misplaced respectfulness

thetazuo

Senior Member
Chinese - China
I therefore set about thinking of some witty reply; some statement which would still be safely inoffensive in the event of my having misjudged the situation. After a moment or two, I said:
‘More like swallows than crows, I would have said, sir. From the migratory aspect.’ And I followed this with a suitably modest smile to indicate without ambiguity that I had made a witticism, since I did not wish Mr Farraday to restrain any spontaneous mirth he felt out of a misplaced respectfulness.

The Remains of the Day
Kazuo Ishiguro

Hi. The speaker is working as a butler for his employer, Mr Farraday, who likes to banter with the speaker. However, the speaker is awkward with such banters but determines one day to try some witticism with his master.
What does “misplaced respectfulness” mean here?
Thank you.
 
  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It means an incorrectly judged feeling that you should not do a certain thing (in this case, laugh at a servant’s joke), out of respect for that person. Basically, the butler is trying to encourage his boss to laugh at the remark.
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    It means an incorrectly judged feeling that you should not do a certain thing (in this case, laugh at a servant’s joke), out of respect for that person. Basically, the butler is trying to encourage his boss to laugh at the remark.
    Thank you. So by the underlined part, do you mean “out of the boss’s respect for the butler”?
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Thank you again, lb.
    So what does “misplaced” mean exactly here? “bestowed unadvisedly”?
     

    Barque

    Senior Member
    Tamil
    I take "respectfulness" as meaning "courtesy". The butler thought Faraday might not realise it was meant as a joke, might find it funny however and restrain his laughter thinking the butler might feel he was being mocked for his choice of words. He wanted to let Faraday know it was meant to elicit laughter.

    "Misplaced" here means "unnecessary" or "out-of-place".
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Thank you both.
    So would it make sense if I replace “respectfulness” with “respect” here?
     
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