19 August 2023

D L Sayers ... a 'thirties philological question (1)

In Gaudy Night (1935), there are different conventions about how College Servants address their female 'superiors'.

Annie Clarke and the Warden's Maid say "Madam".

Other servants, including the Porter and Emily and Carrie and the Christ Church Porter, say "Miss". 

(A local variant: "Madam Dean, Miss"; "Madam Warden, Miss". I am reminded of the address "Mr 'Un'icke Sir" in my undergraduate days.)

Sayers was a careful writer with a considerable concern for linguistic nuance. What is she up to here?

In Chapter 18 (page 384 in the first edition), where Annie is on the 'phone pretending to be the Warden's maid, she uses (three times) "miss". 

In the denoument, Annie complains "It would do you good to learn to scrub floors for a living, as I've done, and use your hands for something, and say 'madam' to a load of scum ..."

Do readers familiar with these texts and with the style of Sayers and with 'thirties English idiom have any ideas about linguistic registers which might account for these phenomena?

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