Southern Agrarianism and the culture of the Old South

Words Have Meaning

gen-tle-man – noun a : a man of noble or gentle birth b : a man belonging to the landed gentry c(1) : a man who combines gentle birth or rank with chivalrous qualities (2) : a man whose conduct conforms to a high standard of propriety or correct behavior …

A while back, I watched yet another news clip of a police spokesman using the word “gentleman” to describe a street thug. In this case, a group of five Blacks walked into a restaurant, got angry because it was taking too long to cook their food. They shot and killed the cook and walked away. The cook had a wife and five children with the youngest being 2 years old. Our society has rotted to the point that this kind of brutal, savage disregard for life is no longer uncommon.

Another quote from the police: “It was a random dispute that went tragically wrong.” No, Mr. Detective, it was a brutal murder by uncivilized thugs who do not have even the most basic level of decency required to live among civilized human beings. There is more to claiming the title of “human being” than having opposable thumbs. Words have meaning, Mr. Detective, and if you can’t grasp that concept, you should not be a public spokesman.

One contributing factor to this is the fact that our society continues to treat uncivilized thugs as though they were civilized men. We have all heard police, judges, politicians, and news reporters use the word “gentleman” to refer to the worst dregs of society. Can anything be farther from the true meaning of the word? Do a web search on “gentleman” and you’ll find “gentleman’s club”. They are not where gentlemen congregate – they are dark, sleazy, degrading strip clubs. To add even further insult, their advertisements will refer to those who work there as “ladies” – yet another complete perversion of the meaning.

Language, along with art, music, architecture, etc., is a key component of culture. Language is made up of words, and words have meaning. When a society takes a word and reverses its meaning, that degrades the entire culture. “Gentleman” is not the only example. “Bad” has become slang for something good. “Gay” went from meaning “happily excited, merry, keenly alive and exuberant, having or inducing high spirits …” to meaning one who practices the most vile and perverted sexual deviancy. We have come to the place where George Orwell’s prediction about the way society thinks has become reality: “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”

Perhaps we cannot stop the process of cultural Marxism as it destroys our society by changing the way people think. Perhaps it has already gone too far. We can, however, control it in our families, among our friends and associates, in our churches, and other places where we have a leadership role. Men think in words, and words have meaning. Insist that words be used correctly.


  1. Dennis L. Peterson

    Well said!

  2. Chris Heuer


    You are absolutely right. I thank God every day that I live in the south, where true Southerners teach our children manners, to say yes sir and yes ma’am and show respect to your elders and fellow man. The South may have its problems, but I will take those problems any day, work to correct them, but maintain our true Southern character and principles.


  3. Stephen Clay McGehee

    Thank you, sirs. We have a rich and honorable heritage, and we need to cherish it. We need to pass it along to our descendants so that it is not lost. Part of making that happen is opening the eyes of our people, and helping them appreciate what we have. It is a precious gift from those who came before us. With God’s help, that’s exactly what I aim to do – and I am eternally grateful for those of you who have joined me in this. I am just in awe at the caliber of fine Southern gentlemen and ladies who embrace our Southern Agrarian heritage!

  4. Fugitive Agrarian

    I like what one ole boy said; “If you don’t define your terms, you don’t know what your talking about.”

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      That’s one smart ole boy!

  5. Thomas H. Harbold

    There is much that could be said about this piece, Stephen – and all of it good. I rather suspect it shall find its way to The Anglophilic Anglican, in due course!

    One thing for which I especially wanted to thank you is your mention of the absurd and dismaying irony in today’s so-called “gentlemen’s clubs.” I have long been struck by the complete divorce from reality represented by that designation!

    True gentlemen’s clubs, in the classic and authentic sense, are few and far between, nowadays, alas. But they once existed! One superb example, which still exists (though nowadays “coed,” like so many other distinguished institutions for both men and women) is the Cosmos Club, in Washington, DC. It was there that the National Geographic Society was founded, in 1888 – only ten years after the Club opened.

    Its website (, which I commend to your attention, mentions that “Cosmos Club members have included three U.S. Presidents, two U.S. Vice Presidents, a dozen Supreme Court justices, 36 Nobel Prize winners, 61 Pulitzer Prize winners, and 55 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.” If you do visit, the “About” page includes a very interesting video on the Club’s history!

    Even the dress code is admirable: “Gentlemen are expected to wear jackets, dress slacks, a collared long-sleeved shirt (tucked-in) or turtleneck at all times. Ties are required only in the Garden Dining Room at Sunday brunch, and at lunch and dinner. Ties are not required anywhere else in the clubhouse.

    “Ladies are expected to dress in an equivalent fashion, which means dresses, suits, skirts or dress slacks with jackets or tops of equivalent formality. Leggings or tights, unless worn with skirts, dresses, or long jackets, are not considered to be of equivalent formality.

    “Military uniforms and national dress of equivalent formality are also acceptable.” [I am presuming that this includes formal Scots Highland dress!] “At black-tie events, members and guests in attendance are expected to dress appropriately for the occasion.

    “Sweat suits or other athletic or sports attire, jeans or other denim garments, sneakers, flip-flops, athletic footwear and shorts are never acceptable in the public rooms.”

    Amen! Alas, I am unlikely ever to rise to a level of social distinction to be invited to membership! But I can, and do, admire it from afar. And on a more international level, once finds such as the International Order of St. Hubertus. The website – – of the U.S. branch notes that

    “The International Order of St. Hubertus is comprised of an international group of individuals, Ordensbrothers, who are passionate about the sports of hunting and fishing, and who are vitally interested and actively involved in the preservation of wildlife, its habitat, and the tradition of ethical hunting and fishing.” This is another one for which I regret that I will almost certainly never qualify! But once again, I respect and admire them.

    A far cry from what is referred to as “gentlemen’s clubs,” in the common (in several sense of the word) parlance. Again, a fine essay, sir! Thank you. And I apologize for the length of this comment.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      One of the books in my library is “The Gentlemen’s Clubs of London” – a fascinating book on the topic. I would love to be part of something like that, but perhaps it is best that it just remain a dream. Images can remain pristine that way, and reality often tarnishes that image.

      It would be an honor to see this included on The Anglophilic Anglican – as it is an honor to have you here! (Note to all – if you aren’t already a regular reader of that blog, consider adding it to your reading list)

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