Thursday, 19 August 2010

Formality and Friendliness

I am not sure where I actually stand in establishing a balance between everyday formaility and friendliness; for example, between contemporaries, I can see a good deal to be said for the ready establishment of first name terms but I can certainly see where the balance is missed when someone who is maybe very old is suddenly addressed by his or her first name by a twenty year old nurse. I am sure that the motive is good but it sounds presumptuous, patronizing and inappropriate. I should never dream, even now, of addressing my parents' older friends direct by their first names and, certainly, never by their nicknames; although, on one occasion, when my father returned from seeing a friend when I was about eight years old, I said "So, how was 'Jacko' then?" and 'Jacko' then followed him through the door, smiling broadly and chuckling. But the humour was seeded in the incongruity and the fact that all knew that I should never have said this had I realized that 'Jacko' was within earshot. The same thing can be said in relation to tailors et al.. There was a cutter at Davies & Son, who retired in about 1999 and he was always 'Mr Matthews' to me and I was always 'sir' to him. I know that all this is falling away too and I can see good and bad consequences - friendliness between all people is a great boon but so can be keeping a certain distance in business relations. Out with the old observances also go the forms of ceremony, such as proper hat-doffing, as recently mentioned, and we are left lurching from one practicality to another as though we never had any use for custom and ceremony and the observance of occasion, or the recognition of age, accomplishment or station; as though every day were the same as every other and every man and woman the same as all the rest. That I see as a very great pity.

In the picture is William of Wykeham (1324-1404) whose motto was Manners Makyth Man.

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