After my diatribe on French inheritance laws – https://vivnada.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/french-inheritance-laws-a-rant/ I wrote one of those smarmy pleas to President Sarkozy – in French, correspondence of all kinds is hedged about with long-winded conventions. You must address him as Monsieur le Président de la République” and conclude with Veuillez agréer, Monsieur le Président de la République, l’expression de mes sentiments très respectueux. Roughly translated this means Please accept, mister president of the republic, this expression of my very respectful sentiments. None of the simple Dear Sir, Yours faithfully stuff of writing a letter in English. I have a fat book called “Le Savoir Ecrire” (How to write letters) which is mind-bogglingly complicated on these styles of address. However, thanks to this letter-writer’s bible, I know that my plea was at least phrased in all the correct terms.
Yesterday, I received a reply from the Chef de Cabinet du Président de la République, which, roughly translated says Dear Madame, The President of the Republic has well received your letter and has confided to me the care of replying to you. I can assure you that he has taken knowledge with attention of your preoccupations before signalling them to the Guard of the Seals, and the Minister of Justice and Liberties. I ask you to agree, dear Madame, the expression of my homages.
Dear Madame seems so much less intimate and cosy than “Chère Madame”!