Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Yours, truly

A bit of esoterica that I find interesting. Once all letters ended this way. “Yours Truly.” Even letters among friends. They shouldn’t have. I mean, if I’m a eighteenth century gent writing to one of my prep school buds (as if. How many black prep schools were there in the late 1700s?) I may have ended a letter that way. I shouldn’t have.

American Heritage Dictionary defines it as:
1. A closing formula for a letter, as in It was signed "Yours truly, Mary Smith." [Late 1700s]
2. I, me, myself, as in Jane sends her love, as does yours truly. [Colloquial; mid-1800s]

But that’s not what it ought to mean. Sincerely is much better, for this usage. Sincerely infers that all that proceeds has been heartfelt. “Yours truly” implies a promise, or ought to; “I am truly yours. I belong to you. You have but to claim me and I will be with you for all time. I am yours, truly, in every sense.” That’s what it ought to mean. Otherwise, it means less. At its core, Yours truly is indicative of giving, saying “I am yours, not only merely, not only colloquially, not only societally, or even physically, but truly.” Truly.

How often do we use this ending? Not often, which is likely a good thing. Not to give yourself away too easily is a lesson that’s hard learned. But how often should it be used might be a better question. The when is the key.

We don’t even write letters that much anymore, if at all. All correspondence is slowly sliding into the digital age, where records are transitory and somewhat depersonalized. This demands that the content be elevated in meaning, that what we write should compensate for the loss of the personal connection that would once have been communicated through the art of handwriting. We need to kick it up a notch, from time to time, to give our writing meaning, personality, and a sense of bonding beyond the standard.

And every once in a while, to someone who deserves it, someone for whom it is true, we should drop a note ending this way, to communicate that fundamental truth, that you are not merely your own. That you have given yourself, or an important, carefully considered part of yourself, to that other. That you are theirs, and hopefully, that they are yours. They are yours. Yours, truly.

1 comment:

Don Hudson said...

When I write postcards to my friends I end with 'Your Pal'. I like that.