Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is a disconnected series of pieces about the banal and ordinary of everyday life in an inland Alicante village seen from my very British perspective.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Goodly Sir wouldst be so kind as to render me aid?

The man on the phone asked me if he was speaking to don Christopher. I told him that he was but whatever he was selling I didn't want it. He didn't need to say anything else. Nobody uses don unless they wear headsets to talk on the phone. He assured me that he was just checking to see if I'd got a particular piece of junk mail. He didn't try to sell me anything so maybe it really was just a check on whoever does their bulk mailing.

I don't like being called don. It's supposed to be courteous. It's used with your first name rather than using the surname. It's a bit antique but I simply don't like people deferring to me and I particularly don't like it when it's a sham deference.

Usted, unlike don, isn't archaic. If, like me, you were taught French at school, then the Spanish usted is equivalent to the vous form. The polite form of you. Voulez-vous coucher avec moi? rather than Je t'aime. The idea is that usted is used for people you don't know, for people who are a bit older than you or to show a bit of respect. I don't like that either. I don't like it in shops, I don't like it in bars, I don't like it in general.

Spanish people tell me I should use usted - they tell me that I should only use tú when I know people. Tugging one's forelock and doffing one's cap went out even before I was born. I see usted as very similiar. For Latin Americans I don't think there's the same distinction. I think Ecuadorian parents address their children as usted. Some Latin American countries use a different way of saying you all together.

Dealing with everyone the same is fine by me whether it's a formal, Mr Thompson, or more informal, Chris but using the equivalents of sir or esquire. No thanks.

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