TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Subject:usted, as in Como esta usted? From:Al Rubottom <aer -at- PCSI -dot- CIRRUS -dot- COM> Date:Mon, 11 Dec 1995 18:45:00 PST
Usted comes from "vuestres mercedes", in
older forms of Spanish that is, i.e. Your Grace,
which was the polite way to address the King/royalty/superiors.
It got shortened to Usted & Ustedes. In similar fashion, we
have the polite "you" in various languages, like Sie in
German [not to be confused with lower-case "sie" / she];
Lei in Italian [ditto with lower-case "lei" / she]; and others.
A great many of you reveal your ignorance of other languages,
not to mention of historical English, as at least one other
In some lanaguages there is gender, even three!
i.e., feminine, masculine, & neuter [like German, and
of course, Latin], tho the gender of a noun doesn't always
correspond to its logical meaning -- things have gender,
a madchen [maiden] is neuter, and so on [und so weiter].
OTOH, Chinese has no explicit gender, only number:
ta [he/she/it] and tamen [they]. Many cases of both types
can be cited. The context tells you what you need to know,
and in some there are diacritical/written clues to denote a
gender, even if you don't actually pronounce/hear it.
Impersonal constructions exist in [nearly] every language,
using either a "one" pronoun or a reflexive/passive
construction to remove an active subject from the verb
phrase, in order to avoid addressing a person directly
[politesse, saving face, social graces], or to be general.
E.g., Man spracht deutsch = one speaks German.
On parle francais = one speaks French, French is spoken.
Si habla espanol = Spanish is spoken.
Qu'est-ce qui se passe? = What's happening? [literally,
what is happening to itself?]
etc. etc. etc.
The "artificial" class distinctions that we used to preserve,
and that are still preserved in some lang.'s in specific noun/
pronoun choices, are but one way to add non-semantic
meaning to spoken or written lang. Some have overt,
alternative vocabularies for different speaker relationships,
e.g. Japanese, depending on who is superior/inferior,
friend/family member, teacher/student, etc. We like to
think we have no class markers, but we still do in many,
subtler ways -- usually revealed by accent, presence of
common grammatical "mistakes" or non-standard usages.
Since we can't hear ourselves think, we rely on others
to be examples of how we might speak...
Al Rubottom /\ tel: 619.535.9505, x1737
aer -at- pcsi -dot- cirrus -dot- com /\ fax: 619.541.2260