Thursday, April 29, 2010

Formality and Friendliness

Why do so many people insist that formality means one is being cold? Or that one cannot be both friendly and formal at the same time?

To my great and good friend I, your humble servant, send this my most heartfelt appreciation for your insightful and poignant query. Pray, allow me now to tender this response. In this present day and age, when the norm of social discourse has become somewhat less genteel than was the case in previous eras, formality has become associated with either pretentiousness or aloofness rather than polite respect. This is aided by conventions of the English language. English has no equivalent to the honorifics of Japanese, for instance. Not so long ago young ladies and gentlemen were instructed in proper deportment and ettiquete. Ones education was not considered "finished" without these important lessons in smoothing the rough edges that so often lead to social frictions.

I am of the firm opinon that it is indeed still possible to conduct oneself properly, with respect and gracious good will toward others. In short that, yes, one can be both formal and friendly. Unfortunately, some with which one interracts will not appreciate this as a show of respect but will revile it as a pretentious affectation.

Once again, I extend my most heartfelt gratitude for thinking of presenting this quandry fo my elicudation. I pray you recieve it in good health and that it will ease your mind.

Formally and unpretentionsly yours,

Onyx Plutonian

Ask a tiger.


  1. Such a well-put and gracious reply, as usual, Good Tiger.

    If I may humbly add my own thoughts to this, I wish to comment upon the fact that with the changes in both language and culture since Victorian times, one should never expect that the people one encounters on a daily basis have any reason to take formality as anything other than a sign of coldness. Formality, in the age of Twitter and Facebook, is often used as a tool to hold at arm's length those one finds distasteful, for one reason or another. Knowing this tactic, formality is therefore taken as a sign of rudeness, or of believing oneself to be of higher social status than the recipient. Witness how often those who care to partake in debates on the Great Internet often fall back on formality when they wish to belittle their opponents.

    Not only that, one should be aware that Victorian "high manners" are often misappropriated and misused by those who do not understand the reasons for them, or why such manners developed in the time and place that they did. One should also take into account the fact that the Victorians were actually quite passionate people, prone to the same depth of feeling as their descendants. Their reputation as prudes with lukewarm blood in their veins is wholly undeserved and not borne out by evidence.

    Therefore, if I may be permitted, I wish to suggest in deepest kindness to the Dear Submitter that it is dependent upon the person who wishes to live a more formal life to be aware of these social issues, and that living a life with more formal manners requires a great deal more care these days, so as not to cause offense. In this writer's opinion, a formal life requires a much deeper understanding and care for human emotion. Perhaps more attention should be paid to one's social obligations, such as responding to Plurks, or one should develop the noble and gracious habit of frequent letter-writing. And one should never forget that smile and a kind word have never been out of fashion in Good Society.

    In humility and respect,

    Ms. Myn Serendipity

  2. Dear Ms. Serendipity,

    Thank you so very much first for taking the time to read my humble ramblings, then for your kind regard of them and finally for your very well stated further elucidation of my point.