Talking then and now


Sep 1, 2004
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In Etiquette by Emily Post (1922) I read some expressions that sounded bit odd to me, and I was wondered, if you still use them, for the english is not my native language. I heard also some of them in the Cameron's Titanic, as "I do apologize", "truely", "I beg your pardon" (by the way, Rose should not use "Pardon me", but this, as I read in the book!), to "gave a dinner", "converse" and "conversation", etc. How would it sound to you when somebody would speak this way?

Thank you
Regards, Vitezslav
 
May 1, 2004
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Dear Vitezslav,
[I should write 'Dear Mr. Ivicic,' since we are not socially acquainted. I am using your first name since you used it at the end of your inquiry.]

The words on your list still appear in formal polite English conversation.

"Gave a dinner for" means to have a formal or semi-formal banquet for an important person.

"The President and Mrs. Bush request the honor of your presence at a dinner to be given for HRH the Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall."

and later, in the Washington Post:

"The President and Mrs. Bush gave a State Dinner to honor [or "or in honor of", or just "gave a State Dinner for"]the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall."

If it was not a formal dinner but the people were important:

"The Prince of Wales dined with President and Mrs. Bush at the White House."

If it was just friends having a meal:

"I had lunch with Pat at McDonald's, but I ate supper with Donna at home."

If I spilled my Diet Coke over Pat, I'd say "Ooops! I'm sorry." because she is my friend and I would be sorry. "I do apologize" is used by some well dressed types, but I think it's sounds affected.

I'd say "I beg your pardon." if I spilled it over the Duchess of Cornwall because I'd feel even more embarrassed and because because the wife of the Prince of Wales is the more important person in this situation.

If she spilled her drink on me, she would say "I beg your pardon" because of noblesse oblige. She's obligated even as the higher in rank to be more polite than she needs to be to fellow guests. She would say "Pardon me", to the person serving her or to me (who would say "I beg your pardon") if we bumped on the street.

Attempting to get off the bus, I'd probably mutter, "Sorry" or "Pardon me" (in a very marked manner and raised voice the second time if they don't move aside) though I should say "I beg your pardon" because they are strangers. It takes too long to say it though, when the bus is about to move from my stop.

Rose, the youngest at table, is the 'lowest' in social rank, so she should say "I beg your pardon" for rising before the older ladies rose. I thought Rose was played as an unmannered brat in 1996 instead of a well brought up young society woman in 1912. Mr. Cameron wrote the screenplay, eh? [Sorry. I couldn't resist. I say seldom say 'eh' and don't know why it's touted as a Canadian expression. The only 'ehs' I've heard came from Maritimers, not 'Upper Canadians' from Southern Ontario.] Mr Cameron and I are roughly the same age and we grew up in roughly the same part of Ontario, though not on the same side of the Niagara Peninsula. He is a man, and men don't like 'begging' pardon. I'm trying both aloud. "Pardon me, please." sounds more comfortable on my tongue, than "I beg your pardon." before I read Jane Austen and Arthur Conan Doyle. After a session with them, my phrases are more Victorianized.

"I conversed with ... " is out of fashion. "I talked to ..." or "I spoke with ..."

"We had a conversation about ..." is used but but wordy. "We spoke about ..." is good and "We discussed ..." is better.
 
Sep 1, 2004
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Thank you very much, Marylin. I agree with you, that Rose in the move was not very historically accurate. She said "pardon me" to Jack, when he asked her, if she does love Cal. And when I read the Etiquette, I still find some mistakes in her manner. And her postures, the way how she walks on the deck, her flowing hair...oh my God! Thank you again:)
And by the way, do you still use the word "acquainted"? It sound also a bit old fashioned to me...

Vitezslav
 
May 1, 2004
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Well, Rose seemed more like a 1990's girl than a 1912's young lady in her manners and posture; but she may have been more accurate than we think in her opinions. Women were growing more vocal about having the same rights and opportunities as men: to vote, to smoke in public, to take part in sports, to do 'man's work', to have love without marriage. Not every woman wanted these freedoms, but a significant number did want at least some of them. Rose was a woman of her time in that.

As for 'acquainted', it is a more formal word for 'know'. I use it because in some cases it's more precise for me to say "I'm acquainted with So-and-So." than "I know So-and-So." For example, you and I are getting acquainted, but we don't know each other. I'm somewhat formal and old fashioned, so I prefer more formal words.
[But I do not say, "I am pleased to make your acquaintance." That's a bit too prissy. I say, "Hi. I'm pleased to meet you."]
I think what English words you use depends on when, where and how you were brought up. If I were sent back to 1912, I would have made more social blunders than Rose because I was not brought up in a time when and a place where Society mattered. I would be just as polite and my table manners would {hopefully} be as good as anyone at the dinner table, but I would have ate with the wrong fork, said the wrong things or used the wrong words. My Grade One teacher taught in the 1920's and her standards of English and etiquette were higher than standards are now. She drummed her standards into our heads, so even when I forget what her rule was, I know when I'm uncomfortable that I've broken it.
 
Sep 1, 2004
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And what about french words? I always wondered, how do you pronounce french words or words that came from France to you, such as "trousseau", "filet", "supreme", "adore"... Do you try to pronounce them the french way with the french "r", or do you pronounce them as if the were english words?
And do you still use the expression "detest" (hate), that Ruth used in the tea in the first class lounge scene?
 
Sep 1, 2004
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I do apologize :) for asking so many questions, but how does the using of the old fashioned words sound to the others? I can not imagine talking the way how it has been spoken in Czech republic at the end of 19th century, the people could think I am making fun of them and it would sound just silly and even insultingly - imagine greeting an older lady with a greeting that has been used in the 1900's.
 
Mar 20, 2007
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I often use the word 'detest' to refer to both things and people. Then again, my vocabulary is thought to be rather eccentrically old-fashioned anyway (this is what comes of a degree in English literature and a love of Nancy Mitford!) There were raised eyebrows at a party I went to a fortnight ago when I referred to a girlfriend's 'beau'. I also like to use the word 'tight' to denote inebriation - a state I'm in regrettably often...

It is generally thought rather affected to pronounce French words and phrases in English conversation with Gallic style but I know that the Edwardian upper classes were very much given to the habit. Besides, words like 'passe' and 'chic' have now entered everyday speech here in the UK and might be considered as much English as French.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>but how does the using of the old fashioned words sound to the others?<<

Probably as odd and out of place to our ears as modern speech and terms would be to the people of a century ago. Language is nothing but in a state of constant evolution. Some of the terms we use as a matter of course such as google up would have meant nothing to anyone just a few years ago, but you would be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn't understand it now.
 
Feb 4, 2007
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I, too, use the word 'detest' on occasion. I usually precede it with the word 'absolutely'. For example: "I absolutely detest that sort of music".

In addition, I often use the phrase, "How do you do?", whenever I am meeting someone for the first time. This phrase is considered quite old-fashioned, and although I am a relatively young person, I have used it for as long as I can remember. Most people are taken aback when greeted in this fashion and just say an awkward "hi" as a response. I don't know why I use this greeting. It usually escapes my mouth before I can think of anything else to say.
 

Luke Owens

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Many of us Americans also use the word "howdy", which is shorthand for "How do you do?" but seems to substitute for "hello". <shrug> I suppose it all depends on where you are from (upbringing) with a bit of where you are now (current environment) as to what you are going to say when. For example, Michael mentions "google up", where on the West Coast would leave out the "up". To our ears, "google up" sounds just plain weird. (Sorry, Michael!)

Speaking as a person who mostly watches British television ("Doctor Who", "Waiting for God", and so on) and educational television, I tend to be rather more formal (read: "Old-Fashioned" and I would love one right now!) in my speech and writing than many of my peers here inSane Diego. But that's just me. Many of my peers (not just in age here; I'l be turning 50 shortly) make fun of my speech patterns, especially when I juxtapose a Britishism with a Texasism (my mother was born in Texas) or something similar. It's all part of the great melting pot that is the 21st Century....

Luke, obviously rambling....
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>To our ears, "google up" sounds just plain weird. (Sorry, Michael!) <<

For what? I've heard it said that the english speaking world is a bunch of nations seperated by a common language and there's a lot of truth to that. In the U.S. the term "pissed" is a slang term for angry. In the U.K. and Australia, it's a slang term for drunk. In the U.S. "You-all" is commonly used in the south, but in the northeast, particularly Penssylvania, the term used is you'ns.

You can get quite a bit of variation just going from one region to another or simply going to the other side of town. I'll bet anyone here from London could give you quite a discourse on the sort of idioms used in the East End as opposed to the rest of the city.
 
May 3, 2005
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Michael-

"England and America are two countries separated by the same language" - George Bernard Shaw, in notes on "Pygmalion"....

"The Scotch and the Irish leave you close to tears...In some countries it completely disappears...In America they haven't used it in years.....Use proper English and you're regarded as a freak.. Oh, why can't the English learn to speak ? " -("Why Can't The English Learn To Speak ? from "My Fair Lady")

>>but in the northeast, particularly Penssylvania, the term used is you'ns.<<<

....Or "Youse guys".....

>>In the U.S. "You-all" is commonly used in the south,<<

Which in these here parts (DFW-TX, that is) is pronounced "Yawl"...as in "Y'all be careful crossin' the street, ya heah ?"

Respectfully submitted,
Robert
 

Dave Gittins

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"Youse" is commonly heard in Australia. Some seem to think it's the plural of "you". It was famously used by champion boxer Jeff Fenech, who told his fans, "Love youse all!"

An Americanism that's crept in is "guys" to mean people of either sex. Women seem to use it quite a bit when referring to their female friends.

One of my favourite new words is "craptacular". I first heard it used to describe web sites that are full of eye-candy and little information. It can also be used for movies, as in "Titanic was pretty craptacular."
 
Mar 20, 2007
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Jason, 'how do you do' is still regarded as the 'correct' salutation here in England - at least in polite circles. I'm only in my mid-twenties but you'd be surprised at how many of my peers still use this supposedly old-fashioned formula when introducing themselves (albeit usually slurred to 'howdjudo'). It should be remembered that it is always a statement and never a question. The correct reply would be to say 'how do you do' back - never 'very well, thank you' or 'fine, thanks' or whatever.

'Pleased to meet you' is generally thought to be a bit sloppy - I don't know when it came into common parlance but we can be pretty sure that none of the passengers aboard the 'Titanic' would have used the phrase when introducing themselves or being introduced.
 
Sep 1, 2004
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Notice that in the Cameron's movie Mrs. Astor greets Jack with "How do you do" and Jack greets her with "Pleasure." In the Emily Post's Etiquette is written that you should not use the expression "Pleasure" but "How do you do", which is the correct form.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Martin, I hope that when in the far north you use the correct local variation "How do". When addressing a young lady, an acceptable extension is "How do, Pet". In both cases, pronunciation of the 'H' is optional.
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"(Very) Pleased to make your acquaintance" was in common use especially among the lower middle classes in Edwardian England, and favoured also by working class people (women especially) seeking to impress, in which case the expression was generally tail-ended with "I'm sure".
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Feb 4, 2007
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I have yet to come across another person in the USA who still says "How do you do" when meeting someone in person for the first time. It's now usually something like "Oh, hi", "Hey", or "Hello" as if one is casually answering a telephone. Depending upon regional location, "Howdy" is also common. I don't know where I picked it up or why I still adhere to to the older, proper form.

Martin, I'm glad to hear that I am not alone in still using this salutation.
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For those interested, a free copy of Emily Post's original 1922 book, "Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home" is available to view online here:

http://www.bartleby.com/95/
 

Jason D. Tiller

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Dec 3, 2000
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Hi Jason,

FWIW, "How do you do" is still used today here in Canada and I'm only in my early thirties. Then again, we were dominated by Britain until we gained independence, so that could be a reason; but I'm just speculating.

Martin hit the nail on the head, as far as how the salutation is not addressed properly. Many people here that I've come into contact with respond the exact same way. Personally speaking, I say it all the time when being introduced to someone and in fact I have met people who say it; I find myself pleasantly surprised when I do hear it! It's unfortunate though that more people don't say it, instead of the "Hey, how are you".
 

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