Jun 26, 2007

Rapid Rhetoric: JEUNESSE DORÉE

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Raphael's depiction of Plato defining the difference between true and false rhetoric This is an irregular feature - both in frequency and oddness - dedicated to a word I came across that I have never previously used.

jeunesse dorée (zhe-NOOS doe-RAY) n. French: "gilded youth;" the privileged offspring of social elites, used especially in the sense of spolied rich youth; a youthful 'jet set.'

One might conjecture that a modern equivalent of jeunesse dorée would be Paris Hilton, though I suspect that members of a given set of jeunesse dorée would be expected to have at least the knowledge of noble living, of which it appears the tacky Ms. Hilton sorely lacks.

I came across the term in a book about Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, who was described by Walter Arndt as receiving the "mundane education of a playboy in the St. Petersburg jeunesse dorée."

The term is occasionally spelled as jeunesse d'orée, which sounds the same but implies something more like "youth on the edge." There is a Peter Hammill song with the title "Jeunesse D'Orée" that describes a group of club-crazed partiers for whom the dream of a gilded world leads to a life of jaded despair.

4 comments:

Stephanie said...

I'm thinking "Mr. Darcy" of Pride & Prejudice (the book, not the movie -- different tints and shades of character).

Scarlett O'Hara comes to mind as well, though she went quite a bit against the grain.

historymike said...

Wow - I haven't thought about P&P since 11th grade. I'll have to dust off my copy.

Stephanie said...

I just recently read it for the first time, then the second and skimming third. Then, I rewatched the movie and pointed out the differences to my mom. Amazingly enough, she didn't find this at all annoying.

Sterling said...

Thank you for your insightful explanation and the Paris Hilton differentiation.

I use the "jeunesse d'oree" spelling because, as a French expression, it is more grammatically correct. D'oree is the contraction of "de" (of) and "or/oree" (gold) which literally means "of gold" or "golden".