Lord of the Manor

By Maeve Maddox

A headline at a blog called Hollywood Scoop caught my eye:

Scott Disick is Knighted ‘Lord of the Manner’”

Thinking that the spelling manner must be a deliberate pun, I read further to see if Disick had received some sort of award having to do with fashion or elegant behavior. Here is the only explanation I found of the “ceremony” that took place in a London pub:

“I crown you Scott Disick, the new Lord of the Manner,” the ceremony official proclaimed, cloaking Scott in a fur coat and faux crown.

I’m guessing that the author of the article, John Howard, may be unfamiliar with the spelling of the expression “lord of the manor.”

A manor is a house on an estate. During feudal times, knights and peasants owed their allegiance to a lord who lived on an estate, in a manor. Ergo, the local master was “the lord of the manor.”

In time, “lord of the manor” came to refer to any person in authority. In modern usage, it is often used sarcastically to refer to a person who puts on unwarranted airs of self-importance.

Here are some examples of the error found in blogs, comments, and ebooks:

INCORRECT: Hugh Bonnevi[l]le, who plays the Lord of the manner, arrived with his wife.—Celebrity blog (UK)
CORRECT : Hugh Bonneville, who plays the lord of the manor, arrived with his wife.

INCORRECT: He might be lord of the manner and king of the rainforest, but Sting still has an unerring knack of getting right up people’s noses.—Comment on celebrity site.
CORRECT : He might be lord of the manor and king of the rainforest, but Sting still has an unerring knack of getting right up people’s noses.

INCORRECT: Lord of the manner or beggar, we all have intrinsic value.—Self-help blog.
CORRECT : Lord of the manor or beggar, we all have intrinsic value.

INCORRECT: The lord of the manner, or members of his family, typically manned the courts of feudal Europe.—The Founders’ Facade: Christianity, Democracy, Freemasonry, and the Founding of America, R. L. Worthy, KornerStone Books, 2004.
CORRECT : The lord of the manor, or members of his family, typically manned the courts of feudal Europe.

I found several examples of the expression used correctly and incorrectly in the same text, even in the same paragraph, as in this opinion piece on an Australian political blog:

In Feudal times free men worked 1 day in six for the lord of the manor (correct), now ‘Rich” people work 2.35 days per five day week for the government. The Socialists say working one day per week for the lord of the manner (incorrect) is slavery, but 2.35 days for the government is totally acceptable as it is for a FAIR society.

It’s possible that the error of writing “lord of the manner” instead of “lord of the manor” is influenced by the existence of the idiom “to the manner born.” In fact, “to the manner born” is often misspelled as “to the manor born.”

Perhaps the most familiar use of the expression “to the manner born” is the line spoken by Hamlet to Horatio in Act I, scene 4. The friends are on the battlements when they hear the sound of trumpets and gunfire. Startled, Horatio asks what’s going on. Hamlet explains that when King Claudius drinks a toast, the act is signaled with a fanfare and a gunshot. Horatio asks if it’s a Danish custom and Hamlet replies:

Ay, marry, is ’t.
But to my mind, though I am native here
And to the manner born, it is a custom
More honored in the breach than the observance.

“To the manner born” means, “familiar from birth with a given custom.”

In modern English, “to the manner born” is also used to mean “naturally suited for, or taking readily to, a given role or task.”

When using either expression—lord of the manor or to the manner born—be sure to spell it correctly.

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5 Responses to “Lord of the Manor”

  • Charles Higginson

    I can forgive “to the manor born,” at least sometimes, since those born to the manor often are born to a certain manner as well.

  • Greg

    Not sure whether to laugh or cry at this one. How can so many people be so dense?

  • Mister Furkles

    It’s an easy mistake to make if you think of the sound of words and let your fingers type. That’s how many people, who know better, choose the wrong there/their/they’re or peek/peak/pique. Spell checkers rarely catch these kinds of errors. Then a second fault is to read what you were thinking when you typed the missive.

    But where are the editors? Are they also hearing the words rather then thinking of the meaning?

  • thebluebird11

    @Charles Higginson: Totally agree. If one knows certain things, or is able to do certain things, because s/he was “to the manner born,” that is not quite the same as being snobby because of being “to the manor born.” That silver-spoon-in-the-mouth thing, you know? I always understood that phrase to have both those meanings/connotations, depending on context and how the comment was made.

  • Andy Staples

    There’s an additional error in the first headline quoted. No one is ‘knighted’ lord of the manor – the title does not require, and does not carry, the rank of knight. It doesn’t entitle one to be addressed as ‘lord’ or ‘sir’. Nor, in the paragraph of the report quoted, is anyone ‘crowned’ lord of the manor – it sounds like whoever was organising it made up a ceremony for the tourists.

    The title ‘lord of the manor’, though geniune, is basically an empty one.

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