latitude, Barney McGee.
– Richard Hovey, Barney McGee
[note: "quare" = dialect for "queer"]
Afterlife: A great chasm separates the place of beatitude from the place of fiery punishment (Luke 16:26). In the place of beatitude people enjoy sumptuous banquets in the presence of God and the patriarchs (Matt 8:11), while the envious damned are compelled to witness (Luke 13:28).
– Raymond Edward Brown, An Introduction to New Testament Christology
Today's word is an obscure one. I include it as exemplifying how far one must reach to find terms of gratitude. It is also, of course, an eponym from Minerva, goddess of wisdom.
minerval – a gift given in gratitude by a pupil to a teacher; also a fee paid to a schoolteacher [Wordcrafter: presumably one which is called, with genteel tact, a 'gift'.]
. . . .Otherwise, Eurotrash babes have to slum it in Le Rosey, the boarding school in Switzerland that is the alma mater of King Baudouin, the former Shah of Iran, the Duke of Kent, Prince Victor-Emmanuel of Savoy and Prince Rainier of Monaco, as well as generation upon generation of Metternichs, Borgheses and Hohenzollerns.
. . . .Or they get sent to school in England
– Rachel Johnson, The Spectator, Oct. 28, 2000
benison – a blessing
Here are two very different example of a father withholding his benison from his child.
. . . .Till all of "Horatius" he knew,
And the drastic, sarcastic, / Fantastic, scholastic
. . . .Philippics of "Junius," too.
He made him learn lots / Of the poems of Watts,
. . . .And frequently said he ignored,
On principle, any son's / Title to benison
. . . .Till he'd learned Tennyson's / "Maud."
- Guy Wetmore Carryl
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . for we
Have no such daughter, nor shall ever see
That face of hers again. Therefore be gone
Without our grace, our love, our benison.
- Shakespeare, King Lear
gramercy (interj.; obsolete) - used to express 1. thankfulness 2. surprise (as in 'mercy me!"). Various spellings.
[Old French grant = grand or great, + merci ‘reward for merit’. So the phrase meant ‘may God reward you greatly’. The accent is on the second syllable; contrast GRAMercy Park in New York City.]
- Geoffrey Chaucer, Canterbury Tales, Canon's Yeoman's tale (Mackaye rendering, 1904)
[Hebrew for "Save us!"]