Politeness is important whether you are writing a letter or greeting someone in the street. To just say, ‘Bonjour’ is not enough. One should say, ’Bonjour Monsieur/ Bonjour Madame’. Older people should be addressed as ‘vous’, as should teachers and everyone really until you become good friends with them. One of my students even corrects his children when they use ‘tu’ to speak to him. He replies, ‘Am I one of your friends?’ There are long phrases that ought to be used when writing letters. By contrast, politeness can be used in an ironic way to be impolite. When a young man sitting next to me on the bus requested that I move to let him off with, ‘Excusez-moi, Madame, puis-je vous derange just un petit minute parce-que je veux decendre’,* I thought him an extremely polite young man. When I related this to my daughter her response was that he was probably being rude by his excessively flowery speech! *Excuse me, madam, could I just annoy you for just a second, because I would like to get off.

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