Is "Sir" still a current term for the British?

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Is "Sir" still a current term for the British?
Is "Sir" still a current term for the British?

Reading books by foreign writers, some novice readers may wonder: what is this “ser” and why is this word so especially common in books of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries? In the article we will try to understand the etymology, spelling, meaning and relevance of this word.

Origin of the word

Like most words in English, the word "ser" is a borrowing from Latin. All of you have heard the Italian word "señor" in films or colloquial speech. So, this word, like “ser”, takes its roots from the Latin senior, which translates as “senior”. The English "ser" is also a converted form of the Old French sieur, meaning "master." This once again proves that the etymology of many words in the vocabulary of the Romance group is closely intertwined.

Black and white drawing of a knight with a sword on a horse

So, “ser” is the name of a high title given to knights bachelors, knights in the order, or baronets (men who inherit this aristocratic title, which was issued by the British Crown). Such men should be addressed by their first and last names, always adding"ser" at the beginning. For example, Sir John Barrymore, Sir James Parkinson and so on. It can be noted that it was impossible to attach the appeal "ser" only to the surname of a man, without naming the name at the same time - this was considered a great disrespect.

Portrait of Sir W alter Rayleigh

Use in modern language

Today there are hardly many knights and baronets left among the English, but we can still hear the word "ser". This is normal, since now the title has been transformed into a simple respectful address. You can draw an analogy with the Russian words "master", "lady", "gentlemen" - here, too, those who are addressed with such words are not obliged to "rule" over something or someone.

Now "ser" is an optional prefix to either the name or the surname of the person you want to address. One of the most common cases of such treatment is when you do not know the name of a person, but you have a desire to respectfully address him (it can be either a doorman, or a waiter, or a secretary, or a policeman, or a civil servant). In this case, the word "ser" is really appropriate, unlike "mr", which, said without mentioning the name or surname, can seem rude.

By the way, if you want to address a girl or a woman, then the word "ser" is definitely not worth using. The fair sex should be called "Miss" (if the girl is not married) or "Mrs" (if she is a married woman). Due to the inability to immediately determine the marital status of a woman, confusion can often occur, soa safe bet is to call the one you want to address "lady".

How is it right?

Minimalistic image of a tie and the word sir

The question of how to write correctly - sir or sir, can be called ambiguous and even rhetorical, like many spelling rules of the Russian language. In many editions of old books, you can find both options, because people are still confused about which letter to write after hissing and whistling sounds. Adding to the complexity is the fact that in the original English the word is pronounced "ser" and is written sir. You can write as you like, because the main thing is to be sure that you are right.

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