Everyone Is Jumping Off the Brooklyn Bridge

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Words to Your Mother: Noblesse oblige

Noblesse oblige is a French phrase meaning "nobility obliges". It's loosely based on Luke 12:48. For fans of the King James Version, that says:

But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.

A more recent translation says instead:

But the one that did not understand and so did things deserving of strokes will be beaten with few. Indeed, everyone to whom much was given, much will be demanded of him; and the one whom people put in charge of much, they will demand more than usual of him.

Either way, it might be best summed up in the words of one of the great modern authors, who said:

With great power comes great responsibility.

It is generally used with people of high wealth, rank, or social status to infer the additional social responsibilities that this implicitly confers upon them, although it might also be used sarcastically or to refer to anyone's responsibility to use their power for good, rather than the alternative.

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