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Written by Rachel G
(10/3/2011 2:52 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, "demean themselves", penned by Lia
That was exactly my reaction too.
The Shorter OED (1969) gives 1601 for the earliest known occurrence of the pejorative, debasing sense of 'demean'. However, this sense of the word is absent from early editions of Johnson's Dictionary (1756-1820), and first appears in the 1828 edition.
So it seems that the sense in which we now use demean had been around for a long time but was not in general use until after JA's era.
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