Poor Christopher Chope. Describing the House of Commons restaurant, what he should have said was "The service was absolutely fantastic because there was three-to-one service – three servers for each person sitting down.". No-one would have noticed, and his comment would have disappeared in the detritus of a day's verbiage in the chamber. Instead, the silly chump used the 'S' word and so has drawn the wrath of the nation about his head; instead of servers he said servants. He was, of course, grammatically correct, and not to say clear that his meal was served by real people and not storage computers.
Company law used to refer to a firm's 'officers and servants' - officers being those who held office in the company, such as the secretary and directors, and servants being those who were merely employed, at however senior a level. But there's a delicacy about the word 'servant'. Instead of simply meaning one who serves, a quite noble and commendable role, it's come to carry connotations of inferiority. That the Pope himself is described as 'the servant of the servants of God' without the slightest hint of inferiority, and that some of those grown to amongst the wealthiest in the realm at the public tit don't object to being called 'civil servants' means not a jot - to use the word servant in 2013 is akin to talking of 'niggers'. Ancestry trackers will refer delicately to a relative having been 'in service' rather than use the 'S' word, and I'll bet Julian Fellowes uses the term 'staff' throughout in Downton rather than the plural of the banned word.
Indeed, even those 'in service' could not be warranted to be docile, submissive and obedient. The 1870 edition of Baedeker's offers German, French and Italian translations of the phrase 'Are the postilions insolent?', the hazards of an insolent postilion clearly being significant amongst travel risks for the nineteenth century explorer. Or perhaps it was just postilions - there are apocryphal versions of Baedeker translations for 'My postilion has been thrown / eaten by wolves / struck by lightning' so perhaps a certain insolence did deservedly accompany a job that carried such risks.
It was good to see Dambusters back on the screens over Christmas in the original, un-bowdlerised version. And all without a peep from Mancunian 'Community media worker' Ally Fogg, who makes such a jejune fuss in the article linked above over Chope's words. Let's hope that we can reclaim 'servant' too at some stage.