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Politeness



     Siegfried Ramler defends "Du": I agree with Elena Danielson that the single pronoun of address in English -the universal "you" - offers the advantages of convenience and informality. However, the additional range of interaction through Du and Sie, and tu and vous, affords enrichment in communication, both written and oral. There is comfort in addressing an old school friend with "du" and valued access to confidential exchanges when "tu" is appropriate.
     There is that delicate transition when a friendship grows from "vous" to "tu". Who initiates that leap to intimacy? As a rule of thumb, it is the older person who might say, at an appropriate time, that "se tutoyer" would be in order.


     My comment: Oh dear! It really is very complicated. Tim Brown says rightly that "vos" is still used in parts of Central America, and that it is friendly. Yes, but Spain was the land of hidalgos, who had an extremely complicated code of etiquette. One 16th-century story tells of a hidalgo who left town because he felt insulted that someone addressed him as "vos." The form of address was just part of a complicated social etiquette which specified how and when you raised your hat. I prefer the simple "you," and I do not wear a hat--once thought to be a social offense.

Ronald Hilton - 12/1/99


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