RENOWN [ri-NOUN]: famous, well-known

renown

My wife has a growing practice in New England which is getting a good amount of publicity.  In one article about her recently, she was identified as “…the renown….”  It took us by surprise, and caused some laughter…maybe nervous laughter more than anything else.  The reality is that in her field she is getting to be well known, to the point that she has been invited to speak at a national convention this year.  But it would be a stretch to say that in the general public she is renown.

It is a word that means “famous or well-known.”  The Latin word from which it springs is nominare, meaning “name.”   In Anglo-French, renomer takes it a step further to mean “to name.”   And that is the most recent origin of our word, renown.  As you can determine, to be renown is to be named widely.

It isn’t quite the same as being “famous,” which seems to include some baggage relating to media.   A famous person is one whose face is recognized, whose name is on the tips of many tongues, and for whom there is a whole range of expectations and reputations.    Justin Bieber is famous.   Tom Cruise is famous.  Barack Obama is famous.  Even Donald Trump is famous.

That’s not the same category in which my wife is renown.  When people identify a person who is an expert in the field of care for people with dementia, my wife is well known.   More and more the “big names” in the field are becoming familiar with what she does, who she is, and how effective she has been in her enterprise.  But it would be a gross exaggeration to say that the general public would recognize her name.

Some people seek fame.  They will do almost anything to get their name in the magazines, their picture in the newspapers, or their house on a tour of famous people.   Sometimes those “almost anything” activities include crude, obscene, or even illegal actions.   Their mantra is “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.”   Anything goes.

But to have renown is to be known as doing something beneficial for society.  At least that’s the kind of renown I’m promoting in this posting.   I’d love to think that my wife would become even more well known than she is.   But not at the expense of notoriety or public shame.   How will that happen?   By simply doing what she’s doing now…teaching, guiding, counseling and supporting individuals and organizations that care for people with dementia.   That’s a pretty impressive career.   She does it well.

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Photo Credit: Playbuzz.com

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