Welcome to the Wordlady blog!

This blog is about the fascinating, fun, and challenging things about the English language. I hope to entertain you and to help you with problems or just questions you might have with spelling and usage. I go beyond just stating what is right and what is wrong, and provide some history or some tips to help you remember. Is something puzzling you? Feel free to email me at wordlady.barber@gmail.com.
You can also order my best-selling books, Six Words You Never Knew Had Something to do With Pigs and Only in Canada You Say. Fun and informative!

Subscribe!

Subscribe! Fun facts about English delivered weekly right to your inbox. IT'S FREE! Fill in your email address below.
Privacy policy: we will not sell, rent, or give your name or address to anyone. You can unsubscribe at any point.

Follow by email

Search This Blog

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

At your service in Japanese

"Many languages have at least two forms of a pronoun meaning "you", a singular and a plural. However, the plural form is widely felt to be more deferential. In numerous languages the plural "you" has become the polite "you", while the singular "you" has become the familiar and intimate "you"...Other pronouns can be affected also...In Japanese, extreme, formalized politeness has affected the whole pronoun system. For example, the most formal word for "I", watakusi, originally meant "slave" or "servant"."
Jean Aitchison, Language Change: Progress or Decay?, Cambridge University Press 2001.

No comments:

Post a Comment

About Me

My photo
Canada's Word Lady, Katherine Barber is an expert on the English language and a frequent guest on radio and television. She was Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Her witty and informative talks on the stories behind our words are very popular. Contact her at wordlady.barber@gmail.com to book her for speaking engagements; she can tailor her talks to almost any subject. She is also available as an expert witness for lawsuits.