Saturday, July 14, 2012

Why do they do that?



I'm just back from a flying visit to Scotland made possible by a cheap Easyjet return flight. I'm not all that often in contact with English as she is spoke in natural environments and sometimes I'm struck by how the grammar I teach my students is much more prescriptive than authentic usage (teaching the distinction between less and few, for example, seems to me to be a waste of time since in real life the majority of English speakers don't care/know about the difference). Take this announcement made on the way out by a member of the cabin staff:
We do have a selection of duty-free goods available for sale on today's flight. Bla bla bla. We do have several fragrances from the Givenchy line and we do also have the new LancĂ´me mascara. Please don't hesitate to stop us as we do come through the cabin with the trolley.
Okay, I'm quoting from memory and I can't remember what the exact products were, but there really were all of those extraneous "do"s. What is that all about? I teach my students that "do" is only used in questions, negative statements and for emphasis. Yet, if any of my students had been on that flight they would instantly have observed that in the wild, "do" is used in affirmative sentences that require no emphasis.  I wish I had recorded the announcement on the flight over, and I actually got my iPhone out ready to do so on the way back but there was none. I really don't know what's going on: the speaker was a native speaker of English and appeared to be ad-libbing from a no-doubt memorized script. Perhaps the "do"s are supposed to make the announcement more formal, or more exciting? Any explanations gratefully received.

7 comments:

engelsk said...

A misguided version of Foreigner Talk, thinking it'll make understanding easier?

Or if it's not just her: a form of biz speak for flight attendants?

What was her accent, by the way? I recently read something about Welsh speakers using more auxiliaries, but it was vague and unspecific, and I can't find anything about it right now, and so it was probably nonsense, anyway...

Lesley said...

It was a flight to Liverpool and I'm pretty sure she was Liverpudlian. The majority of the passengers were English so I don't think she was trying to be easier to understand, more likely trying to be more "professional".

heather said...

yes, I've noticed this and I find it tends to be used when people want to sound more professional; estate agents, in my experience, tend to be very guilty of this, along with a complete lack of understanding of reflexive verbs. Myself is getting fed up of it.

Lesley said...

Yes, Heather, I can imagine it as estateagentspeak too.

spentrails said...

The 'do' works rather inelegantly as a form of emphasis in these situations. It's as if they're trying to encourage you to do something that you wouldn't normally do. I'm not sure how consciously that sort of thing is done in general although *gasps in horror* I find myself writing it at the end of emails.

Please do ask if you would like further information, etc.

Bernard Atkinson said...
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Sir John Malakowa said...
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