Wednesday, October 27, 2010

About the Curtsey

In Terry Pratchett's books we learn that witches don't curtsey to anybody, because they consider themselves below nobody. Some of them go as far as consider themselves above everybody. I think the one to aim for is the former without the latter.

Only one time in my life have a woman curtsey'd for me, and I must admit, I thought it was really nice. The Western World, and not the least Scandinavia, has become very egalitarian during the twentieth century, and generally that's a good thing. But I think that there is a confusion where a gesture of respect has to imply subordination, which I don't think has to be so.

In fact I think there's a certain mindset in which egalitarianism is seen as false, in which everybody and everything is on a hierarchical scale willy-nilly (whether you want or not), and you better know where you are on it, particularly if you're lower than, whoever.

8 comments:

Tommy said...

Of course, I know of this tradition from seeing it in the movies, TV, etc. But, I've never seen it in real life that I can remember. Of course I live in the US, where such things have long been lost.

I am curious EO, under what circumstances was this done and was it a greeting to yourself personally.

Thanks

eolake said...

I've been struggling to recall the details, but it was quite a while ago. It was for me, when a young woman (maybe in her twenties or thirty) was introduced to me at some event.

Anna said...

I learned a new word. :)

I think this tradition should be revived. :)

eolake said...

Thank you.
I was a little surprised that wiki's first definition did not include putting one foot behind the other leg, that's the way I've always seen it.

Anna said...

I checked wiki's definition, and I found the leg sweeping in the second paragraph. :)
But the painting, though really sweet, does not show this bending, so it's not a really good example actually.
My class was dancing baroque dance for the final bal, so we were doing curtsey, both boys and girls, and that was really aristocratic :)

resse said...

One of the really naff parts of the really naff Blogger interface is the handling of linked pictures: loading them into a new tab or window in the top left hand corner is so last millennium and so Microsoft.

Enter the HoverZoom extension for Safari from Sidetree:

http://sidetree.com/extensions.html

I have no connection whatsoever with the developer. I just like big pictures but dislike ugly, clunky web interfaces. Don't try this with anything but Safari on a Mac — it may explode and kill someone. Here's what it looks like after it's installed and working:

http://img832.imageshack.us/img832/3864/curtsey.png

HoverZoom installs with a double click and is donationware. Oh, and Blogger is still failing to load verification visuals reliably. When are they going to fix that?

Anna: "...we were doing curtsey, both boys and girls"

Blurring of gender roles is fine by me (I had an intersex friend who chose to live mostly as a man, but could curtsey better than any woman I ever saw) so I hope someone made the boys in your class aware that even bowing may get them a punch in the face in certain louche drinking establishments, but a curtsey (usually considered gender specific to women) could be almost guaranteed to do so.

The expression "doing curtsey" is not colloquial English (at least not in my purlieu, manor, or bailiwick, but perhaps I should check the Oxford English Dictionary for an authoritative answer) so maybe "doing courtesy" (used in formal and archaic English, more often as "performing courtesy") was intended, and that might be taken to include bowing and hat doffing. When in doubt, a handshake is the safest option.

eolake said...

Thanks. HoverZoom sounds quite, er, naff.

Though as usual I hadn't thought of the old way as being limited. (But then most hadn't, or it would have been replaced by now.)

resse said...

Barbarian. Pretend HTML5 isn't happening all around you. Hahaha.