Bring Back 'Sir-Reverence'

I have to tell you, the first time I was exposed to Shakespeare was Romeo and Juliet in my Freshman Year in high school. And I wasn’t prepared for it. You know, Shakespeare has a lot of obsolete words in it. Not just big words. Obsolete ones. It doesn’t matter how smart you are. If you don’t have a study guide, you can’t understand the thing.

Anyway since then, I have become interested in obsolete words. Why not? And one I came across by accident in my Webster dictionary is ‘sir-reverence’.

Sir-reverence used to be inserted before a word you thought might be perceived as indelicate. It is ultimately derived from the Latin salva reverentia meaning ‘saving your reverence’. I beg your pardon sir. I meant no disrespect. You get the picture.

Now, you know they used it often during witch trials. And I think they should bring it back. Why not? It sounds very useful. Oh, and by the way, the name does occur in Shakespeare, as a proper name. Sir Reverence. It’s a joke. Get it? Well, now you do. But without knowing the original meaning of the word you wouldn’t.

But I think it should be brought back. What do the rest of you think?


I think it would be useful if you’d give a few examples of where you’d use it in 21st Century writing.

Plus I have some formatting questions: Does it get set off by commas, is it treated as Latin & italicized, etc. Is it two words, or one containing an embedded hyphen? Do we drop the hyphen going forward as we’ve done to most old hyphenated words?

This is your proposal – you tell us.

I’ll have to think about your questions before I give definitive answers. Plus I am going to shut off my smartphone for now (I am about to have a visitor). :slight_smile:

I found plenty of online definitions that say ‘sir-reverence’ is a euphemism for excrement, or the act of producing excrement. This one has an interesting reference to Donald Trump (not exactly what you may think).

It sounds like a title much along the lines of, “His Eminence”. I can see why it was dropped. I can also see it being horribly overused like the phrase, “No offense, but…”.

Is that a euphemism?!

Back to answering @LSLGuy Well, I don’t know about the details (remember that I got it from a dictionary). I assume it is just inserted before a word. No hyphen or other things I assume. How would I use it personally? Again I haven’t thought along those lines too much. But I assume it would be indispensable with F-bombs. Instead of saying ‘How the f*** are you?’ you’d say ‘How the sir-reverence f*** are you?’ Does that help? (As I said, I assume it was originally used when talking to a superior, like in court. We’d of course use it differently now.) :slight_smile:

Sounds like the mediaeval equivalent of “'Scuse my French”, but open to misinterpretation as though it is a title you might be applying (sarcastically?) to whoever you’re talking to. So no, not much use nowadays.

@Jim_B. Thank you.
@PatrickLondon. That about nails it for me.

IMO … We still have an (occasional) need to insert a deliberate crudity in more-polite circumstances and call attention to the fact that we know the difference. “Pardon my French” is the idiom I’d use for that today.

“Sir-reverence” is largely inappropriate (at least in American English) because we don’t do much verbal bowing and scraping to social superiors. In those rare circumstances when addressing some big name superior we’d probably sooner forego the crudity altogether.

Is it a cool piece of English linguistic history? Sure. I’m glad the OP taught us about it. Saying “m’Lord” at least once per sentence is also part of English’s linguistic history. That doesn’t mean we ought to bring it back.

Well said and rightly put, m’lord.