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How polite is your language?

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montmorency
Diglot
Senior Member
United Kingdom
Joined 4469 days ago

2371 posts - 3676 votes 
Speaks: English*, German
Studies: Danish, Welsh

 
 Message 17 of 51
22 August 2012 at 10:41pm | IP Logged 
Josquin wrote:
numerodix wrote:
I'm not a big fan of politeness. I think a lot of
the time it's about showing respect
that you don't actually feel.

It weirds me out sometimes when people call me meneer.

Then better never go to Germany! Everybody will call you "Herr".

I'm often surprised by Englishmen and Americans using first names when it would be
"Herr/Frau + last name" in German.

In letters and e-mails, it's even "Sehr geehrte(r) Herr/Frau + last name". That would
be something like "Highly honoured Mr/Mrs xy" in English.



You are right about England (and probably about America), but even here there are
limits, and (as I mentioned in the other thread) I still get slightly shocked and
sometimes annoyed if a first name is used inappropriately. By this I almost always mean
someone in a client / sales or service personnel situation where I am the client, and
the salesperson assumes a friendliness that I am not ready for. At this stage I want to
keep my distance, and his use of my first name feels like he's infringing on my
territory a little.

Things have changed a lot in my life time. At secondary school we were addressed only
by our surnames (e.g. "Sit down Smith!"). , by teachers and fellow pupils (this was
mainly in boys' schools). When I entered the work force in 1968, we used first names
for immediate colleagues, but bosses were still "Mr ...". A few years later this seemed
to change and it was almost always first names at work, even to bosses (this was IT
though, and they were quite proud of their informality - a sort of sign of
"modernness").

Paradoxically, as you can tell from older novels and films depicting the period, in an
even older generation, especially among somewhat upper class men, it was normal to
address friends by their surnames only, i.e. "Oh hello Smith old man...", whereas
people you didn't know or knew slightly would be "Mr Smith". I think it was similar in
Germany from my reading of older novels.


Getting back to modern England, apart from the occasional unwanted use of forenames by
salesmen, etc, at the other end of the scale, the use of "Sir" is so unusual now, that
when you are addressed that way, alarm bells of a different kind go on: why is this
person being so "respectful" to me? i.e. you don't quite trust it.


It's a shame; we don't generally refer to strangers in the street as "Sir" any more (I
presume that we once did), so when you need to address some one (e.g. if they have
dropped something), you are a bit stuck. Occasionally I do use "Sir" if I can't think
of anything else, but it feels odd ... it doesn't come naturally like "Monsieur" would
to a Frenchman, and I think to that extent we have lost something. Some people might
say "mate", but that sounds a bit false to me; similarly, the word "buddy" has become
fashionable among some people (rather bizarrely I feel - where did it come from? Yes,
the USA originally, but it sounds like old-fashioned USA usage, not modern. ("Buddy can
you spare a dime" etc).


But a question about German usage: I think you have the same problem as we have: you
don't really have a "Monsieur" that you can use in a fairly neutral way do you?

I've never heard Germans (and I was never taught to) say: "Guten Morgen Mein Herr", for
example, although I presume it is technically correct to do so. Public speakers have
the set phrase "Meine Damen und Herren", just like our "Ladies and Gentlemen", but
that's different.

And waiters have set phrases like "die Herrschaften" don't they? Again, that's a little
different, and I don't think I've heard "Mein Herr" even there.


EDIT@Josquin: Or did you mean people will use "Herr" on its own (with no family
name) in direct address? e.g. "Guten Morgen Herr". ?

I don't think I've heard that usage, but maybe if I wasn't expecting it, I wasn't
listening out for it and didn't hear it. (that can happen).

Edited by montmorency on 22 August 2012 at 11:03pm

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rasta87
Diglot
Newbie
Colombia
Joined 5152 days ago

13 posts - 21 votes
Speaks: English*, Spanish
Studies: Persian, French

 
 Message 18 of 51
22 August 2012 at 11:01pm | IP Logged 
tractor wrote:
rasta87 wrote:
"qué estás haciendo" (tu)

Just curious: Isn't estás the form they'd use with vos as well?


It is, it's true. But I would say that with verbs that don't have a different vos conjugation, the default understanding
is 'tú', otherwise they would say 'vos estás...'.
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Dagane
Triglot
Senior Member
SpainRegistered users can see my Skype Name
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Speaks: Spanish*, EnglishB2, Galician
Studies: German
Studies: Czech

 
 Message 19 of 51
27 August 2012 at 11:53pm | IP Logged 
Just curious: Isn't estás the form they'd use with vos as well?

No... that's not true... or that's true sometimes :)

In Latin America, where 'vos' means directly 'tú', it's true because the conjugation is then the same. But in Spain, where 'vos' is another tier of the politeness building, it isn't. Let me conjugate them all:


Tú estás            Usted está       Vos estáis
Vosotros estáis    Ustedes están    Vos estáis


In Spain, the first column shows the common speech. The second one is just a way to address someone you haven't met before, especially if he/she is well known or old. It's not used if he/she is a kid or someone "you are supposed to know", as the teacher of your children. So it's quite polite indeed, but not rare. 'Vos', however, is extremely polite. It's the way used when a director or a writer want to depict a dialogue between someone and Your Royal Highness (Vuestra alteza real) or de like in the Middle Age, and similiar situations. Note that 'Vuestra alteza real' is the 'vos' form. Otherwise, it would be 'Tu alteza real' (with 'tú') or 'Su alteza real' (with 'usted').

EDIT: I've corrected in the last sentence the form of "vos". I can't believe I wrote it wrong, sorry!

Edited by Dagane on 28 August 2012 at 6:25pm

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Josquin
Heptaglot
Senior Member
Germany
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 Message 20 of 51
28 August 2012 at 12:30am | IP Logged 
montmorency wrote:
But a question about German usage: I think you have the same problem as we have: you
don't really have a "Monsieur" that you can use in a fairly neutral way do you?

I've never heard Germans (and I was never taught to) say: "Guten Morgen Mein Herr", for
example, although I presume it is technically correct to do so. Public speakers have
the set phrase "Meine Damen und Herren", just like our "Ladies and Gentlemen", but
that's different.

And waiters have set phrases like "die Herrschaften" don't they? Again, that's a little
different, and I don't think I've heard "Mein Herr" even there.


EDIT@Josquin: Or did you mean people will use "Herr" on its own (with no family
name) in direct address? e.g. "Guten Morgen Herr". ?

Sorry that it has taken me so long to answer. I have read your post only now.

"Guten Morgen, mein Herr/meine Dame" would be possible to say although it's not very common and rather formal. You could also say "Guten Morgen, der Herr/die Dame", but that's either rather formal or a bit provocative -- depends on how you say it. Younger people can be addressed with "junger Mann" or "(junges) Fräulein" although "Fräulein" as an official address has been abolished quite a while ago. I think the most usual way is to say nothing at all: "Guten Morgen!" Or you could ask: "Guten Morgen, Herr...?" -- "Meier." -- "Guten Morgen, Herr Meier!"

No, I didn't mean people would use "Herr" on it's own. That's not possible -- except if you're talking to God: "Herr, erhöre mein Flehen!". ;) I rather meant that if your name is Hans Meier, everybody except your friends and family (and maybe some colleagues and neighbours or so) will call you "Herr Meier" and not "Hans". And everybody will say "Sie" and not "du" and letters will start with "Sehr geehrter Herr Meier" and end with "Mit freundlichen Grüßen". Sometimes, I have the feeling formality was invented in Germany -- together with bureaucracy, bourgeoisie, and negativity.

Okay, enough clichés, but that's how you address people in German.

Edited by Josquin on 28 August 2012 at 12:33am

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montmorency
Diglot
Senior Member
United Kingdom
Joined 4469 days ago

2371 posts - 3676 votes 
Speaks: English*, German
Studies: Danish, Welsh

 
 Message 21 of 51
28 August 2012 at 1:39am | IP Logged 
OK thanks Josquin. That's more or less the situation as I thought it to be.
And so (to sum up) no, you don't have a more or less neutral term (like the French
"Monsieur") that can be used on its own with no surname, as a polite, but not "servile"
form of direct address, just as we don't (for practical purposes, except in a few
restricted circumstances).



Interestingly though, although hardly anyone expects to be directly addressed as "Mr"
any more (at least after about 20 seconds acquaintance), people with "titles" (like
"Sir" (i.e. knights or baronets) or "Lords" certainly do expect it to be used!

I suppose this is only fair. It's a sign of appreciation of the amount of money they
paid for it, oops, I mean the hard work and devotion to the country that earned it for
them. :-)))



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tractor
Tetraglot
Senior Member
Norway
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Studies: French, German, Latin

 
 Message 22 of 51
28 August 2012 at 4:43pm | IP Logged 
Dagane wrote:
Note that 'Su alteza real' is the 'vos' form. Otherwise, it would be 'Tu alteza real' (with 'tú') or
'Vuestra alteza real' (with 'usted').

Grammatically, "su" is the possessive adjective that corresponds to "usted" and "vuestro" the possesive adjective
that corresponds to "vos"(*), so you should have:

tú –> Tu Alteza Real (I doubt anyone would actually say this.)
vos –> Vuestra Alteza Real
usted / el rey / la reina / el príncipe –> Su Alteza Real

(*) Not the Latin American "vos", but the "vos reverencial".

Edited by tractor on 28 August 2012 at 4:48pm

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Ogrim
Heptaglot
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France
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 Message 23 of 51
28 August 2012 at 4:57pm | IP Logged 
tractor wrote:
Dagane wrote:
Note that 'Su alteza real' is the 'vos' form. Otherwise, it would be 'Tu alteza real' (with 'tú') or
'Vuestra alteza real' (with 'usted').

Grammatically, "su" is the possessive adjective that corresponds to "usted" and "vuestro" the possesive adjective
that corresponds to "vos"(*), so you should have:

tú –> Tu Alteza Real (I doubt anyone would actually say this.)
vos –> Vuestra Alteza Real
usted / el rey / la reina / el príncipe –> Su Alteza Real

(*) Not the Latin American "vos", but the "vos reverencial".


I just wanted to add that "usted" comes from "Vuestra Merced" (Your Mercy) and therefore pronouns, verbs etc. will be in 3rd person singular. During the Middle Ages I think it was common practice in most European countries to address kings and noblemen in third person, using formulas like Vuestra Merced, or in English, Your Grace, Your Highness, Your Excellency etc. You hear a lot of that in the series "The Tudors".
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maydayayday
Pentaglot
Senior Member
United Kingdom
Joined 4860 days ago

564 posts - 839 votes 
Speaks: English*, German, Italian, SpanishB2, FrenchB2
Studies: Arabic (Egyptian), Russian, Swedish, Turkish, Polish, Persian, Vietnamese
Studies: Urdu

 
 Message 24 of 51
28 August 2012 at 5:00pm | IP Logged 
montmorency wrote:
OK thanks Josquin. That's more or less the situation as I thought it to be.
And so (to sum up) no, you don't have a more or less neutral term (like the French
"Monsieur") that can be used on its own with no surname, as a polite, but not "servile"
form of direct address, just as we don't (for practical purposes, except in a few
restricted circumstances).



Interestingly though, although hardly anyone expects to be directly addressed as "Mr"
any more (at least after about 20 seconds acquaintance), people with "titles" (like
"Sir" (i.e. knights or baronets) or "Lords" certainly do expect it to be used!

I suppose this is only fair. It's a sign of appreciation of the amount of money they
paid for it, oops, I mean the hard work and devotion to the country that earned it for
them. :-)))



I only use the title to get better seats at the theatre, on aircraft and in restaurants and I don't expect anybody to call me 'Your Grace' any longer. How anachronistic is that......





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