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Kirill Vorobyov
Posted: Friday, August 04, 2017 8:25:05 AM

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Hello!

One more thing from "Ten Little Indians" by Agatha Christie:

An indignant mem sahib in Majorca recounted the tale of the Puritan Emily Brent and her
wretched servant girl.


This may be more a cultural question than a linguistic one, but who would be called a "mem sahib in Majorca"?(in times of Agatha Christie - 1930s, I believe). From what I have in my dictionary my best guess is that this is probably a woman of European origin who has spent long time in colonies... But I don't really know.
hedy mmm
Posted: Friday, August 04, 2017 8:50:19 AM

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Hello Kirill V.,

Definition of memsahib: a white foreign woman of high social status living in India; especially the wife of a British official.

I love Agatha Christie...



"God graced us with today....don't waste it." hedy
Ashwin Joshi
Posted: Friday, August 04, 2017 10:18:56 AM

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Yes 'Mem'(maim) not Mem Sahib, is still a white lady in colonial countries including India.

A white couple is referred to as 'MemSahib'; Mem and Sahib. House maids and workers used to address the white lady of the house as 'memsahib'.

A fair skinned lady, with stylish hair cut, is till bantered as 'mem" in India.



Me Gathering Pebbles at The Seashore.-Aj
thar
Posted: Friday, August 04, 2017 11:19:43 AM

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You can use it about someone in Majorca because it describes their demeanor, attitude,style.
Someone with a certain attitude towards servants, in particular. An attitude gained by living in India.

I think that is what is implying - the attitude expressed in this episode. At that moment, it was important to label her 'a memsahib'. It concisely describes her status.


In postwar (WW1) England, things were changing. During the war, women had replaced men in the factories and taken jobs driving, as police, firefighters, doing postal delivery, in engineering, clerks, civil service, all sorts of things. They even went on strike for equal pay, such as the workers on the London buses and trams. Most of these women moved into those jobs from service (ie jobs as domestic servants, maids), or were married women, who would not have been expected to work after marriage.
Although when the men returned from the war the women went back to service jobs, things were changing. Women got the vote. Although it was very bad all round in the 1930s depression, heavy industry was hit hardest. Jobs as phone operators, secretaries, typists were appearing. The economic assumptions were being challenged. People were increasingly educated, and socially aware. There was no 'servant class' any more, with people growing up with the assumption they would go into service. The middle classes might still have a maid, and the upper classes a whole staff, but the relationship was different.
In India, the situation hadn't changed. The position of servants in the social hierarchy (both foreign and upper or even middle class Indian) was much lower. The whole attitude was different.

The way 'a memsahib' would view the world might be important in how they see 'the story of the serving girl'.
She might feel indignation about something that an English lady would see as normal, or just a minor inconvenience, or be on the side of the servant.
TMe
Posted: Friday, August 04, 2017 11:59:04 AM

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"An attitude gained by living in India."thar writes; may be corrected as

Not only in India, but in all colonial countries.

I am a layman.
Romany
Posted: Saturday, August 05, 2017 3:33:08 PM
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Although expatriate (German, Japanese, French, English etc) enclaves still exist in countries around the world, I would hope that it's understood that the days of Mems and Sahibs are a long way behind us in the past.
Romany
Posted: Saturday, August 05, 2017 3:33:11 PM
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Although expatriate (German, Japanese, French, English etc) enclaves still exist in countries around the world, I would hope that it's understood that the days of Mems and Sahibs are a long way behind us in the past.
Ashwin Joshi
Posted: Sunday, August 06, 2017 3:39:04 AM

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Romany writes;

Although expatriate (German, Japanese, French, English etc) enclaves still exist in countries around the world, I would hope that it's understood that the days of Mems and Sahibs are a long way behind us in the past.






Past And Future. - Poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning


MY future will not copy fair my past
On any leaf but Heaven's. Be fully done,
Supernal Will ! I would not fain be one
Who, satisfying thirst and breaking fast
Upon the fulness of the heart, at last
Saith no grace after meat. My wine hath run
Indeed out of my cup, and there is none
To gather up the bread of my repast
Scattered and trampled ! Yet I find some good
In earth's green herbs, and streams that bubble up
Clear from the darkling ground, -- content until
I sit with angels before better food.
Dear Christ ! when thy new vintage fills my cup,
This hand shall shake no more, nor that wine spill.



Me Gathering Pebbles at The Seashore.-Aj
Kirill Vorobyov
Posted: Monday, August 07, 2017 3:59:32 AM

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Location: Moscow, Moscow, Russia
Thank you very much, all those who responded, for the great and very useful cultural guidance and advice!
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