The Dictionary of Sensibility

Our old friend Kent Puckett has been working on an online Dictionary of Sensibility (with a number of collaborators, of course).  An example of an entry, “Delicacy/Modesty”:

“Like ‘sensibility’ itself, ‘delicacy’ has two interwoven frames of reference that complicate and enrich its significance. There is ‘delicacy of constitution’ and ‘delicacy of mind,’ ‘heart,’ or ‘soul;’ and each of these facets of meaning informs the other. Thus, delicacy can describe a physical sensitivity, on the one hand–an exceptional susceptiblity to stimuli from the senses–or it can indicate a sensitivity (often gendered female) to social or ethical punctilios.

The refinement inherent in ‘delicacy’ leads it sometimes to be opposed to ‘vulgarity.’ In this way the term takes on moral and socioeconomic associations as well.

‘Modesty’ seems less complex, and often appears as an epiphenomenon of delicacy.