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Let me tell you something, lady ....

It's funny how some things that are nominally polite are actually punching offenses in English. "Let me tell you something" isn't inherently offensive, yet it's an invitation to a fight.

"Listen, lady ..." implies that the person being addressed is being completely unreasonable, and yet if you translate it into any other language, it's polite.

It's just that, in America anyway, the archaic English honorific for a woman is only invoked when you're being sarcastic. (The one you should use instead is, of course, "ma'am" or "madam", which is borrowed from French.) To a lesser extent this is also true of "mister" and "missus". Not so much "miss", which may be because we didn't borrow an equivalent word from French.

ETA: of course "miss" and also "mister" and "missus" are cognates of French words if not direct borrowings. If there was a polite form of address that distinguished between married and unmarried women in Anglo-Saxon, it doesn't appear to have survived into modern English.



( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 18th, 2011 09:40 pm (UTC)
I love me some etymology. Language--it's brilliant!
Dec. 19th, 2011 11:38 am (UTC)
I have a mug my mother gave me that says, "Linger over Language". I love it. :)
Dec. 19th, 2011 02:23 pm (UTC)
That sounds perfect, actually.

Many moons ago, I contemplated going to Georgetown for linguistics. How that turned into a degree in Art & Film History with a minor in French at Pitt is anyone's guess, lol.
Dec. 19th, 2011 10:27 pm (UTC)
Based on my Mom's ex perience676y6tghhhhhhhhhhhhhh6y777777777777777777t77777777777777777777777777777777777777777777777777777777777777777777777777777777777777777777yu

Dec. 19th, 2011 10:29 pm (UTC)
Ignore that - Jack wants to be petted and NO POWER ON EARTH CAN STOP HIM.
Dec. 19th, 2011 10:46 pm (UTC)
Okay, let's try that again without a hard-purrin' thumb-chewin' kittyboy walking all over my keyboard.

My Mom has a PhD in linguistics, but based on her experiences, the Art & Film History major might actually be the more practical degree!

It is an fascinating subject, though! I can lose hours reading about modal verbs and The Great Vowel Shift on Wikipedia. ds d

Oh no, he's back! And he wants MORE PETTING!
Dec. 19th, 2011 11:17 pm (UTC)
Oh, bless, young Jack.

In the interim, I content myself with trying to learn Icelandic over the interwebs.
Dec. 19th, 2011 11:23 pm (UTC)
Icelandic? Awesome!!

Young Jack's first move seems always to be stepping on the F7 key. That turns off the speakers. I guess he doesn't want me to hear the computer complaining.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )