To what do I owe this honor?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by PBMS, Sep 12, 2006.

  1. PBMS Member

    Chinese, Taiwan
    Hello everyone!!

    What does 'to what do I owe this honor' mean?

    When I come across these phrases, I often cannot understand their meanings.

    Please help me. Thank you in advance.
  2. konungursvia Banned

    Canada (English)
    It means "What is the reason I am now able to enjoy this privilege?" which is polite for "why are you here?"
  3. mgarizona

    mgarizona Senior Member

    Phoenix, AZ
    US - American English
    It is usually used sarcastically. When someone you have no desire to see accosts you, you can say "to what do I own the honor?" Your words suggest that you are honored to have this person deign to speak to you, but your meaning is entirely the opposite.
  4. Orientalmedix New Member

    Does this sentense include sarcastic meaning??

    "to what do I owe this honor, my Lord"

    I translate this word 'Lord' as 'the God' and 'honor' to 'glory'.

    Can I do that?

    ^______^ If possible, let me know.. ^^
  5. TropicalMontana Senior Member

    American English
    This is a flowery expression left over from a more chivalrous era. It is a way of asking "what brings you here?" while at the same time paying a compliment to the person (that you are honored by their presence).

    In the case where the phrase includes "my Lord" it would have most likely been spoken by someone of lower class/caste speaking to someone higher.

    I believe that in this specific example there is NO sarcasm. The "my Lord" part seems to indicate respect.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 9, 2009
  6. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I wouldn't say "usually." I often use this expression in a playfully humorous kind of way, when I see someone I haven't seen in a while or wasn't expecting to see. Archaic or flowery language is commonly used among friends for humorous effect.
  7. We could do with more context, please, Orientalmedix. Subject to that, I don't think it has anything to do with God.

    "My Lord" is a very formal form of address for a member of the nobility. In the UK, Canada (I think), Australia, New Zealand and maybe some other former British colonies, it is also used as the form of address for very senior judges.

    I suspect the passage has an older context. I can imagine "To what do I owe this honour, my Lord?" being said by a servant to a high-ranking master, upon being given some special favour.

    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 9, 2009
  8. liliput

    liliput Senior Member

    U.K. English
    Without CONTEXT we can't say exactly what is meant by Lord - it could be a judge, a member of the House of Lords, a Viscount, Earl or Baron. Or it could be being used jokingly, as has been suggested. It's unlikely that the speaker is talking to God though.

    Honour (honor in AE) would be better interpreted as "thing that brings credit" or "a thing conferred as distinction".

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