I have been having fun learning or rather rediscovering words as Jeffrey Kacirk delivers a new word every day. Words like “drury,” “graveyard issues,” and “carfuddle.” But there was a word this last week that I thought I knew: benedict. I immediately thought of Benedict Arnold, the infamous American traitor from the Revolutionary War. I have heard of someone being referred to as a benedict, that is to say a traitor.
However, benedict is a much older word than the American Revolution. So though I am certain the reference in the American context is correct, it is not the definition of benedict.
The English, or rather British, definition of benedict is “a married man.”
You may be wondering where this came from. Some of you may have already made the leap to the most infamous of bachelors, Benedict from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. For those of you who are thinking, ” if he hath caught the Benedict it will cost him a hundred pound ere he be cured,” you are thinking correctly. A benedict is indeed a reference to that professing bachelor who despite his claims of bachelorhood till death found himself irreconcilably in love with Beatrice.
This can be no trick. The conference was sadly borne;
they have the truth of this from Hero; they
seem to pity the lady. It seems her affections have their full
bent. Love me? Why, it must be requited! I hear how I am
censured. They sy I will bear myself proudly if I perceive
the love come from her. They say, too, that she will rather
die than give any sign of affection. I did never think to
marry. I must not seem proud. Happy are they that hear
their detractions and can put them to mending. They say
the lady is fair; ’tis a truth, I can bear them witness. And
virtuous; ’tis so, I cannot reprove it. And wise, but for
loving me; by my troth, it is no addition to her wit, nor no
great argument of her folly, for I will be horribly in love
with her! I may chance have some odd quirks and remnantsof wit broken on me because I have railed so long against
marriage, but doth not the appetite alter? A man loves the
meat in his youth that he cannot endure in his age. Shall
quips and sentences and these paper bullets of the
brain awe a man from the career of his humor?
No! The world must be peopled. When I said I would die a
bachelor, I did not think I should live till I were married.
Here comes Beatrice. By this day, she’s a fair lady. I do spy
some marks of love in her.
-Benedict, Much Ado About Nothing, 2.3