How did people address each other in the 1920s?

Aug 2010
16,202
Welsh Marches
#21
It instantly reminded me of Carson from Downton Abbey.
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!

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".
 

Shtajerc

Ad Honorem
Jul 2014
6,698
Lower Styria, Slovenia
#22
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!

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".
Interesting sourse and absolutely readonable. Repeating the title over and over does make you come across rather limited. The example I gave for Polish is quite similar, they still f.ex. "sir are doing something very well". Like I said, in Slovene we used "they" (oni), which I think is modelled after German (Sie), since it's the same person (3rd plural). It seems the 2nd person plural is more characteristic for Slavic languages though (vi, vy, вы). If you read German and Slovene literature from the 18th and early 19th century you can also come across the use of the 3rd person singular, but only when a nobleman is speaking to a commoner. But in these cases I mentioned the personal pronoun could or is used as well, you don't always have to use a title, although that depends. A commoner saying "is your highness pleased?" but a nobleman saying "he shall step aside" to a commoner.
 
Feb 2019
649
Pennsylvania, US
#23
At this precise moment, I am about 150 years old: I have to get our Woman's Suffrage project up this weekend and tomorrow I need to get up by 5 AM to sell genealogical books all day long for our library in Augusta. If I survive, I will revert to being 17 or possibly younger.
Good answer! :clap::clap::clap: When you are old enough to legally drink again, you should have one after doing all that!
 

Tulun

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
3,805
Western Eurasia
#24
In languages other than English you sometimes use a different grammatical person to show respect. In German you then use Sie (third person plural with capital first letter) instead of du, in Russian vy (second person plural) instead of ty and Polish does it a bit differently. If you would want to compliment someone on their Polish, you'd say "pan dobrze mówi po polsku," which literally translates as "the gentleman speaks Polish well". In Slovene we use a system similar to Russian - vi and ti. But in the past there was another, more formal way, where you'd reffer to someone as "oni" ("they", 3rd person plural), which sounds pretty weird as it's like you're speaking aboit someone who isn't even present. Children would adress their parents that way. One of my grandmad did so and she was born in the 40s. My other grandma is a few years younger and didn't do so. I sometimes do it as a joke when reffering to some people.
OFF

In Hungarian it is the 3rd person singular what is used to address someone in formal way (and 3rd person plural to address more than one people in formal way).
We have special personal pronouns used for the formal form, but the verbs themselves conjucated in 3rd person when you use it.

It is btw interesting also to see the trends that are happening right now I think globally, the decline of formal speech in general. Can be an anglicism in particular or due to the very nature of the internet (general facelessness and anonymity, you don't really know with whom do you talk). But the speed of it seems to vary, I feel in Hungarian it is declining faster than for example in Turkish, where it is still stronger (Turkish and other Turkic languages use 2nd person plural for formal speech).

Not that I particularily mind if it disappears... The whole formal form only entered Hungarian around the 16th century, and it is still well alive but i notice it is slowly fading away, people more and more uncertain where, when, with whom should they use, so i expect within some decades it will be only used in really official settings, like formal communication by/to authorities and such.
In the 19th early 20th century it was normal to even address parents and grandparents in the formal form, but sometimes the whole formal/informal speech had a 2 faced nature. It could express respect but also the opposite of it.
For example before 1945 it was common and fashionable that people in the same social class, particularily the gentry addressed each other informally (even if they didnt know each other) but used the formal with outsiders, expressing this way who belongs to their circles and to exclude others. And in the same time there was the opposite practice, also from the 1920-30s, which was called "csendőrpertu". The word itself is untranslatable, originally referred to that the gendarmee (csendőr) used the informal speech with suspects and other commoners who were questioned, but the suspects had to address the gendarmee in a formal and respectful way. Kind of similarly how children talked with their parents back then, and that behavior of course was/is found in many other hierarchial situations too (servant-master, student-teacher...). all in all, while from a linguistic perspective it is an interesting phenomena, I don't think we will loose too much with it socially if it goes extinct. :))

ON
 
Jun 2017
340
maine
#25
all in all, while from a linguistic perspective it is an interesting phenomena, I don't think we will loose too much with it socially if it goes extinct. :))
The whole purpose of writing and speaking is to communicate with each other. The games that people have played with their choice of words will only be played out elsewhere. The important point is to remember the basic purpose and--as long as we can transmit meaning--it is all fine.
 

Shtajerc

Ad Honorem
Jul 2014
6,698
Lower Styria, Slovenia
#27
OFF

In Hungarian it is the 3rd person singular what is used to address someone in formal way (and 3rd person plural to address more than one people in formal way).
We have special personal pronouns used for the formal form, but the verbs themselves conjucated in 3rd person when you use it.

It is btw interesting also to see the trends that are happening right now I think globally, the decline of formal speech in general. Can be an anglicism in particular or due to the very nature of the internet (general facelessness and anonymity, you don't really know with whom do you talk). But the speed of it seems to vary, I feel in Hungarian it is declining faster than for example in Turkish, where it is still stronger (Turkish and other Turkic languages use 2nd person plural for formal speech).

Not that I particularily mind if it disappears... The whole formal form only entered Hungarian around the 16th century, and it is still well alive but i notice it is slowly fading away, people more and more uncertain where, when, with whom should they use, so i expect within some decades it will be only used in really official settings, like formal communication by/to authorities and such.
In the 19th early 20th century it was normal to even address parents and grandparents in the formal form, but sometimes the whole formal/informal speech had a 2 faced nature. It could express respect but also the opposite of it.
For example before 1945 it was common and fashionable that people in the same social class, particularily the gentry addressed each other informally (even if they didnt know each other) but used the formal with outsiders, expressing this way who belongs to their circles and to exclude others. And in the same time there was the opposite practice, also from the 1920-30s, which was called "csendőrpertu". The word itself is untranslatable, originally referred to that the gendarmee (csendőr) used the informal speech with suspects and other commoners who were questioned, but the suspects had to address the gendarmee in a formal and respectful way. Kind of similarly how children talked with their parents back then, and that behavior of course was/is found in many other hierarchial situations too (servant-master, student-teacher...). all in all, while from a linguistic perspective it is an interesting phenomena, I don't think we will loose too much with it socially if it goes extinct. :))

ON

Idk, I am all for using it. In Slovene "vikanje" is still widely used, I can't imagine otherwise. If a language feature stops being used by the speakers, like "onikanje", then ok - it's the way the language develops naturally. However, I am against linguists deciding a feature should be dropped because they feel it's redundant or archaic. We lost pluperfect that way, so nowadays if you use this tense, less literate people will look at you as if YOU're the idiot.

It is always interesting to see how the use of certain words changes in a language. Sometimes a word falls out of favour and gets replaced by another. The other day I came across a meme about the word "hashtag". In Slovene we called it "lojtra" ("ladder") before it became a thing on social media. I doubt today kids even know lojtra is a word to describe that symbol. In the context of social media it is now called hešteg or ključnik, a newly made up word. The meme I saw had Hungarian as an example of a word other than "hashtag" being used. Then a lot of Hungarians commented how they don't use the Hungarian word or don't even know it.

 
Likes: Tulun

Naomasa298

Forum Staff
Apr 2010
34,479
T'Republic of Yorkshire
#28
You mean this? #

In British English, it's just called a "hash", and in American English, it's a "pound sign".

It's only really a hashtag if it's followed by a word or phrase.
 
Jun 2015
5,723
UK
#29
Similar to today.
If one met George V, on first meeting it was "Your Majesty". On subsequent interactions, it was "sir".
Addressing nobility was the same as today - such as "Your Grace" for a Duke.
 
Aug 2010
16,202
Welsh Marches
#30
The only oral form of address that is ever used nowadays for nobility is 'Your Grace' for a Duke, 'My Lord/ Lady' or 'Your Lordship/Ladyship' as a form of address for aristocrats of lower rank is now archaic in almost every context, being only used by butlers and household staff.
 

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