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Of politeness and formality

Indrid ColdIndrid Cold Posts: 16,688 Skive's The Limit
Someone I know recently called an office to inquire about something and was basically scolded for beginning her question with "Hi there" instead of "Greetings", being told she was being impolite.

Despite knowing that "Hi there" isn't the best way to do something like that, something didn't sit right with me about this story and today I realised that she wasn't being impolite at all, just very informal.

Suppose that the prime minister arrived at your house. Greeting him with "Hi there man, how's it going?" would be very informal but not impolite at all, the way I see it. On the other hand, saying "Sir, please excuse yourself from my property as I would prefer actual human beings to be in it" would be the other way around: Extremely impolite but formal as hell.

It seems there's many people who confuse politeness with formality, and I was no exception as at first I did thing the person I know had been impolite. What are your thoughts on this? Would you say that being informal when a situation calls for formality is automatically impolite, or would you agree that you can be one or both or neither?


  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,323 The Mix Honorary Guru
    I think that depending on what the office does and why your friend was calling up, could tell heaps about the professionalism of that place by jumping down this persons throat.
  • Indrid ColdIndrid Cold Posts: 16,688 Skive's The Limit
    I agree, they were the really rude one in that story. That was just the spark for my thoughts though.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,323 The Mix Honorary Guru
    It's certainly an interesting concept to think about. I guess politeness and the line of what is and isnt polite can be very subjective. Especially if you have a business (as per above) which seems to have an inflated view of themselves (though might just be someone stuck up).
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,323 The Mix Honorary Guru
    I tend to be somewhat formal in my speech patterns because... well, I write a lot so I have knowledge of a lot of words and for some reason find it amusing to use as many as I'm able to. xD

    But I'm also very polite. Because I have access to a large vocab. it means I can better pick and choose my words to get the right feeling across. For example 'dislike' isn't quite as strong a word as 'hate' is.

    A big part of this formality vs. politeness debate is that sometimes formality/a larger vocab. allows you to tailor the impact of your words. The two concepts don't always go together hand in hand, but formality can help a sentence to sound a lot more polite.
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