Saturday, December 28, 2013

"Vous" Is Back

"Je dis 'vous' à ma mère, je dis 'vous' à mon père." That line, spoken by the marquis de La Chesnaye in Renoir's La règle du jeu, has always stayed with me. And I have a couple of colleagues at Harvard who have known each other for 50 years but still vouvoyer. So I was amused to read in Rue89 that le vouvoiement is making a comeback among young couples, who find it more "respectful," slightly "aristocratic," and even "erotic":
La psychosociologue Dominique Picard, auteure de « Politesse, savoir-vivre et relations sociales » (éditions Que sais je ? , 2010), assure que « Le phénomène se développe » :

« Cela relève d’une volonté de retrouver des valeurs de respect que l’on pense perdues et d’une identification à une certaine classe sociale – l’aristocratie – qui aurait maintenu ces valeurs. Cela peut être aussi une volonté de repousser l’usage du “tu” à outrance vécu par certains comme une intrusion violente dans leur vie. Enfin, l’usage du “vous” peut passer par une volonté de se démarquer des autres et de singulariser sa relation. »
Dans les faits, le « vous » peut être un garde-fou. Ses adeptes assurent qu’il limite l’usage de mots vulgaires et les attitudes blessantes :

« Avec le “tu”, il y a l’idée que l’autre nous appartient, que l’on est naturels et donc plus amoureux, mais rien n’est plus faux. On n’aime pas 24 heures sur 24. Il y a de la violence dans une relation amoureuse. Afin de la canaliser, certains couples, souvent jeunes, utilisent le vouvoiement. »

3 comments:

DavidinParis said...

Vous got to be kidding. The return to vous as the 'you-singular' is symptomatic of passive-aggressive behavior.

Anonymous said...

You wouldn't like Portugal then! There it is the even more formal third person "O Senhor/A Senhora" that is commonly used in polite and educated society even between husband/wife, and by children addressing parents! Forms of address are very ancient and culturally loaded, it seems trite to psycho-analyse them as you have.

DavidinParis said...

hmmm....where to start? First, I love Portugal. Despite my ignorance of the subtleties of Portugese, I felt fully welcome there, foibles and all. I was not making reference to the historic roots of vous, versus tu (I can even refer you here to Italian with the lei, tu and voi), but what the use of vous has now become and what it 'feels' like to the user. After many years in France, admittedly not as a maternal francophone, I have often asked when to use vous and tu to my French colleagues. The answers are usually vague but more often than not, outside of the obvious 'rules', I have been told that the vous can be used with very subtle underlying strategies in the professional world. Conversely, if someone who has more 'power' than you addresses you with tu, it can be to undercut your position in the the dialogue. Sorry if these seems a trite rendition of the issue.