HomeQ&Atutearme?

tutearme?

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I notice that on Spanish TV I see a lot things addressed to the viewer in the familiar, in news and in advertising. "Primero Noticias" has a feature called "Tu Imagen" pictures from viewers. I always try to be careful about how to address people I don't know well but as a beginner I have a tendency to use the familiar because I'm used to using it with my beginner friends. The formal presents problems because to English speakers it is like talking about someone in the 3rd person and seems a bit tricky to make it clear you're referring to the person addressed or some other. "Como está usted'" (This is similar to the problem I have with the imperfect where the subject is not implied in the inflection.)

What are the implications if I "tutear" someone improperly? Could I get hit? Are standards being relaxed? Do one use "tu" with employees? Hmm.

4113 views
updated OCT 29, 2008
posted by Pergolesi

13 Answers

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This is interesting, as I find that the "informal" verb forms are used extensively in Colombia. I've noticed that often advertising uses the familiar. The bosses and employees I work with also use the familiar with each other.

Well I have to admit my sample size is quite small -there are only 5 Colombians where I work! (and a further 3 that have passed through) but they were all solely usted people and said 'that's how we speak in Colombia' -I'll ask tomorrow if they believe that that is so throughout their whole country.

updated OCT 29, 2008
posted by tad
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CalvoViejo said:

But I don't hear this in a particularly disapproving context. Sometimes I hear it between two "socially equal" people (as two adults), during a dialog. Perhaps it's to emphasize the negative. We don't say "no, Mister" to a friend when we are having a friendly chat, but we might say "oh, no" or "definitely not"
That's (in part) why I referred to James' reply. In general it's a distancing mechanism but the distancing can be for a variety of reasons. In the situation that you describe, it's simply a matter of being polite/formal. In the above mentioned cases of a parent speaking to a child, one would normally expect familiar/informal terms of address but one way for a parent to express disapproval is to use a more than usually "sever" form of address.

updated OCT 29, 2008
posted by samdie
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samdie said:

Natasha said:

CalvoViejo said:

:

On the other hand, I've also noticed the use of "señor" and "señora", which seems rather formal to me. It's not unusual to hear a mother speaking to her teenage son and use "señor". This is usually in a negative response to a question. I find it interesting.

At the mall the other day, I heard a mother speaking to her preschool daughter (in English) like this: "You'd better not do that, ma'am."

First of all, she really should have said "miss," not "ma'am," if she wanted to talk like that.

Secondly . . . is this some kind of trend? talking to children as though they were adults? It sounded really weird to me!

Not a (new) trend. If anything, it's a teeny bit old fashioned. cf. "You'd better finish your homework, young man/lady!" It's a use of a more-formal-than-usual register as a mechanism to indicate disapproval. The general idea is very similar to what James was describing yesterday for Japanese (a distancing mechanism). The parent is emphasizing his/her role as an authority figure (rather than the warm, cuddly, forgiving parent).

But I don't hear this in a particularly disapproving context. Sometimes I hear it between two "socially equal" people (as two adults), during a dialog. Perhaps it's to emphasize the negative. We don't say "no, Mister" to a friend when we are having a friendly chat, but we might say "oh, no" or "definitely not"

updated OCT 29, 2008
posted by CalvoViejo
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Natasha said:

CalvoViejo said:

:

On the other hand, I've also noticed the use of "señor" and "señora", which seems rather formal to me. It's not unusual to hear a mother speaking to her teenage son and use "señor". This is usually in a negative response to a question. I find it interesting.

At the mall the other day, I heard a mother speaking to her preschool daughter (in English) like this: "You'd better not do that, ma'am."

First of all, she really should have said "miss," not "ma'am," if she wanted to talk like that.

Secondly . . . is this some kind of trend? talking to children as though they were adults? It sounded really weird to me!


Not a (new) trend. If anything, it's a teeny bit old fashioned. cf. "You'd better finish your homework, young man/lady!" It's a use of a more-formal-than-usual register as a mechanism to indicate disapproval. The general idea is very similar to what James was describing yesterday for Japanese (a distancing mechanism). The parent is emphasizing his/her role as an authority figure (rather than the warm, cuddly, forgiving parent).

updated OCT 29, 2008
posted by samdie
0
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CalvoViejo said:

:

On the other hand, I've also noticed the use of "señor" and "señora", which seems rather formal to me. It's not unusual to hear a mother speaking to her teenage son and use "señor". This is usually in a negative response to a question. I find it interesting.

At the mall the other day, I heard a mother speaking to her preschool daughter (in English) like this: "You'd better not do that, ma'am."

First of all, she really should have said "miss," not "ma'am," if she wanted to talk like that.

Secondly . . . is this some kind of trend? talking to children as though they were adults? It sounded really weird to me!

/aside/
(This is the same mall where my precious baby went up and HIT some little girl last week, so I don't pretend to be the parenting expert. Ha.)

updated OCT 29, 2008
posted by Natasha
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tad said:

Regarding country I can add that in Colombia (well the Colombians that I work with) they seem to use usted almost exclusively -even with family members. I'm not sure if this is limited to Colombia but an Ecuadorian that works with us finds it exasperating. I do think that the usted form is generally more widespread in Latin America than in Spain.

I have a question about usted. If you are in a formal situation and using usted how often do you actually say the word usted? Every time you use a verb referring to the other person (would that appear fawning) or just now and then 'just using the verb form missing the 's'?


This is interesting, as I find that the "informal" verb forms are used extensively in Colombia. I've noticed that often advertising uses the familiar. The bosses and employees I work with also use the familiar with each other. I was aware of this many years ago when I first lived in Colombia. At the time, it seemed that in Venezuela, the familiar was seldom used, so there was something of a contrast. I rarely use the familiar, but that's self imposed because of my position in the society.
On the other hand, I've also noticed the use of "señor" and "señora", which seems rather formal to me. It's not unusual to hear a mother speaking to her teenage son and use "señor". This is usually in a negative response to a question. I find it interesting.

updated OCT 29, 2008
posted by CalvoViejo
0
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Just adding to this, my Hispanic students in math class (mostly from Mexico, also Guatemala) always called me "Miss." Not "Ms. ___|\___|", just "Miss" -- very interesting carryover to English.

James Santiago said:

One point hasn't been mentioned, which is that while the usted form is usually called the "formal" form in English, its usage is often far from what we would call formal. For example, I have heard and read dialog where a criminal, such as a robber, addresses his victims by usted, and the victims do likewise. This is not a situation where "formal" English would be used. What most texts don't teach is that the usted form mainly serves to put distance between the speaker and the hearer. That distance may be one of class, one of deference, or just one of intimacy. Interestingly, a similar phenomenon exists in Japanese (which has many more levels of distance than the basic two of Spanish). If you speak too politely to someone it comes off sounding cold and even harsh. So in Japanese, as in Spanish, a robber may tell his victim to hand over the money in "polite" or "formal" terms, because there is no intimacy between the two.

Since English generally lacks the mechanism for such distancing, it is sometimes hard for English speakers to grasp the concept, and many people end up sounding cold when they are merely trying to be polite. In my Spanish class, I am the only one to address the teacher by usted, which I seem compelled to do because of my Japanese experience (where a student never uses informal speech to a teacher). The other students and even the teacher find this amusing.

>

updated OCT 28, 2008
posted by Natasha
0
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James Santiago said:

One point hasn't been mentioned, which is that while the usted form is usually called the "formal" form in English, its usage is often far from what we would call formal.


That's interesting, I've never realized this interpretation of usted before.

updated OCT 28, 2008
posted by tad
0
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One point hasn't been mentioned, which is that while the usted form is usually called the "formal" form in English, its usage is often far from what we would call formal. For example, I have heard and read dialog where a criminal, such as a robber, addresses his victims by usted, and the victims do likewise. This is not a situation where "formal" English would be used.

What most texts don't teach is that the usted form mainly serves to put distance between the speaker and the hearer. That distance may be one of class, one of deference, or just one of intimacy. Interestingly, a similar phenomenon exists in Japanese (which has many more levels of distance than the basic two of Spanish). If you speak too politely to someone it comes off sounding cold and even harsh. So in Japanese, as in Spanish, a robber may tell his victim to hand over the money in "polite" or "formal" terms, because there is no intimacy between the two.

Since English generally lacks the mechanism for such distancing, it is sometimes hard for English speakers to grasp the concept, and many people end up sounding cold when they are merely trying to be polite. In my Spanish class, I am the only one to address the teacher by usted, which I seem compelled to do because of my Japanese experience (where a student never uses informal speech to a teacher). The other students and even the teacher find this amusing.

updated OCT 28, 2008
posted by 00bacfba
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tad said:

If you are in a formal situation and using usted how often do you actually say the word usted?

In very few cases, as in Spanish we normally omit the personal pronouns.

updated OCT 28, 2008
posted by lazarus1907
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Regarding country I can add that in Colombia (well the Colombians that I work with) they seem to use usted almost exclusively -even with family members. I'm not sure if this is limited to Colombia but an Ecuadorian that works with us finds it exasperating. I do think that the usted form is generally more widespread in Latin America than in Spain.

I have a question about usted. If you are in a formal situation and using usted how often do you actually say the word usted? Every time you use a verb referring to the other person (would that appear fawning) or just now and then 'just using the verb form missing the 's''

updated OCT 28, 2008
posted by tad
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Just judging by posts on this site, it seems that the use of "tú" is pretty pervasive in Mexico, which of course tends to influence Spanish-language programming in the U.S.

updated OCT 28, 2008
posted by Natasha
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I guess it depends on the country, but you'll never get hit for it, and not just because you're a foreigner.

In Spain, if you talk to someone above 60 y.o., and this person looks rather serious and formal, it is best to use "usted", as people form their generation used to find it disrespectful if someone younger addressed them as "tú"; as a matter of fact, some of my teachers when I was very young even used "usted" with the youngsters, as if "tú" was far too familiar.

But today most people tend to use "tú" forms all the time. You'll hear "usted" when addressing someone on TV, the president, or anyone wearing a tie (or its equivalent in women). Waiters in a restaurant and the staff from a hotel will normally use "usted" too, but in general, using "usted" is a way of keeping the distance in formal situations only. Many bosses will use "tú" in many companies, but the employees will do the same only if the boss is ok with that; I'd say that if you can call someone by his or her first name, you can say "tú" too. Would you call your boss Jack, or Mr. Rawlings? If Jack is ok, use "tú"; if it is unacceptable, use "usted".

updated OCT 28, 2008
posted by lazarus1907
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