Between courtesy and depreciation
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Between courtesy and depreciation

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Between courtesy and depreciation. The forms of address as a rhetorical means in political polemical discourse

Monika Kostro, Krystyna Wróblewska-Pawlak
University of Warsaw

Forms of address are one of the most important of exponents of social relation between the members of a given interaction. That is the reason why they are used by the politicians as a rhetorical measure giving the ad personam attacks the polished look of politeness and in the same time constructing the positive view of the very politician and negative look to his political opponent. Expressive examples of using such functions of forms of address is given by polemical political discourse, especially television election debates, which were happening during the last presidential campaign in Poland (October 2005) and in France (May 2007). In case of the debate between Lech Kaczyński and Donald Tusk the candidates used their prior acquaintance to soften the polemical character of their speech acts. In the debate between Segolene Royal and Nicolas Sarkozy a male candidate builds an image of a gentleman, in the meantime stigmatizing his opponent as a woman.

Forms of address (FA), together with polite phrases, are one of the most important of language measures, which help the members of the interaction negotiate the binding relation (Kerbrat-Orecchioni 2005: 156-186). That is the main reason why they are often used by the politicians as a rhetorical measure giving the ad personam attacks the polished look of politeness (Fracchiolla 2008: 503), and in the same time constructing the positive look of the politician and a negative look of his political opponent. Expressive examples can be found in a polemical political discourse, especially a television debate, a mass-media event especially important to the public view of the politicians which can be decisive for the result of the whole campaign.

The following article is devoted to using FA as a rhetorical measure in presidential debate in Poland (2005) and France (2007) which is especially interesting giving the specific relation seen between both the candidates? In two cases – debate between Segolene Royal and Nicolas Sarkozy and the debate between Henryka Bochniarz, Janusz Korwin-Mikke and Jarosław Kalinowski – using FA as a rhetorical measure is based on using the gender asymmetry between candidates. In the third case – debates between Lech Kaczyński and Donald Tusk – the situation was different because the relation between the candidates was ambiguous: from the former allies calling themselves by the name, they’ve become opponents in official process of becoming a president.

In our dissertations we assume using the research perspective of argumentative analysis of the discourse as the best possibility, because being on the edge of rhetoric and pragmatic it researches rhetorical measures which appear in the discourse and influence the audience, taking also the context into deep consideration. The context is understood both as a direct communication situation and as social-historical conditions of the speech act (Amossy 2000: VI-VII).


Mass-media political debate, especially the presidential one, is one of the most important genres of political discourse and in narrow definition understood as “written and spoken texts created by politicians in institutional environment” (Van Dijk 2003: 13-14). From the point of view of problematic interesting to us the most important characteristic of this type of debate is its medial dimension giving it the look of a complex, multi-dimensional interaction. As claims C. Kerbrat-Orecchioni (1990: 91-95), a medial discourse, similar to theatrical one, functions on the basis of communicative trope (trope communicationnel), being unidirectional – mediated by somebody – way of addressing the direct partner of the interaction, in reality addressed to a different addressee, being a passive member of the very interaction. For the politician in the discourse his political opponent and the journalist moderating the debate are in fact a feigned audience – the real one are the spectators (Reboul 2005: 149-150). The result of the debate is not persuading the opponent, but the spectators – potential voters – that he is the best candidate for the president.

It’s an ex ample of polemical discourse, which aims not at the consensus, but at challenging the opponent’s theories and, thusly, challenging his credibility and position (Charaudeau, Maingueneau 2002: 437-439).

Multi-dimensional character of the audience of the residential debate is not possible without using the right FA, which is used by debating politics when addressing each other. The repertoire of used forms is a resultant of different functions, which are working in relation to the specified types of audience. In relation to feigned listener they can be an element of polite phrase strategy, softening polemical elements of the speech act, but also using a form which can surprise the listener can be utilized as a decoy. In relation to the spectators FA are used to create a positive view of the politician and manipulating the image of his opponent.

Argumentative analysis of the discourse describes the image of the speaker with the ethos, referring the Aristotelian differentiation of rhetorical measures on logos (logical argumentation), pathos (emotions that the audience feels after the act) and ethos (the character of the speaker; Aristotle, Rhetoric). It defines ethos as a self-image of the rhetorician constructed by him in his speech (Amossy 2000:60). The image created by discourse is dependent on indiscursive – his social and professional position, reputation, authority image of the speaker.

On the other hand the disputing politician is using the opposite strategy to his opponent’s image. As R. Amossy claims (2000: 129), one of the rhetorical strategies mostly used in polemical discourse is argumentum ad personam, „a personal argument” (Schopenhauer 2002: 120), aimed at opponent’s image. Arthur Schopenhauer (2002: 108) defines argumentum ad personam as a „personal attack”, during which “one leaves the subject of the argument and the attack is performed on the person of the opponent”. It is, in a way, an opposition of the argument of authority, demonstrating that the opponent is not a credible interlocutor and, in the following, his arguments are not to be trusted. Verbal personal attack can concern several characteristics of the opponent – his outlook, profession, gender (Szymanek 2004: 51), and it can be formed in a different way – as a subtle allusion or as a crude attack (Budzyńska-Daca 2008: 74).

In personal argumentation FA play double role. They are a subtle variant of argumentum ad personam, emphasizing the characteristics discrediting the interlocutor, for example the gender in case of a female politician. On the other hand, polite FA, similarly to polite phrases, is used as a way to soften some polemical acts which could be read as an attack on the interlocutor. Argumentum ad personam is considered an effective weapon, risky for its user, which wielding can be interpreted not only as lack of reliable arguments but also as lack of savoir-vivre and even a sign of aggression. (Kochan 2007: 204).


The choice of forms which the politician uses to oppose his interlocutor is also conditioned by repertoire of available expressions, creating in every language a separate system. Different language measures which form it, in Polish are called “formy adresatywne” and “forms” or, more often, “termes d’adresse” in French. C. Kerbrat-Orecchioni (1992:15) defines FA as „ expressions which are used by the interlocutor to point out the listener/listeners whom he addresses”. The author clarifies that the expressions play not only a deictic role (deictique) but also a relational one (relationelle), placing a specific type of relation between the interlocutors (Kerbrat-Orecchioni 2002: 31). She singles out, following F.Braun, two main classes of FA: pronouns of address (pronoms d’adresse) – second person formal and informal pronouns TU and VOUS and nouns of address (noms d’adresse) or apellativs (appellatifs) – noun syntagmas which can be used in vocative case (antroponyms, titles and names of profession, appellatives of MONSIEUR/MADAME type). The second person formal and informal pronouns are used to pointing out the addressee of the speech act (allocutaire), nouns can also point out the speaker (locuteur) and the third person who is the subject of the conversation (delocute, see Kerbrat-Orecchioni 2002: 30). That’s the reason why also M. Łaziński (2006: 17 and 89), apart from the addressative function, describes also a referring function of these nouns.

The richness of FA makes the unambiguous division to classes harder and the proposition of classification for different languages shows the specifics of given systems. E. Tomiczek (1983), setting apart in Polish language a similar class to French, a class of pronominal forms (pronominal YOU, SHE/HE, YOU, THEY) and a class of nominal forms (I-name, N- Surname, T- Title), emphasizes characteristic for Polish addressative system broad category of titles, what derives from lack of general form of distance in Polish language (Łaziński 2006: 137-139), as in French language is a pronoun VOUS.

According to R. Brown and A Gilman (1960) the most of the addressative systems characterizes with an opposition of pronoun expressions T/V, where T (from Latin TU) is informal and direct and V (from Latin VOS) is formal and full of distance. In Polish language we are seeing rather a T/P opposition, where T is for TY pronoun and P is the whole class of nouns substituting for lacking distance pronoun, as PRIEST, COLLEGUE, MOM and, above all, MISTER/MADAM (Pisarkowa 1979). The last form is the most formal and often used, it’s even called a substitute pronoun (Stone 1981, Pisarkowa 1979: 7). According to M. Łaziński (2006: 15) one should say about two separate homonymic units, because MISTER/MADAM are in fact a form of a noun can be used in addressative function and on the other hand a pronoun form substituting for a distance pronoun of 2nd person. Hence the two possible positions of FA in Polish syntax: syntactic non-integrated (appellative in a vocation case, for example – Auntie, you’ve made a great dessert.) and syntactic integrated (appellative with a verb in 3rd person – Auntie made a great dessert, see Łaziński 2006: 17). Because using the same form of MISTER/MADAM in the vocative case is at variance with contemporary language etiquette (the expression of MISTER is considered as stylistically and socially marked), more proper for Polish language are the two-part expressions, consisting of one of substitutes of 2nd person pronoun and a facultative additional part – a title, name or hypocoristic form (Pisarkowa 1979: 7-8).

In French language, where one can find a general pronoun of distance VOUS, two-part expressions are not necessary. The form of MONSIEUR/MADAME +TITRE (TITLE) is rarely used even in academic society (Zaręba 1981: 5) and the form of MONSIEUR/MADAME + PRENOM (NAME) is used in specific contexts (Zaręba 1981: 2). The expression of MONSIEUR/

MADAME + NOM (NAZWISKO), though not recommended by the handbooks of savoir-vivre, are commonly used in spoken language, especially in a workplace (Kerbrat-Orecchioni 1992: 53, Claudel 2004: 18). The differences between Polish and French addressative system are significant ad cannot be omitted in functional analysis of FA pragmatics in specific speech acts.


Television presidential debate, especially the one before the second part of the voting is fairly the most important moment in the whole campaign. At this very moment the politician, using the help of specialists analyzing the way he is received by the society, can upgrade his image to gain more voters. With whole certainty it happened in case of a presidential debate between UMP candidate (The Union for People’s Movement), Nicolas Sarkozy, and a representative of the Socialist Party, Segolene Royal, just before the second part of the voting in France in 2007. It was decisive Cash not only of two political opponents, but also of – for the first time in battle for the presidential chair – a woman and a man.

In this situation if Nicolas Sarkozy continued his style of communicating as a man of decision, authority, character – showing the very characteristics of a male stereotype – maybe a way to success when there are two rivals – in case when the opponent is a woman, it wouldn’t be so gladly accepted.

The candidate was informed about the need of warming up the official image – a new way of communicating and argumenting that could be well received by the listeners and effective on the opponent – the day before the debate by Pierre Giacometti, chief of the French institute of Social Studies and his aid, Claude Guenant. They warned about not interrupting the opponent’s chain of thought, advised remaining calm and showing some respect. They have also encourage him to using a pronoun „us” („nous”) most often and talking in concrete terms, in the same time demanding the same from the interlocutor, pointing out that French people see Segolene Royal as a person a bit unrealistic (Reza 2007: 164-166). As one of the UMP’s MP, Dominique Paille forewarned in “Le Figaro” interview (Calvet 2008: 13). As it was seen afterwards, Nicolas Sarkozy reached a conclusion: in the decisive debate he attacked with both finesse and duplicity and his strategy – talk as with a woman, attack as a politician – proved to be successful, bringing him the presidency.

Segolene Royal from the very beginning of the campaign was in a different situation, because both her political opponents and some of the journalists were trading her and presenting her through the roles she was taking – a wife (partner) and a mother, so as a female politician.

The French television residential debate, which was presented on 2nd May 2007, consisted in the same questions asked by the journalists to each candidate. The politicians should refrain from asking questions to each other, but they could interrupt and engage themselves into polemics

The character of communicative act and the type of social relation connected with the status of interlocutors was demanding, according to savoir-vivre, using the forms like mister, madam (vouvoiement) – or, in other words, using the 2nd person of plural pronoun (VOUS) with verbs of 2nd person of plural number. The neutral form in vocative case, the one directly pointing out the interlocutor in the situation of indirect public conversation, the form of NAME+SURNAME and this kind of expression was used as a standard in statements of the journalists.

If one considers the FA pronominal class, according to the lexicometric data analysis done by B. Fraccholia (2008: 498)1, Nicolas Sarkozy, considering the recommendations of his experts, used the pronoun “us” – NOUS (see a table 1 below) and Segolene Royal used a pronoun “me” – JE and “they” – ILS/ELLES, repeatedly emphasizing what does she want (je veux) for them – as for the French. She tried to move her voters, referring to their emotion, contradictory to Nicolas Sarkozy who more often used the impersonal style (with the pronoun HE as a subject), in the meantime addressing his interlocutor (substantial usage of a pronoun “madam” – VOUS).

Nicolas Sarkozy 356 193 66 238 37 20
Segolene Royal 432 55 57 198 65 20



Table 1. FA (pronominal forms) and frequency of their Osage in expressions of NS and SR (Fracchiola 2008: 498)

Significant differences are concerning also frequency of using and unsymmetrical choice of nominal FA (appellatives) by both the candidates for the president, what is show by the table below:

Nicolas Sarkozy Segolene Royal
FA f FA f





Table 2. FA (appellatives) and the frequency of their usage (f) in expressions of NS and SR

Comparing the FA repertoire and their frequency in the discourse of Nicolas Sarkozy and Segolene Royal show that both the presidential candidates had different communicative-politeness strategies (we’re not mentioning now the differences of their discursive style). It gives one the basis to interpret the used FA as deliberately used language effort. Nicolas Sarkozy, addressing Segolene Royal, is often using and expression MADAME (82 times!)

One could think that the high frequency of the appellative MADAME in the discourse of Nicolas Sarkozy is a deliberately used strategy strengthening the effect of being polite to the female interlocutor and showing her, especially by using this form, some respect. For example, in the question (FA in vocative case):

„Est-ce que je peux terminer, MADAME?”2
[Can I finish madam/MADAME?]

We omit here the issue of implications connected with translating FA from French to Polish, demanding a separate article. We show only that the abovementioned sentence can also be translated as „ Would you let me finish, madame?” or „May I finish, madame?” which is a nicer sentence.

However Nicolas Sarkozy doesn’t ask „Me permettez-vous de terminer?” [Would you let me (because the addressee is a woman) finish?] And even more polite: „Me permettez-vous de terminer, Madame?” [Would you please let me finish, madame?]. In the last case adding the “madame” in the beginning or at the end of the sentence would be an awkward movement, but it is the very “loss” in the translation and a systematical difference in one. Moreover, similar sentences are presented in this debate several times. When one adds to this conversation some parameters of para- and nonverbal nature, this sentence should be translated to even “Madame, may I please finish?” That is the meaning of the discursive-polemical strategy of Nicolas Sarkozy and a rhetorical aid used by him.

We can interpret the using of MADAME clause in a similar way – as a polite phrase – when it’s put in the sentence adding the interlocutor to the speech act, like in the following example:

„Nous avons, MADAME, grace au nucleaire, une independance sur l’electricite de la France a hauteur de la moitie.”
[Nuclear energy, MADAME/madam, is ensuring the country with energetic indepence in electricity field for 50 % level.]

The clause MADAME, however, used by Nicolas Sarkozy, shows mainly as a softening measure in the act of depreciation, directly striking at the opponent’s positive image:

„MADAME, pardon de vous le dire, vous faites une erreur.”
[Madam, MADAME, please excuse me for saying this, but I think you are making a mistake.]

This form corresponds to the being directly put acts of discord:

„Mais non, MADAME, ce n’est pas possible, MADAME. Excusez-moi. La fonction publique hospitaliere est payee par un autre budget que le budget de l’Etat.”
[But no, madam/MADAME, it’s impossible, madam/MADAME. Please excuse me. The workers of public health service are being paid from other budget that the national one.]

Finally, this form can be used in majority and can be repeated in situation of an open discussion in illocutional act of discord. Below I quote a system of sequences which differ from each other by the forms of address. Nicolas Sarkozy, saying „Non, MADAME”, ostensibly disagrees in a very polite way (in replies: (2), (4), and (6). (7) – five times) and softens the act of discord with a polite phrase, and eventually underlines his interlocutor with a feign innocent, final MADAME in the second reply.

  1. SR: Vous defendez le nucleaire, mais vous ignorez la part du nucleaire.
    [You are defending nu clear energy but you don’t know what is the participation of it.]
  2. NS: Non, MADAME. Non, non. Nous avons la moitie de notre electricite qui est d’origine nucleaire MADAME.
    [No, madam/MADAME. No and no. Half of our electricity comes from the nu clear energy, madam/MADAME.]
  3. SR : Non, 17% seulement de l’electricite est d’origine nucleaire.
    [No, only 17% of the electricity is of nu clear origin.]
  4. NS: Non, MADAME. Ce n’est pas exact.
    [No, madam/MADAME. That’s not right.]
    SR: Tout cela se verra. Mais si, c’est ca.
    [This is then worth checking. But I’m quite sure I’m right.]
    (interrupts) (6) NS: Non, MADAME. Ce n’est pas exact. Non, MADAME. Ce n’est pas exact.
    [No, madam/MADAME. That’s not right.That’s not right.]
  5. NS: Non MADAME, c’est un choix majeur. Attendez ! Continuons-nous le choix du nucleaire ou l’arrete-t-on?
    [No, madam/MADAME, this is a very important choice. One moment! Will we continue using the nuclear power or we stop doing it?]

This systematical lining the speech acts with an expression MADAME show that Nicolas Sarkozy treats his rival as an opponent and the politeness is ostensible, it is used to soften his attacks and construct an image of a gentleman.

It means that in French language the answer oui, madame/monsieur or non, madame/monsieur is more polite in case of unsymmetrical relation or in case of a distance between interlocutors who are not using the “you” form (Kerbrat-Orecchioni 1992: 52-53). Moreover, how claims B. Fracchiolla (2008: 503), high frequency of the MADAME appellative in expressions of Nicolas Sarkozy results in adding his opponent to his own discourse; firstly because of the etymology of systematically used form (ma-dame means my dame/lady) and secondly by ceaseless reminding of the rival’s gender to the public. The pragmatic form of MADAME + SURNAME used as in an example below:

„MADAME ROYAL, si vous permettez, si vous permettez de repondre.”
[*Madam Royal/MADAME ROYAL, would you let me, would you let me answer.]

It is not limited to expressing politeness and shortening the distance. Nicolas Sarkozy adds her in speech acts of depreciating character (Majewska 2005: 38-39). It is a strategy he often uses – shirting the perspective of the conversation from the meaning level (program differences) to the level of interpersonal relation (interlocutor characteristic), what helps him in maintaining the image of a person lecturing his rival and dominating in the conversation.

„(…) Le but d’un jeune qui commence dans la vie, ce n’est pas simplement d’avoir une HLM, mais d’etre proprietaire de son logement. Il faut de l’ambition, MADAME ROYAL, l’ambition c’est de faire de la France une France des proprietaires.”
[The main goal of a young Man approaching life is not simple owning a communal flat, but owning it. One has to have some ambition, *madame Royal/MADAME ROYAL, and the ambition is making France the country of owners.] .

One should remember that using the form MADAME + SURNAME is also unsymmetrical in his discourse, because Segolene Royal in a very „male way”, without unnecessary politeness, consequently uses – how calls it Kerbrat-Orecchioni (1922:55) – expressions with null appellative.

The high frequency of forms MADAME and MADAME ROYAL in expressions of Nicolas Sarkozy can be interpreted as a measure consciously used to change the self-image from the times before the debate off discourse. The presidential candidate was conscious that he is seen as a verbally aggressive politician. Using the forms of address like MADAME and MADAME ROYAL he was trying to soften this image and show that he is a polite man, a gentleman who knows how to address a lady by using specific non-rhetorical measures. In the meantime with this very measure he stigmatized his interlocutor as a female, using commonly known stereotype of the weaker sex as not being able to be a good politician. One should also mention that the other candidate for these positions – Francois Bayrou in the debate with Segolene Royal did not use these forms of address, what in case of similar strategy created a totally symmetrical interpersonal relation to his opponent and allowed for partnership in relations. In public communication (television, press), as rightly emphasizes M. Yaguello (2002: 222-223), a woman is defined as a woman, what is expressed by using the word MADAME when in case of a man having the same status, the form of MONSIEUR is omitted. S – although the relation between the members of speech act is prototypically symmetrical, using a language measure like the FA, one of the members – a man – notoriously opposes the relation of partnership, and the mechanism of depreciation is an ostensibly polite form of MADAME and shortening the distance form of MADAME ROYAL.

Nicolas Sarkozy polemizes and attacks Segolene Royal, presenting some characteristics of a Male stereotype when he shows that he in a politician with a character, knowing how to rule his temper. He eventually irritates his opponent and perfectly uses this moment to delocutionally reprimands her:

„Parce que franchement, pour etre president de la Republique il faut etre calme.”
[Because frankly speaking, to be a president of the Republic one Has to remain calm.]

And use a replica (looking perfectly innocent) addressed to the audience, because consisting with form MADAME ROYAL in reference function:

„Je ne sais pas pourquoi MADAME ROYAL s’enerve…”
[I don’t know why madam Royal/MADAME ROYAL is getting so nervous…]

Directly after this expression, so in reactive, automatic answer, Segolene Royal uses an appropriate equivalent form:

„Je ne m’enerve pas MONSIEUR SARKOZY.”
[„I am not getting nervous, *mister Sarkozy/MONSIEUR SARKOZY].

It is an evident self-defense reaction, strengthened by distancing FA, used to rescuing an image of a politician with a character after evoking emotional re action by the opponent.

Lack of appellatives in the discourse between Segolene Royal and the choice of the VOUS form in signalizing referring to the interlocutor are a sign of willingness to maintain a level and neutral status between the members of the communication act. The female candidate for the president consequently (though ineffectively) wants to be treated like a partner in a dialogue – as a politician, not as a woman. She shows herself as a fierce opponent in battle, wanting to create this way an image of a leader. By using the forms of MONSIEUR, especially in polite phrase function and MONSIEUR + SURNAME as an answer to the forms used by the opponent would be equal to accepting her partner’s interaction of relation and communicative strategy. She couldn’t have agreed to show herself as weaker and passive – showing the characteristics of a female stereotype.


During Polish residential campaign in 2005 Janusz Korwin-Mikke used a rhetorical strategy consisting with using gender marked FA, when he was debating with Henryka Bochniarz and Jarosław Kalinowski (TVP 1, 5.10.2005)3. The strategy was more visible because the politician was addressing his female and male opponents asymmetrically. According to Polish language etiquette when addressing people performing important public roles or when speaking about them, one should use their function titles (Marcjanik 2007: 45).

This is the very way the moderator of the debate, Kamil Durczok, addresses the invited politicians (Madam Chairman – to Henryka Bochniarz, Mister Chairman – to Janusz Korwin-Mikke and Mister Chairman do J. Kalinowski). In interactions between themselves both of the politicians who are main rivals in this debate, don’t use these obligatory forms at all (for MADAM/MISTER + TITLE), what can be read as depreciation by deprivation of the title (Łaziński 2006: 91-92). Henryka Bochniarz addresses her rival with neutral form of MISTER as a form of address and form of MISTER + NAME + SURNAME in a referring function. This last form on account of polemical context where it happens appears to have a deliberate worth in depreciation, especially in contrast to the polite form MISTER + TITLE used in the same sentence referring to Kamil Durczok: “I will not be referring, MISTER EDITOR, to exotic ideas of MISTER JANUSZ KORWIN-MIKKE, because we accustomed to them a long time ago”. Her political opponent ostensibly uses similar forms: MADAM (3 times) and WOULD YOU MADAM(1 time) as an address function and MADAM + SURNAME (3 times) as a referring function, but his depreciating strategy is not based on only taking away the rival’s function title, but also on using a female form of a surname BOCHNIARZOWA4:

K.D. to J. K.-M.: (…) What result will it be this year, MISTER KALINOWSKI?
J. K.-M.: It’s hard to say, mmm… one important thing is is using [the voters’ support], because to this moment OBOP on behalf of television gave us 0,3 %, what was a lie and will end in a court. At his very moment I have a support ten times higher than MADAM BOCHNIARZOWA, what is really optimistic and…
H. B.: Interesting. How come MISTER KALINOWSKI knows it?
J. K.-M.: Today’s polls, MADAM, exactly from today. What is very optimistic, because all the invested money and 80 times more time in television, which MADAM BOCHNIARZOWA had, it appears that this is not a decisive point, it’s the people, they are somewhat thinking.

It is observed in contemporary Polish language, besides some environments, the disappearance of female endings of surnames like owa/-owna or -ina/-anka, what is connected by the philologists with their possessive character. These forms carry “marks of male possesivity” (Handke 2008: 153-154) and are describing a woman in relation to a man – „the owner” and pointing out her marital status (Jadacka 2007: 130). Similar to the French debate form BOCHNIARZOWA is a subtle way of ad personam attack, which is aimed at undermining the candidate credibility, moving the accent from her public role in presidential campaign to the private role of her husband’s wife.

In the same time, from the very beginning of the debate, Janusz Korwin-Mikke is very polite to his opponent (Marcjanik 2009: 18) – he kisses her hand in a greeting (J. Kalinowski greets H. Bochniarz with a neutral handshake) and assures her priority over other candidates when they start answering the first questions at the same time (“It means… Madam wanted? Please, go on, madam”). The political constructs in this way his image of a gentleman and a conservative politician deeply attached to prewar traditions (Łaziński 2006: 277), emphasizing in the same time that above all Henryka Bochniarz is a woman.

This kind of strategy fully shows its perverse nature in the first sequence of the debate concerning the low support gained by both the candidates. When Kamil Durczok, commenting on low results of Henryka Bochniarz in prevoting polls, he asks the candidate ”Have you, madam, made some mistakes or the people are not yet ready for a female president?” Janusz Korwin-Mikke interrupts with “No, I think it has nothing about being a woman”


Equally interesting strategies of using FA as a rhetorical measure could be observed in two presidential debates between Lech Kaczyński and Donald Tusk which took place before the first voting session on 7th of October and before the 2nd session on 21st of October of 2005.

The way of both the politicians address each other was worth researching from the very beginning. The candidates knew each other from the times of Solidarity and were using their names in private, were gradually enhancing the distance in their public interactions, changing (asymmetrically) from the “you” relation to the “mister” relation. According to M. Łazinski (2006: 93) the evolution of communicative style of both the politicians can be interpreted in twosome way – as a way of adapting to the rules of communication present in official contacts or as a sign of cooling in the relation, maybe even aggression.

The most probable thesis of „polite distance” however doubted the speeches of the candidates, as this one, from Lech Kaczyński to Donald Tusk Turing the debate in „Gazeta Wyborcza”: „You start to call me „Mister” when you are being impolite” (Łaziński 2006: 93). It appears that one should risk a third thesis – a skillful juggling of official and unofficial forms of address is also a rhetorical measure that can modulate the tone of interaction and create the image of the candidates. During television debates FA were used many times in this very function… Both debates differed on the basis of structure of interaction. During the first one the candidates could only answer the questions asked by the journalists, but they could engage in polemics with each other. During the second one the questions were asked by both the journalists and the candidates and the latter had the possibility to answer the opponent.

The scenario of the second debate gave the politicians more occasions to directly address each other what resulted in higher number of used FA (see tables 3 and 4 below). Both prevoting battles were different also with the general tone of politicians’ statements – offensive and polemical during the first debate, calm and balanced during the second one.

Similarly to the interaction between Henryka Bochniarz and Janusz Korwin-Mikke the recommended by language etiquette form of MISTER + TITLE rarely show in the speech acts of the candidates. During the first debate only Donald Tusk uses once the forms of MISTER PRESIDENT and MISTER PRESIDENT OF WARSAW. During the second debate Lech Kaczyński once addresses Donald Tusk by using the official form of “MISTER MARSHALL. The dominant turn in sentences of both the politicians is a neutral form of MISTER, being in position of integrated with syntax of the verb in 3rd person of singular form or used as analytical vocative “Would you like to, Mister” in replies of Lech Kaczyński. The candidates used also the indirect form between MISTER and YOU or the form of MISTER + NAME in a vocative (MISTER DONALD, MISTER LECH) and during the first presidential debate Donald Tusk was using also the hypocoristic form of his opponent’s name MISTER LESZEK. During the same debate the spectators heard the form of “DROGI DONALDZIE” (DEAR DONALD). The frequency of abovementioned forms is listed below.

Lech Kaczyński Donald Tusk
PAN Mister (position integrated) 38 PAN Mister (position integrated) 27
FA f FA f
PROSZĘ PANA (Would you like to, Mister) 1
PANIE PREZYDENCIE 1 (Mister President)
PANIE PREZYDENCIE WARSZAWY 1 (Mister President of Warsaw)
(Mister Donald)
(Mister Lech)
(Mister… FA unfinished) 1
(Mister Leszek) 4
(Dear Donald)












Table 3. FA (appellatives) and the frequency of their using (f) in expressions of LK and DT During the first presidential debate on 7.10.2005.

Lech Kaczyński Donald Tusk
FA f FA f
PAN Mister (position integrated) 47 PAN Mister (positions integrated) 44
PROSZĘ PANA (Would you like to, Mister) 3
PANIE MARSZAŁKU (Mister Marshall) 1
PANIE DONALDZIE Mister Donald 3 PANIE LECHU Mister Lech 4






Table 4. FA (appellatives) and the frequency of their using (f) in sentences of LK and DT Turing the second residential debate on 21.10.2007.

The majority of the neutral form „MISTER” in replies of Lech Kaczyński and Donald Tusk is not an occidental one. This very form plays a very important part in constructing the image of both candidates thanks to its neutrality. Contradictory to functional titles is balances the symmetrical relation between the politicians, suggesting, that during the presidential campaign they are equally important candidates for the president independently on their functions. It is especially profitable to Donald Tusk, who can avoid the awkward (in the context of the debate) form „MISTER PRESIDENT „due to Lech Kaczyński because he was a President of Warsaw at the time.

When the PO candidate uses the last form during the debate on 7th of October, he does it not from the willingness to show him some respect but to emphasize his responsibility of irregularities that were discovered in the City Hall:

„This is not, MISTER PRESIDENT OF WARSAW, an auto-compliment, this is not an explanation, if you say that there are things happening in your office, things that you don’t know about”.

The second form, (MISTER) + NAME, possible because of common Solidarity background of both the candidates is more complexed a rhetorical measure. Both of the politicians use it as often as they can to soften the replies aiming at the positive image of the interlocutor, as the acts of caution and reprimand shown below, which are used to undermine the credibility of the opponent by the charge of making unreal promises (1) and verbal aggression (2).

  1. DT: „Przestrzegałbym PANIE LESZKU przed dawaniem Polakom obietnicy, że PAN jako Prezydent zbuduje 3 miliony mieszkań.” (7.10.2005)
    (I would like to warn you, MISTER LESZEK, not to give the Polish people the promise that YOU, as a president, will build 3 millions of apartments.)
  2. LK: „Ja bym prosił, żeby PAN nie używał tych przymiotnikow, PANIE DONALDZIE. Naprawdę PAN we wszystkich dyskusjach wykazuje straszną skłonność do używania rożnego rodzaju zwrotów pejoratywnych.” (7.10.2005)
    (And I would like you to not use all these adjectives, MISTER DONALD. You really, in all of these discussions, tend to use all types of pejoratives.)

FA used in abovementioned function can be followed by additional language marks of politeness, as it can be observed in the ostensibly polite form “DROGI DONALDZIE” (DEAR DONALD), which is used in the critical moment of the first debate. When a few days before the television battle of both the politicians Donald Tusk accuses the President of Warsaw of delimiting the subvention for Warsaw hospices, he accuses him of using the tragedy of terminally ill for political reasons. During the debate the PiS candidate gives his „respectful rival” a protestation letter of five hospices and accompanies it with a reprimand spoken with a protectoral tone „I Hope, DEAR DONALD that this will not happen again”.

Donald Tusk uses similar strategy in a reply which was used during the same debate on the health service report: „With all due respect to Mr. Lech Kaczyński and Mr. Jarosław Kaczyński, I have to say, MISTER LECH, that I would prefer the health of the Polish people was in hands of a professional, and not in hands of even the most skillful politicians, even if their name is BROTHER KACZYŃSKI”. This sentence, being ostensibly respectful to PiS leaders, is in fact an argument ad personam, because emphasizing the family bonds between both of the politicians consist a hidden suggestion that winning the presidency by Lech Kaczyński is in fact a risk of power monopoly. It’s a perfect example of ostensible, and in reality a kind of distancing politeness, which is generally claimed as characteristic for the Polish political discourse, especially in the parliament. (Marcjanik 2007: 111-112; Kowalski 2001: 85-91).

On the other hand, forms of PAN + (diminutive version) NAME are used in replies of conciliatory and/or humorous character, warming up for a little while tensed atmosphere between both the candidates. The example of such use of FA can be a playful reaction of Donald Tusk on the claim of one of the journalists, that both politicians are described in press as “pathologically hostile to Russia”. “In one case we’re pathological at the same moment, MISTER LESZEK, so it’s not so bad.” (7.10.2005). The strategy of shortening the distance between interlocutors by using ostensibly friendly FA, especially often used in expressions of Donald Tusk, whom Lech Kaczyński tries to show as a verbally aggressive opponent. Any strategy of warming up the relations between the politicians on side of PO leader is still a trial of warming up his own image, adding at the same time to his conciliatory way of doing politics some more points and it is a way to confront the style of Lech Kaczyński5. As it is presented in this article, although one can find many differences between Polish and French forms of address, in every debate the forms are used in the same way. Both the French and Polish politicians use them as a rhetorical measure to slightly depreciate the opponent, but hide it as an ostensible courtesy.


  1. FA analysis was done on the basis of the transcription of the debate made available by “Le Nouvel Observateur”: le/262014.pdf, supplemented by my own transcription based on video footage.
  2. Part of the examples was presented in the article entitled „Mister Donald, Monsieur Sarkozy… Forms of address in Polish and French political discourse and the image of the politician” presented on the conference “Language of the third millennium” in Cracow in March 2008. Text is being printed.
  3. The analysis of all Polish presidential debates is based on my own transcription of statements, which were based on videos available on
  4. One should mention that Janusz Korwin-Mikke is consequently using female suffixes in titles and names, even with foreign names, for ex ample Małgorzata Thatcherowa (Łaziński 2006: 277).
  5. The strategy of manipulating FA in rhetorical way was at the highest in the debate between Donald Tusk and Lech Kaczyński before the Parliament voting session in 2007. (TVP, 12.10.07). Tusk uses the form of „MISTER PRIME MINISTER, according to savoir-vivre when ad dressing the actual chief of the government and the latter uses a depreciation strategy by omitting the title (Łaziński2006: 91), and using unofficial form of MISTER DONALD. PO leader humorously pointed out the strategy “I’m happy you try to warm up the atmosphere, DEAR MISTER JAROSŁAW” and then comes the sequence of replies of both the candidates with forms of MISTER +NAME. Finally, when Jarosław Kaczyński, is thinking how to formulate the question, makes a pause after the initial MISTER, Donald Tusk catches the moment to laugh at the situation. His reaction irritates the prime minister, who asks “Because you don’t like the diminutive, right? Because, frankly speaking, I have no idea how to do it.” Both of the politicians start to use as many diminutives as they can and then comes the famous reply “Call me DONEK”. Donald Tusk succeeds in ridiculing the depreciation strategy of his opponent who at the same time loses his turn to ask additional questions (the journalist lets him to do it anyway).


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FAR 2011 No. 3 (26) July-September

Rhetoric and political polemics


Uniwersytet Warszawski
Katedra Italianistyki
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