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Stand on ceremony

Posted by Smokey Stover on March 19, 2009 at 01:53

In Reply to: Stand on ceremony posted by Vair on March 18, 2009 at 08:54:

: : : : Stand on ceremony: I came across this phrase in Macbeth, and realized that it might have a completely literal origin. That is, people stand from (or sit to) the table in accordance with their recognised, ceremonial place in the hierarchy. As opposed to "stand" meaning "taking a stand to defend." True? False? Thought I might find an entry for the phrase here, but did not.

: : : It is complicated.

: : : The key is the "on ceremony" part, stand just means to abide, go by ceremony, or is in "not".

: : : Samuel Johnson - 1825
: : : When the pale of ceremony is broken, rudeness and insult soon enter the breach

: : :
: : : Men are often disposed to be more offended at at respass on ceremony, than at a serious injury, as a violation of decorum is usually regarded as an indication of contempt.

: : : Communication between the lower class and men of
: : : property was difficuly, add in British Royality and well the entire fabric of communication was doomed from the 17th Century. It became a cliche
: : : with "not" most often preceeding the statement by the 1820's.

: : ;To stand on ceremony means to insist on ceremony. The OED has many examples of stand with one or another preposition. One can see a relationship between these prepositional uses, but to simplify, here's their definition of the class of meanings of "to stand on."

: : "g. To be meticulously careful or scrupulous about, raise difficulties about (nice points, ceremony, etc.); = 78g."

: : We find under the rubric 78g:
: :
: : "g. To be careful or scrupulous in regard to (forms, ceremonies, nice points of behaviour); to be attentive to or observant of; to allow oneself to be unduly influenced orimpeded by.
: : Now rare exc. in negative contexts."

: : Examples cited include:

: : "1549 CHALONER Erasm. Praise Folly Fijb, Standyng euer vppon narow poynctes of wysedome. 1605 SHAKES. Macb. III. iv. 119 Stand not vpon the order of your going, But go at once. 1607 TOPSELL Four-f. Beasts Ep. Ded. 2 Therefore I wil not stand vpon any mans obiections. c1661 in Verney Mem. II. 219 These punctillios are not to be stood uppon by younger brothers. 1681 J. FLAVEL Meth. Grace viii. 177 You stand upon trifles with him, and yet call him your best and dearest friend. 1714 BUDGELL tr. Theophrastus xix. 57 He does not stand upon Decency in Conversation. 1751 JORTIN Serm. VII. xii. 250 There is no occasion to stand upon Complaisance and ceremony with writers who have done so much mischief. 1828 LYTTON Pelham lxxvi, Lady Glanville was a woman of the good old school, and stood somewhat upon forms and ceremonies. . . ."

: : In the Romance languages, the equivalent of stand, or at least the derivatives of Latin "stare," are sometimes used to mean "stay" or "wait". Our word "stand" may have the same origin in French as "stay." When Shakespeare says "Stand not upon the order of your going," it would certainly be understood the same way if he had said, "Stay not upon the order of your going."
: : SS
: : SS

: Re "Stand on ceremony" (March 12, 2009): My apologies, I misspoke. I came across the Macbeth line SS quotes, "stand not upon the order of your going," and thought then of "stand on ceremony." Thing is, the Macbeth line seems quite literal: he was telling people to stand up and go without regard to ceremonial protocol. The 1549 example suggests that perhaps Shakespeare was punning, with "stand" already established in its punctilious meaning --? Four centuries, it's hard for me just to follow the sense, forget getting the jokes. Anyway, S. did not use the phrase in McB, and I apologize for messing up and saying he did.

I hope I will be forgiven for a short digression on the word "vair." In the Wikipédia Française there is considerable discussion of this word, which in an earlier day meant squirrel fur, or some particular color and use of squirrel fur. Some people believe that the original version of Cendrillon (Cinderella) speaks of slippers ma de of squirrel fur, which makes a lot of sense in terms of footwear. But with the gradual disuse of squirrel fur, the homonym "verre" was subsituted. Who on earth would wear a glass slipper? At least the homonym chosen was not "ver," as in "ver de terre" (earthworm). Oddly (to my mind), the W.F. suggests that "verre," not "vair," was the original word.

If you look in just any old French dictionary for vair you may be disappointed. I suggest this link: define/ 103/ Online-French- English-dictionary.html

As regards making a mistake with Macbeth--forget it. We've all made worse mistakes, except possibly Victoria; and the OED (yes, the OED!) has made at least one much worse mistake with Shakespeare.

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