When did this use of the term “gentleman” appear? Why did that term, rather than any other, come to be the accepted euphemism? Was “men’s” already taken? That’s what popped into my head when I saw this awning.
That and: is it really possible to walk into a strip joint and think, as you pass under the “gentleman’s cabaret” sign, “Yes. Yes, I am a gentleman, and that, more than anything else, is what defines me in this place. That is the quality that is common to all the men present — we are gentlemen, one and all.”
And yet I don’t detect any trace of sarcasm, or even irony, in this usage.
Further reflection clarified things for me, though. It’s relatively recent that gentlemen are thought of as “well-mannered” men. The original meaning was “high-born”, or ’’well-born” or “noble”, and yeah, we’re talking about men with power, not graces. Although obviously the two certainly go together since social graces are codes for recognizing people of sufficient station to mingle with you.
Now that we don’t put nearly as much stock in older notions of born and bred nobility, one can “act like a gentlemen” and we understand that to mean that one is conducting one’s self in a respectable manner. I think I’ll have to save for another discussion how a similar thing has gone on with the term “noble”.
In any case, it’s clear that “gentleman’s club” originated because men with power like to be attended to by scads of hotties.
Which leaves me giggling about the contrast between the modern sense of the term and what behavior I expect out of the crowd inside the club. I don’t think they’re wearing top hats, for one thing. Those things get knocked off when a stripper knocks about your face with her shaking breasts.