LINGUIST List 2.581

Sat 28 Sep 1991

Disc: Tu/Vous

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Jean Veronis, Re: Tu/vous
  2. Fan mail from some flounder?, Re: 2.564 Responses
  3. Michel Eytan LILoL, Re: 2.564 Responses

Message 1: Re: Tu/vous

Date: Fri, 27 Sep 91 10:49 EDT
From: Jean Veronis <>
Subject: Re: Tu/vous
I do not share Bert peeters feeling that "*tu* is increasingly popular in
French these days, even when talking to absolute strangers". Being addressed as
*tu* by a waitress or cashier in a cafe' when you are more than, let us say 16
year old, is almost unthinkable (unless you are in a *very* special kind of
place...). But, I am from France, and I wonder if there could be differences in
the use of *tu/vous* between Canada (as in Bert's example) and France.
Also, (still in France), I think that there was a big change in the use of
*tu/vous* especially among young people, or at work. I remember my father
addressing everyday's colleagues as *vous* in the early sixties. Now,
immediate colleagues would use *tu*. But I have the feeling that this change
froze at a certain point in time.
I wonder what other LINGUISTs think on those points.
Jean Veronis
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Message 2: Re: 2.564 Responses

Date: Fri, 27 Sep 1991 14:04 EST
From: Fan mail from some flounder? <>
Subject: Re: 2.564 Responses
Re attempted language engineering: The following anecdote was related in
my Italian I text in the early 1960's (Robert Hall was the author).
During the Mussolini era, the Fascists wanted Italians to use "voi" (*not*
the equivalent of 'vous' but rather the 2nd person intimate plural)
instead of "lei" (which is both "she" and the polite form of "you" in the
singular), since "lei" shows some kind of social difference. Supposedly
the government would listen in on people's phone conversations and if
people used "lei" instead of "voi," the government official would interrup
the conversation and say "usate del 'voi'". It didn't work, needless
to say.
Susan Fischer
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Message 3: Re: 2.564 Responses

Date: Sat, 28 Sep 91 14:41:11 +0100
From: Michel Eytan LILoL <>
Subject: Re: 2.564 Responses
may I just add my own remarks to Bert Peeters' perceptions about tu/vous:
it seems to me that the distinction tends to be entirely obliterated in 'peri-
 pheral' francophone countries much more than in France; eg Belgians and
 Quebecqouis are known for this. Personal experience in France tends to prove
 that tu "at first sight" spreads among social equals (eg university professors)
 only. I believe this is a phenomenon that empoverishes the language: remember
 the famous "Va, je ne te hais point ..." and all the subtlety implied by the
Michel Eytan
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