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Stand on ceremony

Posted by Smokey Stover on March 13, 2009 at 18:23

In Reply to: Stand on ceremony posted by Joe on March 12, 2009 at 20:26:

: : 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."