Saturday, 19 January 2013

The 'S' word

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.   

7 comments:

Serving Wench said...

... and there were, all under the impression that a postillion was the new word for US debt - equivalent to a few hundred trillion.

Ah well, back to the scullery.

Anonymous said...

Was it the Dambusters with Guy Gibsons black dog?.

I forget the name...

Oldrightie said...

The dog's name is Digger. Well on the BBC it is!

right_writes said...

@Oldrightie...

It was "Nigger", your hearing was impaired... Possibly a cold... Possibly flu... who can say? :)

Anyway Raedwald... this: "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."

The problem is that I think that (as you later observe) there is a whole class of people with a "common purpose" that any sane person would not wish to associate themselves with, even by job description...

...Civil (fucking) servants.

Elby the Beserk said...

Before I got fed up with the vile hate and vitriol spattered all over CiF, and before I got bored with getting new email address after new email address (banned all the time for querying AGW), Ally Fogg was a regular target for mocking. A Dave Spart for the new millenium. What is it about the Left that each new generation recreates stereotypes of the past - this generation giving us Laurie Penny and Owen Jones. Jeez.

Demetrius said...

I was going to write a long historical essay but a cup of tea is brewing. What is not quite grasped is that once all were servants of the Crown and the Crown was the servant of God. I remain, your humble servant, Demetrius. (What do you mean you do not like the tone of my voice?)

Span Ows said...

Yes, I too as pleasantly surprised when watching Dambusters over the Christmas period, great film made better for being untouched this time (even had to suppress a giggle when the dog is wandering around looking for Gibson just before the accident: at least 5 different white actors say Nigger, bet that doesn't happen much!

The problem with 'servant' is the same as with 'pleb': absolutely nothing unless you're a tight-arsed leftie looking to cause trouble.