- Aug 2010
- Welsh Marches
This made me think of a passge in the 18th Century magazine the Tatler in which this issue is discussed; already by this period our author doesn't approve of educated people using formal third person forms of adress excessively to members of the nobility. "Many are the inconveniences which happen from the improper manner of address in common speech, between persons of the same or of different quality. Among these errors, there is none greater than that of the impertinent use of Title, and a paraphrastical way of saying, You." He is critica, that is to say, of the excessive use of titles (which would normally be expressed in the third person) and of people going out of their way to avoid dressing a nobleman directly as 'you'. When attending such a man, the author overheard his shoemakerspeaking to him as follows, "that if his Lordship would please to tread hard, or that if his Lordship would stamp a little, his Lordship would find his Lordship's shoe will sit as easy as any piece of work his Lordship should see in England." Consisent use of the third person here, and I'm sure that a similar way of speaking would still often have been used by tradesmen or servants in the 19th Century. The author has no concern about a gentleman using the third person address once to a nobleman in a single passage, but only in a suitable context, and not repeatedly. That is good manners, he thinks, and does credit to both parties, but to go beyond that is servile. "I would not put Lordship to a man's hat, gloves, wig, or cane: but to desire his Lorship's favour, his Lordship's judgment, or his Lordship's patronage, is a manner of speaking, which expresses an alliance between his quality and his merit. It is this knowledge which distinguished the discourse of the shoe-maker from that of the gentleman. The highest point of goodbreeding, if any one can hit it, is to show a very nice regard to your own dignity, and, with that in your heart, express your value for the man above you." A rather interesting example, I think, of English attitudes on such usages in 1710!It instantly reminded me of Carson from Downton Abbey.
A form of third person address that one still sometimes hears in England is this in restaurants: "If Madam/Sir is ready, I'll take the order".