Thursday, 29 November 2012

Your servant, sir

A recent discussion of the expression 'My pleasure' in the UsingEnglish forums led me to this thought:
There are two elements in the convention:
(It was a pleasure for me to do it) + (There's no need for thanks.)
English omits the second element; Spanish - No hay de qué - omits the first.
But in either case there's a sense of service - it was doing the service that was a pleasure. This had previously been enshrined in the expression 'at your service'. In Portuguese, the hyperbole used to be even greater (perhaps with a sense of irony? - at least, it could be ironic): às ordens do Senhor. (I heard this in just-pre-revolutionary Coimbra. I have read, in texts from more servile times, às ordens da vossa* Senhoría which is perhaps a little excessive for modern tastes!)

In Portugal, people claim to be obrigado/a (do the Portuguese Thought Police insist on obrigada/o, I wonder? I bet As Três Marias** would have preferred that.)

My father, a Lancashire man (if that's relevant - the expression may be common among people born around the turn of the 20thC, not just in Lancashire) used to say 'Much obliged' to mean 'thank you.' The idea of a sense of obligation (in the 'feeling beholden' sense - 'I am forever in your debt' - not the 'this is my duty' sense) seems to be a common one.

In Italy, it's ... no I'll start a bit earlier. In the Roman Empire, slaves were often captives from Slavonic races; it was such a common link that a slave was an esclavus (a bit like the generic name for a domestic slave in certain households in Hampstead today being 'the filipina'). The -cl-, as often in the development of language, was palatalized to become[ʧ] (spelt, in Italian, '-ci-') and the -v- became (or was in the first place - il sont fous ces romains ) [w], which, followed by the dying word-end, (or 'unstressed word-final vowel', to give it its philological disguise) made the -a- into a falling diphthong. The result is left as an exercise for the reader.




* The subtleties of the T/V distinction need not detain us here, though they may have planted the seed of  another blog....

My latest effort flirts with the idea, but it‘s still not the genuine article.
I was looking for the right epithet there, and initially put real as a placeholder; I knew it wouldn't do, but was rushing headlong towards the full-stop (so that I could reflect on the whole sentence).

This BNC search [Just click on the link, and sit back while BNC does its stuff] puts genuine fourth after leading, recent, and definite in the Potential Collocates for Article Stakes (with real nowhere to be seen in a field of 288). Oh lumme, does that make genuine a cliché, I wonder?
.(That link points to a page that Wikipedia - with either understatement or a hollow laugh - says 'has multiple issues'. It is not for the faint-hearted.)
**By Raquel de Queiroz - any relation of Eça, I wonder? (whose Cartas de Inglaterra I've been meaning to translate - marvellous man, a sort of nineteenth-century Alistair Cooke.  But one book at a time).

Update: 2015. – Added inline PS, and updated footer. Oh, and here‘s a clue to be going on with:

Michaelmas Daisy
Practise concerning leader of cortège. (8)

Update: 2015. – Added topical pic:

PPS I should have mentioned that Tuesday's update was made on Michaelmas (29 Sept). In celebration of which, a picture like this would have been appropriate. Too late now tho... [hang about...]

And another clue:

Look in centre of Galway for patch the other side of the water. (8)

Update: 2015.12.02.12:00 – Supplied answers: REHEARSE  and GALLOWAY

Update: 2018.03.26.14:30 –  Tidied up format, added instruction for BNC link and caption for seasonal pic, and deleted old footer

No comments:

Post a Comment