When I was job hunting in the Bay Area in California in the late 1980s, I found that I had to offer something compelling to persuade people to meet me for an information interview. For example, on the phone with an image and communication consultant I was put on the spot. Why should she meet me? How did she know I wouldn’t waste her time?
“Because,” I blurted out bravely, “I can tell you about registers of dress.” Who knew that I knew this or that there was even anything to know about it?
But, after I hung up and tried to figure out what this great revelation would entail, I realized that registers of dress is a direct extension of registers of speech…and how we address each other. And, what do we do if there is no redress when we make a mistake?
Registers of language. We know it without knowing it. How do we speak “for a particular purpose or in a particular social setting”?
By “registers of dress” I mean a scale of informal to formal. Your swimsuit to your wedding gown.
By “registers of address” I mean the scale of informal to formal way we speak to one another. From “Hey, yo!” to “Good morning, Mrs. Carruthers.”
When the birthday girl jumps out of the cake in her birthday suit and the guests forget to sing “Happy Birthday.” I guess that’s informal dress and address.
What do you think?