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Tati
Professional Teacher
Mrs J. and Mr F. I've just finished a modern adaptation of Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope and would like to ask why certain characters abridge the last names to a simple letter: for exemple, Mrs Jennings becomes just Mrs J. and Mr Ferrars - Mr F. (that happens in dialogues). What does it mean? is it a kind of slang, a colloquial form or does it mean closeness of the speaker to these people? Is it common in your daily conversations? (As the author is British and the novel's set in England, maybe the Br speakers would understand the situation better,)
8 февр. 2014 г., 16:08
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Answers · 5
It's a habit some of have, some of the time. There are a number of reasons for the habit. For instance, if your boss's name is Mrs Postlethwaite (a common enough name in the north of England) it might be a good idea to refer to her as Mrs P when chatting to your friends and colleagues. It'll save time! She might prefer being called Mrs P to her face. 'Postlethwaite' is a bit of a mouthful, isn't it? So there are practical reasons for simply using an initial. And then there is the reason you suggested about 'closeness.' Some married couples might call each other Mr P and Mrs P... instead of using first names. This was more common in the past when it was more acceptable to use surnames than first names. Mothers and fathers called their children by the first names but other people, such as teachers or neighbours would use surnames often. So courting and even married couples (!) would use surnames sometimes. But to indicate a certain familiarity it became Mr P and Mrs P. I think it's rather sweet! I like the idea. But it has gone out of fashion. I only use it when I have an impossible name to struggle with. Mr Arbuthnott might be just Mr A to me.
8 февраля 2014 г.
Hmm... it's tricky to get across the feel of this one... I find it's most often used as a gently humorous and affectionate way to address someone, i.e. you are pretending to be formal when are not (this somehow amuses us British). However, it can also take on a slightly mocking element to it, this either directed at formality itself or the person being referenced. I think Moira's example of married couples would fit this description. But as another example of usage, when I was at school we had to address the teachers formally e.g. Mr Brown, Mrs Wilson etc. No doubt in the staff room they addressed each other by their first names. However, in the presence on the students it was common for them to use this kind of abbreviation when talking to each other.
8 февраля 2014 г.
Tati
Language Skills
English, French, Russian, Spanish
Learning Language
English, French, Spanish