Why I Am Not Keen On A “One-Size-Fits-All” You

There is one problem with the English Language.  It is a three letter word with a variety of uses – none of which can be thought of as conferring adequate respect to certain humans we meet.

“You” used to be the formal and respectful form of address with “Thou” being the informal form.  Yes – there were two different ways of saying “You” in the English language.

Now we seem to have sunk to the depths of “You” even being used as part of the English dictionary of insults – as well as the heights of respectful speech.

I have to admit to preferring the Dutch, German, and French differentiation between the formal and the informal.  If a Dutch person addresses me as “u” it is seen as the utmost respect, whilst “je” is The informal version.

Although – there is something that it takes me a few hours to get used to reading when I am in Holland.  What to English ears sounds like the most offensive term you can direct at someone is actually the politest way of a Dutch person telling someone they can do something.

I know I am going to make myself sounds absolutely ancient but – I honestly wish we could find a way of differentiating between the formal and informal in the English language.

I was brought up to address people as Mr and Mrs unless they told me to use their first name (I still cringe internally when people who are a lot older than me introduce themselves by their first name only – I don’t feel able to give them the correct level of respect).

Another thing I automatically do is address strangers as “Sir” or “Madam” – again attempting to be respectful.  Even though I remember one lady who I had addressed as “Madam” looking at me as though she expected me to physically attack her.

To me – being able to differentiate between my friends and people I don’t know is helpful when it comes to deciding how I should behave around them.  The English “one-size-fits-all” single word “You” just complicates things – and leaves little room for treating people with the respect they deserve.

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