Sociolinguistic Issues in the movie version of G.B.Shaw's Pygmalion:
Who says what to whom?

Handout for LING 057, Language and Popular Culture

  1. Politeness and address: how do various characters address each other?

    • Use of forms like Cap'n and Gov'nor Are these used with a name, e.g. `Cap'n Higgins'?

    • Use of titles such as Sir, Colonel, Ma'am, Miss

    • No-naming, i.e. avoidance of name and title.

    • First-name only? Why are Eliza and "Freddie" the only people addressed by first name only?

    • Last name only: who uses this reciprocally, and who doesn't? ("I say, Pickering...")

    • Title and Last-name, e.g. "Col. Pickering", "Miss Doolittle", "Mr. Higgins; Prof.(?) Higgins." (How does Mrs. Pierce address Higgins?)

    • How about terms (used by women only?) such as "my dear"?

    • Compare this with terms used in Phila. by working-class women, such as on the food carts, with men's usage:

      • women: "hon', honey, dear, babe"
      • used by men: "buddy, pal, boss, Sir(?)"
      • What is the cross-gender usage--do women call other women 'Babe', or `boss'? Do men call each other 'babe', or call women 'boss'? What happens if a man calls a woman 'Babe'?

    • Other issues?

  2. Reciprocity in address: do participants exchange politeness formulae, or is it one-way only? Is reciprocity only common within a particular 'class' or does it cross class boundaries?

  3. Are there metanymic issues? What is suggested by the name Doolittle?

  4. Why is Freddie called "Freddie" i.e. why is a diminutive term used? Is it a class thing? (King George VI was known as 'Bertie' to his family; his brother Edward VIII was known as David.) Or because he's such a 'twit'? What is the usage among British upper classes for this kind of thing, and where do they learn it?