Common Is As Common Does

Carol Platt Liebau
Posted: Dec 19, 2010 6:45 PM
There is a big discussion going on in Britain based on the fact that Kate Middleton, Prince William's fiancee, is a "commoner," i.e., not born of royal blood.

Interestingly, Prince William has opined, as the linked story notes, that he likes America because here, snobbery is more about money than about bloodlines.  

But I don't think he's got it quite right.  What I like about America is that here, one is defined by what one does, rather than by who one is.  "Common" is as "common" does; a man identifies himself as a gentleman and a woman as a lady -- in the best sense of the terms -- by how they behave, not to whom they were born.

Americans admire "money" less than they do the qualities that are often (though not always) associated with amassing it, i.e., diligence, enterprise, intelligence, self-denial, thrift.  If ours were simply a money-worshipping society, then the scions of "old money" (who had inherited, rather than earned it) would command much more attention than they do.