So, of course I looked them up in the online etymology dictionary. (Sidenote --I really need to buy some version of the Oxford English Dictionary)
Anyway, the etymology of courage was not particularly shocking or enlightening.
Courage - in c.1300 from the French corage . . and also from other times the Latin coraticum, the Italian coraggio and the Spanish coraje. All had to do with the "heart" (as in feelings, not the organ). In Middle English it had the denotation of "what is in one's mind or thoughts" - and was broadly used for any sort of idea - not just our "bravery courage"
Brave(ry) on the other hand - that was interesting!
Here is the excerpt from the only Etymology Dictionary on brave: (emphasis mine)
late 15c., from M.Fr., "splendid, valiant," from It. bravo "brave, bold," originally "wild, savage," possibly from M.L. bravus "cutthroat, villain," from L. pravus "crooked, depraved;" a less likely etymology being from L. barbarus (see barbarous). A Celtic origin (Ir. breagh, Cornish bray) also has been suggested. The noun application to N. American Indian warriors is from c.1600. O.E. words for this, some with overtones of "rashness," included modig (now "moody"), beald ("bold"), cene ("keen"), dyrstig ("daring"). The verb "to face with bravery" is from 1776, from Fr. braver. Brave new world is from the title of Aldous Huxley's 1932 satirical utopian novel; he lifted the phrase from Shakespeare ("Tempest" v.i.183).
in the 1540s bravery meant "daring, defiance, boasting"
Brave(ry) has such a dark and cynical connotation in the global history. I had never before realized that to call a Native American a "brave" was an English term that said more about the colonist fear than the actual character of the first peoples of America.
Ok - so that's the history - but neither of those etymologies really resonates with me as far as my understanding of the contemporary denotations and connotations - so let's just look at the dictionary -
possessing or exhibiting courage or courageous endurance.
the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.
And, also from dictionary.com:
"Brave is the most comprehensive: it is especially used of that confident fortitude or daring that actively faces and endures anything threatening. Courageous implies a higher or nobler kind of bravery, esp. as resulting from an inborn quality of mind or spirit that faces or endures perils or difficulties without fear and even with enthusiasm."
These words have been on my mind a lot thanks to my recent trip back to Georgia for the holidays. I'd pay for something with a card, the cashier would ask to see ID, she'd notice that it was a different state and ask where I lived. When I replied, "Chicago" - I'd get a wide eyed stare of admiration and they'd share some story about a friend who lived in a big city or how they always thought about living in a big city or what not.
It reminded me of how when I moved I heard a lot of "you're so brave!" and it confused me. I've talked to other people who had no issue uprooting their life and moving across the country from everything they knew - and they got the "you're so brave!" from their friends as well. So, it's not me that brings on these lauds - it's the fact that some action is happening. An action that many people find scary.
But does the fact that other people find it scary make ME brave? I did not face a threatening situation in moving. There was no one endangering my life or person. And while I did move to "the big city" with enthusiasm - there were no perils or difficulties (unless you count a 13 hour car drive as perilous)
I saw an opportunity and I took it. I made a decision. It's not bravery. Decisiveness? Impulsiveness? Adventurous? Maybe.
So I don't feel brave for simply finding a new address and employer and it really makes me uncomfortable when people assign such a noble word for such a matter-of-fact circumstance.But, I obviously really value words and their meanings - so maybe no one else thinks it is such a big deal :)