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 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 it a cliché. 

... (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: 2013.10.02.16:30
HeadFooter updated.

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

Practise concerning leader of cortêge. (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

Mammon When Vowels Get Together V5.2: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs. Now complete (that is, it covers all vowel pairs –  but there's still stuff to be done with it; an index, perhaps...?)

And here it is: Digraphs and Diphthongs . The (partial) index has an entry for each e cvowel pair that can represent each monophthong phoneme. For example AE, EA and EE are by far the most common pairs of vowels used to represent the /i:/ phoneme, but there are eight other possibilities. The index uses colour to give an idea of how common a spelling is, ranging from bright red to represent the most common to pale olive green to represent the least common.

I'm thinking about doing a native iBook version in due course, but for now Mac users can use Kindle's own (free) simulator.

Also available at Amazon: When Vowels Get Together: The paperback.

And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this

Freebies (Teaching resources:  
Well over 49,300 views  and nearly 9,000 downloads to date**. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with nearly 2,700 views and nearly 1,100 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)

** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.

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