Sunday, 6 January 2019

Signing off

I was wondering why British convention is to end a letter to someone whose name you don't know - i.e. one that starts 'Dear Sir or Madam,' - with 'Yours faithfully'. How can you be faithful to someone you've never met?

Well, it turns out to be a contraction of what was for centuries the standard valediction to letters, some version of:

'Believe me to have the honour to remain your faithful and obedient servant'

Sometimes, between friends, it got shortened to something like this, from John Wilkes:

Also, I believe it was considered good style to try to end your letter in a way that made your name the object of the last sentence. Here's Lord Chesterfield having a bit of fun with it:



But how did they end letters to people to whom they didn't feel in the least faithful, humble or servile? Well, generally, they just said it anyway, because it was meaningless boilerplate. I gather there's a song in Hamilton about that (No, I haven't seen Hamilton yet. Yes, I know I should). 

But not always. Here's Richard Savage in 1735, writing to a member of the Irish nobility of whom he is... not a fan. 







16 comments:

Anonymous said...

And here's Samuel Johnson (the lexicographer whose many health issues get their own separate page on Wikipedia; also the perfect answer to "did you ever see a statue raised to a critic?") combining "having a bit of fun" (as demonstrated above by Lord Chesterfield) with ending a letter to someone to whom he didn't feel in the least any of the above (Lord Chesterfield, in fact, who had promised to be a patron of the Dictionary but hadn't been any help whatsoever then tried to claim when it was finished that he'd financed it):
"[...] for I have been long wakened from that dream of hope, in which I once boasted myself with such exaltation,

My Lord,

Your lordship's most humble,

most obedient servant,

SAM. JOHNSON."

zarihz said...

Drive website traffic ''https://1757749.site123.me/'' Drive more traffic to your website has also initiated an ultimate SEO package. This package fits in the category of guaranteed quality package. This package provides everything that one could wish of. Our company’s major target is to serve small business owners.

Eclectic Man said...

The last one is excellent, but another one I heard of was an accident. He was sending a critical e-mail out of his company, and instead of ending "Regards,... " accidentally typed "Retards, ..."

R.L. China said...

Why did they remove surnames from letters with that long em-dash, or en-dash, I can never remember which is which?

Anonymous said...

@ R. L. China: names were blanked out by the editors when those letters were published, to protect people's identities. (I can't remember whether it's an em-dash or en-dash either, though.)

Anonymous said...

In case anybody else is wondering:

— An em-dash is about the length of an m
– An en-dash is about the length of an n

:)

Anonymous said...

Isn't it yours faithfully when you know the name of the person and sincerely when it is Sir or Madam?

Clive W said...

No. JF has it right — if ‘right’ is a word you can even apply to an arbitrary convention.

Unknown said...

I once worked at a bedroom company and the office junior did a mail run of 3000 letters with a brochure. Which started with "Dear Sir or Madman"!

janaz said...

I'm so happy to share to you how I got my blank atm card from nash. My blank ATM card can withdraw a maximum amount of $8,000 daily. I got it from Him last week and now I have $ 550,000 in my home . The blank ATM withdraws money from any ATM machines and there is no name on it, it is not traceable and now i have money for business and enough money for me and my family to live on really happy with MR Nash because two people took my money not knowing that they were scams. But happy now.MR nash sent the card through DHL and I got it in two days. Get your own card from him now he's no scammer pretending to have the ATM card, he's giving it out for freecontact him and get yours and no one ever gets caught. I'm grateful to him because he changed my story now am rich . His email address is(nashwilliams4@gmail.com)....

خولة said...

شركات كشف تسرب المياه بالقطيف

steve said...


الرائد افضل شركة تنظيف بالمدينة المنورة
تقدم خدمات التنظيف الشاملة للمنازل و البيوت و الفلل و الشقق اتصل بنا الان وايضا تقدم خدمات مكافحة الحشرات فهى افضل شركة مكافحة حشرات بالمدينة المنورة
تقضي نهائيا على جميع انواع الحشرات المنزلية

Melissa said...

My husband was so smooth at hiding her infidelity and I had no proof for months, I saw a recommendation about a Private investigator and decided to give him a try.. the result was incredible because all my cheating husbands text messages, whatsapp, facebook and his phone conversations was sent directly to my Personal computer. Mr James helped me put a round-the-clock monitoring on him and I got concrete evidence and gave it to my lawyer..I say no to infidelity if your husband is an expert at hiding his cheating adventures contact him through Gmail he will help you(Worldcyberhackers) or WhatsApp : +12678773020

Jason Williams said...

FLEE FROM IMPERSONATORS, MEET REAL HACKERS!!!


We are group of certified hacker, we don't advertise our services, people testify our goodness for us.

Be rest assured that contacting us, your problems are already solved.

So if i were you i will just take my time and go through this little aim of ours.


*HACK INTO SPOUSES PHONES.

*ERASE CRIMINAL RECORDS.

*CREDIT SCORE UPGRADES.

*SOCIAL MEDIA E.G(Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc).

*BTC MINING.

*BINARY RECOVERY etc.




NOTE: YOUR HAPPINESS IS OUR SUCCESS!!!



Contact or write us on:


technechhacks@gmail.com or intelcorehacks@gmail.com

Regards!!!

Bruce David said...

Hello everyone..Welcome to my free masterclass strategy where i teach experience and inexperience traders the secret behind a successful trade.And how to be profitable in trading I will also teach you how to make a profit of $12,000 USD weekly and how to get back all your lost funds feel free to email me on(brucedavid004@gmail.com) or whataspp number is +22999290178





Hello everyone..Welcome to my free masterclass strategy where i teach experience and inexperience traders the secret behind a successful trade.And how to be profitable in trading I will also teach you how to make a profit of $12,000 USD weekly and how to get back all your lost funds feel free to email me on(brucedavid004@gmail.com) or whataspp number is +22999290178

daniel said...

Have you ever been swindled by an online scammer..,a fraudulent broker..,binary option scam..,real estate and dating&romance scam...If you have had any of this experience online,you have a chance to recover your lost funds with wealth recovery PAULHASTING01@PROTONMAIL.COM..Get your financial life back on track