What is the origin of the word 'Your' (as in 'Your Majesty' 'Your Honor', etc)
January 13, 2005 2:37 PM   Subscribe

PersonalPronounFilter: What's the origin of the word "Your" in "Your Honor," "Your Majesty," and "Your Excellency" (among many others)? Why not "My Majesty" or "The Majesty?" Isn't the Queen supposed to be the source of my majesty? She sure as hell doesn't get any additional majesty from me.
posted by Saucy Intruder to Writing & Language (16 answers total)
 
According to the Henry Holt Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins...

"All English kings and queens are called Your Majesty, but the custom did not begin until the reign of Henry VIII. Previously, titles such as His Grace, His Excellent Grace, His Highness, and High and Mighty Prince had been used."
posted by icontemplate at 3:09 PM on January 13, 2005


I don't own the Queen, therefore she is not "my" anything. She is the one with the majesty, therefore I speak of the majesty being hers.
posted by majick at 3:10 PM on January 13, 2005


She sure as hell doesn't get any additional majesty from me.

No? Where do you think she gets it?
posted by rushmc at 3:13 PM on January 13, 2005


So in other words, you're not addressing the Queen, but the aura of majesty that surrounds her?
posted by Saucy Intruder at 3:14 PM on January 13, 2005


Guess: did it morph from Your Majestic Highness or some similar locution?
posted by CunningLinguist at 4:00 PM on January 13, 2005


Duh. That makes no sense. Never mind.
posted by CunningLinguist at 4:01 PM on January 13, 2005


Why not "My Majesty" or "The Majesty?" Isn't the Queen supposed to be the source of my majesty?

what? majesty means "greatness", basically. She's "my" greatness? or the source of my greatness? I don't think I understand what you're trying to say there...

She's called "your" highness, or greatness, or majesty, because you're addressing her, so speaking in the second person (and "her majesty" when you're speaking of her in the third person). To say "my majesty", you'd have to be speaking in the first person of "the majesty" (which belongs to the ruler), and in general they try to get monarchs who don't talk to themselves, so that's why you don't hear that much.
posted by mdn at 4:49 PM on January 13, 2005


My Majesty
posted by Hat Maui at 6:16 PM on January 13, 2005


That doesn't explain the "Your," mdn. If you were addressing the queen in the second person, why not just say "Majesty?" Looking at the text of the phrases, "Your Majesty" and "Her Majesty" are not references to the Queen herself, but references to a possession of the Queen.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 6:19 PM on January 13, 2005


Looking at the text of the phrases, "Your Majesty" and "Her Majesty" are not references to the Queen herself, but references to a possession of the Queen.

right - but why would these things be possession of the subject's rather than the queen's? I understand why you might ask about "your majesty" vs. simply "majesty", but I don't understand by what logic one would call the queen "my majesty".

As for the practice of addressing the quality itself rather than the person, I imagine it's largely to ensure that the quality is noted, ie, if we just say "you" we're not being respectful enough; if we say, "you, who possess majesty," every time, it might become rather cumbersome, so simply addressing the majesty itself not as disembodied and generic but as specific to the individual, ie, your majesty, not the majesty of anyone else, seems a workable solution.

Anyway, I would think "greatness" wouldn't be a quality that could be thought truly separate from the great person. To address someone's majesty seems intrinsically to be addressing that best part of them, but not just a "possession" - it is a quality they embody (supposedly).
posted by mdn at 6:43 PM on January 13, 2005


The "your" is dropped sometimes. It wouldn't be strange at all to hear something like "Your wish is my command, majesty" from a subject to his/her ruler, so I guess the point is that in the absence of a regular name ("Liz", Mrs. Windsor") one addresses the illustrious person by the quality that supposedly sets him/her apart. However, in a construction such as "What is your majesty's wish?", saying "What is majesty's wish?" is unclear. So, my guess is that it evolved as a more precise indicator. As for "my", this is used when it is actually describing a relationship with you, as in "my lord" or "my king".
posted by taz at 10:30 PM on January 13, 2005


Where do you think she gets [her majesty]?

In the case of the Queen, directly from God, at least in theory. She is his Defender on earth after all.
posted by bonehead at 7:50 AM on January 14, 2005


Divine right of kings was discredited some time ago, I believe you'll find.
posted by rushmc at 8:12 AM on January 14, 2005


I always thought this was just simple metonymy, substituting the familiar "you" with "your majesty," as a quality associated with the "you" in question. Although I like "Mrs. Windsor"; makes her sound like an eldery governess or headmistress. What does the NYTimes call her?
posted by rustcellar at 12:25 PM on January 14, 2005


Her Majesty, or Queen Elizabeth, I would presume.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:57 PM on January 14, 2005


Also tied up in all this is the custom in some languages of using the third person singular to address a second person singular who is not "familiar".

e.g. Italian: "Ha una giacca?" "Do you have a jacket", where "ha" means "he/she has".
posted by TiredStarling at 11:45 AM on January 16, 2005


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