TU AND VOUS REVISITED—POLITENESS STUDIES. I have posted several times on the complexities of the use of tu and vous in French, as the Search feature in the upper right corner shows. This article on politeness in the Economist (December 19) says that in “politeness studies”, the use of tu and vous and their counterparts in other languages is known as “the T-V divide” (as in Tu-Vous”). (The article says that: “Politeness studies is a growing academic discipline.” There is a “Journal of Politeness Research.”) The article shows that tracing the “T-V divide” is still complicated. Much of the change from “vous” seems to have taken place around 1970, right around the time that my French friend was using “tu” to her friends she had met at work, but unable to bring herself to use “tu” to her childhood friend. The article identifies 1969— when Olof Palme, the Swedish prime minister, asked reporters to use the familiar “du” to him—as an important date. Yet, forty years later, the article says that in “posh” French families children are still supposed to use “vous” to their parents. And, of course, there are our happily married friends who only use “vous” to each other.

This entry was posted in History. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.