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Q: For Scriptor: Medieval Flemish again ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: For Scriptor: Medieval Flemish again
Category: Relationships and Society > Cultures
Asked by: archae0pteryx-ga
List Price: $8.14
Posted: 09 Nov 2005 21:04 PST
Expires: 09 Dec 2005 21:04 PST
Question ID: 591320
I need a few more expressions that I hope you can help me find:

form of address for an unmarried lady, by a peer
form of address for the same lady, by a servant
form of address for the servant, by the lady (male and female servant)
affectionate term for a young woman, by an older person

Are you also able to provide the same in medieval French (along with
Mr. and Mrs.: 434444)?  That would be a bonus question.

Thank you,

Request for Question Clarification by scriptor-ga on 10 Nov 2005 10:03 PST
Hello Tryx!

This proves to be harder than I thought ... my library has no decent
books on medieval French and Flemish/Dutch, so I'm trying to find
answers through online research right now. Currently, I can say the

- In medieval Flemish, the proper way to address an unmarried lady (of
some social status) was "joncfrouwe" (literally "young women",
"juffrouw" in modern Dutch). Both peers and lower-ranked persons would
have used this way to address her. "me joncfrouwe" (modern Dutch:
"mejuffrouw") is an option for directly addressing her.
Since she had some social status, everyone outside her family would
have used a formal way to address her, peers and inferiors alike (the
English language "you" has long lost this distinction, but the German
Sie/du still uses it). That means, the formal pronoun used for
addressing her would have been "ghi". In English, you could express
this through the use of "thy", "thou" and "thee".

- When addressing a servant, she would have used the third person
singular pronoun (according to the servant's gender) and the servant's
first name (like: "Kathrine, where has she been?" instead of
"Kathrine, where have you been?". The pronouns are "hi" (=he) and "si"
(=she), although I would recommend using the respective English terms
in the narrative text. The use of the third person plural alone should
reflect clearly enough the difference in status.

- In medieval French, an unmarried lady of status would have been
addressed as "damoisele" or "demoisele" by everyone (note that there
is only one "l", where the modern "demoiselle" has two), respectively
"ma damoisele / ma demoisele" when addressed directly. She would have
been addressed formally, using the "vous" in its various forms.

- I found no indications for the use of the third person singular for
addressing servants in medieval French (this custom seems to be
limited to Germanic languages), so I assume that she would have used
the name plus a form of "tu". While among peers, "tu" was an informal
way to address each other, it would have reflected the difference in
status when a higher-ranking person used it, since the person of lower
rank had to use the respectful forms.

- In medieval French, an affectionate term for a young woman was
"pucele" (but not "Pucelle", which refers to Jeanne d'Arc, or
"pucelle", which should only be used for a not-so-respectable young

That's what I found out so far. I'll see what else I will find.


Clarification of Question by archae0pteryx-ga on 14 Nov 2005 23:11 PST
Very helpful, Scriptor.  Excellent extras, as usual.  Thank you!

I should have specified that my unmarried lady is very old.  Would
that change the form of address?  I would not expect "joncfrouwe" to
be suitable unless it was used without regard to literal meaning.  In
English we used to use the expression "maiden lady" for an older
single woman (and also the much more unkind "old maid") before
references to marital status became politically incorrect.

Oh, and could a maidservant (or manservant) address the old lady as "Mistress --"?

In the French, I also need "Mr." and "Mrs."

Many thanks, and I hope you are well over your flu now.


Request for Question Clarification by scriptor-ga on 15 Nov 2005 05:16 PST
The age of the unmarried lady makes the entire problem a bit
complicated ... but the term "joncfrouwe" mainly reflected the status
as an unmarried woman, while the literal reference to the person's age
was not important. A bit like in German, where the "Fräulein" (=little
woman) was still recently used for unmarried women, even if they were
89 years old. But I will see if there are are other options.

As for servants addressing her: I'd recommend the old Dutch equivalent
to "mistress". It's "meesteresse".

In medieval French, the non-noble equivalents to Mr. and Mrs. were
"maistre" and "maistresse". However, rich and influential commoners
often fancied aristorcratic attitudes and manners. Thus, they adopted
the titles of respect "monsieur" and "ma dame / madame" (actually,
these forms of address became so common among upper-class burghers
that the aristorcrats began adding their title of nobiliy to the
address to distinguish themselves from the commoners: "monsieur le
duc", "madame la comtesse", etc.)


Clarification of Question by archae0pteryx-ga on 26 Nov 2005 23:29 PST

Sorry, I've been greatly distracted by family concerns and didn't
realize you had not actually posted an answer here.  I consider that
your several responses do add up to an answer and would like to give
you credit for it.

Subject: Re: For Scriptor: Medieval Flemish again
Answered By: scriptor-ga on 27 Nov 2005 06:20 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Thank you very much, Tryx. I hesitated to post an answer without your
approval, and I'm glad to know you like what I found out. And of
course I hope the family concerns that trouble you are nothing

All the best and a fine first Sunday in Advent,

Request for Answer Clarification by archae0pteryx-ga on 27 Nov 2005 13:20 PST
Thanks for posting your answer, Scriptor.  I'm still not sure how the
maidservant addresses the old lady she works for, but I take "Mistress
X" to be the correct form.

When she works for a younger, married lady, I think she would say
maistresse or frouwe, if I have my information correct.

The family matters are serious, yes.  Two close family members are
currently hospitalized (3000 miles apart), with deep concerns
surrounding them.  But we are remaining optimistic and hoping for the
best.  Thank you for your kind good wishes.


Clarification of Answer by scriptor-ga on 27 Nov 2005 17:30 PST
Oh dear. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you and your loved ones, Tryx.

Request for Answer Clarification by archae0pteryx-ga on 28 Nov 2005 10:17 PST
Thank you, Scriptor.  It is kind of a rough time for me.

You know, I'd like to ask you something a bit delicate.  I wouldn't
ask at all, but it has been bothering me for a long time.  This may be
a matter of different customs in different cultures.  Do you consider
it impolite or improper to acknowledge tips?  I've often wondered if
you were aware of receiving them.


Clarification of Answer by scriptor-ga on 28 Nov 2005 10:37 PST
Now I feel a bit ashamed ... I hope I did not behave impolitely by not
thanking for the tips you gave me. I come from an old Hanseatic City
in North Germany, where traditionally giving a tip is not considered
dishonourable for neither the person who gives the tip nor for the one
who receives it. But it considered impolite to explicitly thank for a
tip because this could could give the impression that you think, the
person who gave you the tip just did it to appear generous in public.
A tip is usually accepted with "civilised silence", and both sides
consider this an elegant an appropriate way to deal with it. "Money is
something cultured people do not talk about", is one common phrase
that expresses part of this attitude.

Please accept my apologies should I have insulted you, dear Tryx. But
it is really not easy to correctly deal with ways of behaviour
different from one's own.


Request for Answer Clarification by archae0pteryx-ga on 02 Dec 2005 10:59 PST
Dear Scriptor,

Please do not feel bad.  I thought it was something like that, as I
suggested in my question.  As a matter of fact, I was brought up too
with what we would call "old-fashioned" or "old-school" customs with
respect to money and tipping.  I come from the East Coast, which is
more traditional than the West, and my mother was from the South
(meaning Southeast), where social manners are still more generally
refined than elsewhere.  So, despite being a gauche American, I
learned not to discuss money (in just about any context) and always to
offer tips and bonuses and even payment for work-for-hire in an
envelope while both parties discreetly look the other way and pretend
that nothing as crass as cash (even the very word is crude!) is
actually changing hands.

In the Internet world, however, we need a different grammar and
vocabulary for some transactions that are accomplished in person with
a brief exchange of glances, a slight nod of the head, a nearly
imperceptible bow, a wordless facial expression, a tiny gesture. 
Sometimes we can use oblique language and be understood, and sometimes
we have to substitute a brief word or phrase in order to cross the
chasm of silence that separates all beings, more greatly so than ever
now that we have the illusion of connectedness out here in this
insubstantial and wholly artificial realm where misunderstandings
outnumber understandings by a ratio of eleven to one and where the
consequences of misunderstandings are often impossible to avert.

(I just invented that statistic because the sentence seemed to need one.)

My personal opinion is that anyone who offers a tip on GA, however
small, is aware of giving a gift outright would like to know that the
recipient is aware of it too.  The implicit message of thanks and
appreciation to the researcher for exceptional service falls flat if
the connection is not made at both ends.

However, you have nothing to apologize for, dear Scriptor.  You have
been in every way correct.  It is only that I in a different place and
culture could not correctly read and interpret your silence.

archae0pteryx-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $7.22
Many thanks for your usual top answer.  And here is the promised bonus too.


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