Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 14.djvu/38

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28
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

tions fail to exemplify the process. The prevalence of names of rank on the Continent, often remarked, reaches in some places great extremes. In Mecklenburg, says Captain Spencer, "it is computed that the nobility include one-half of the population. . . . At one of the inns I found a Herr Graf [count] for a landlord, a Frau Gräfin [countess] for a landlady, the young Herren Grafen filled the places of hostler, waiter, and boots, while the fair young Fräulein Gräfinnen were the cooks and chambermaids. I was informed that in one village. . . . the whole of the inhabitants were noble except four."

French history shows us more clearly perhaps than any other the stages of diffusion. Just noting that in early days, while madame was the title for a noble lady, mademoiselle was used to the wife of an advocate or physician, and that when, in the sixteenth century, madame descended to the married women of these middle ranks, mademoiselle descended from them to the unmarried women, let us look more especially at the masculine titles sire, seigneur, sieur, and monsieur. Setting out with sire, as an early title for a feudal noble, we find, from a remark of Montaigne, that in 1580, though still applicable in a higher sense to the king, it had descended to the vulgar, and was not used for intermediate grades. Seigneur, introduced later as a feudal title, while sire was losing its meaning by diffusion, and for a period used alternatively with it, became, in course of time, contracted into sieur. By-and-by sieur also began to spread to those of lower rank. Afterward, reëstablishing a distinction by an emphasizing prefix, there came into use monsieur, which, as applied to great seigneurs, was new in 1321, and which came also to be the title of sons of kings and dukes. And then by the time that monsieur also had become a general title among the upper classes, sieur had become a bourgeois title. Since which time, by the same process, the early sire and the later sieur, dying out, have been replaced by the universal monsieur. So that there appear to have been three waves of diffusion: sire, sieur, and monsieur, have successively spread downward.'

How by this process high titles eventually descend to the very lowest, we are shown most startlingly in Spain, where "even beggars address each other as Señor y Caballero—Lord and Knight."

 

For form's sake, though scarcely otherwise, it is needful to point out how we are taught here the same lesson as before. The title-giving among savages which follows victory over a foe, brute or human, and which literally or metaphorically distinguishes the individual by his achievement, unquestionably originates in militancy. Though the more general names father, king, lord, elder, and their derivatives, which afterward arise, are not directly militant in their implications, yet they are indirectly so; for they are the names of rulers evolved by militant activity, who habitually exercise militant functions: being in early stages always the commanders of their subjects in battle. Down to