In certain situations, you may be required to refer to somebody by an honorific or some respectful form of address.
In Japan, you may call an older coworker or classmate “Senpai.”
If you work at a grocery store, then it’s polite to refer to a male customer as “Sir.”
In a similar vein, it’s polite to precede someone’s last name with “Doctor” if they have any kind of doctorate.
If you’re catholic, then you would call your priest “Father.” If you follow another sect or another religion, then you would probably use a special form of address for the different ranks of that religion’s clergy.
Kings and queens still exist in a mostly ceremonial capacity throughout the world, and they should be referred to as “Your Excellency” or “Her Majesty.”
However, you would have a hard time finding someone who would expect you to refer to them as “my liege.” After all, feudalism is largely a thing of the past, so why would we ever use a feudal term today?
What Is the Meaning of “My Liege”
In feudal times, when speaking to their feudal superior, feudal vassals would refer to their overlord as “my liege.” A peasant would address the landowning knight or noble as “my liege.” A baron would address the king as “my liege” or “His Majesty.” Nowadays, feudalism is gone, but people still jokingly address each other as “my liege” to be sarcastic or show a humorous amount of respect. It’s both funny and ridiculous because the term is a long gone relic of the distant past, and it’s excessively formal for the modern day. As opposed to other honorifics, “my liege” and other honorifics that use “my” are not capitalized.
How to Use the Phrase “My Liege”
As mentioned above, “my liege” is such an over the top form of address that it is almost always used to express sarcasm or make someone laugh.
If someone is asking too much of you, then you could address them as “my liege” to indicate that they are being a little bit bossy. In the following example, Henry is paying Mort, his nephew, to do a few chores for him.
Henry: After you’ve finished scrubbing the floors, could you get me a bowl of ice cream, shovel the walkway, and grab me a soda?
Mort: Wow, you want me to do everything! Do you need anything else, my liege? Sometimes, people use this phrase with their friends when they’ve been watching medieval-themed shows or playing videogames set in a medieval era. This can be a playful way to joke around and make someone laugh.
Stella: My Game of Thrones Blu-ray set just came in. We should order a pizza.
Anne: I’ve already placed an order, my liege. Shall your subject pour us each a glass of champagne?
Stella: That sounds like a wonderful idea, m’lady.
In the example above, Anne and Stella are speaking like they live in feudal times because they are getting ready to watch a TV show that takes place in that setting.
In this way, they can act silly and share a laugh as they enjoy their time together. As shown in the above examples, this phrase is best used informally or when there is a familiar relationship between two people.
You should never use this phrase at work, with strangers, or in any serious setting. If you address your boss as “my liege,” then there is a very high chance that they’ll assume that you’re being sarcastic.
Bosses tend not to like sarcastic employees, so using such an antiquated form of address may create some unnecessary tension.
While you may think that it would be funny, you need your job to pay the bills, so a quick laugh isn’t worth the risk.
Whether you find it reasonable or not, many older people expect to be spoken to with respect.
There’s a good chance that a lot of older people won’t understand that term, but if they do, then they may think that you are taunting them.
If you don’t care about their feelings or the consequences of making them angry, then say whatever you want. Otherwise, you should just avoid this phrase.
The origin of the term “My Liege”
This term was first seen in the 14th century in England. During those times, England still operated under a feudal system. Feudalism is the system by which society was divided into peasants and different classes of landowners.
Each class, except for the king or emperor, would owe fealty to a higher class, and they would refer to their direct superior as “my liege” or another honorific.
When a peasant lived on a knight’s land, they would work the fields, give them the majority of their crop, and pay taxes in exchange for protection and a place to live.
Knights would owe their martial abilities to their lord or baron. Lords would owe soldiers and taxes to the duke or king. The king may be the person on top, or they might owe their armies and resources to an emperor.
People were legally bound to serve their liege, and failure to do so could result in strict punishments.
Thankfully, feudalism has almost entirely disappeared from the world, so you won’t be imprisoned for failing to call your landlord “my liege.”
“My liege” was often used in Shakespeare’s plays, and it has shown up in various books, plays, games, movies and other forms of literature and entertainment since that time.
It started to be used jokingly at some point in the 20th century. As more people began to remember the phrase, more people started to use it to make their friends laugh or express their dissatisfaction with a superior’s overbearing demands.
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