Often when I am on a flight, nearly every sentence I hear from the flight attendants contains an unnecessary emphatic auxiliary in its main clause; that is, an altogether unnecessary do or unnecessary emphasis on other auxiliaries:

We do apologise for the delay, which was due to technical issues, but we will be taking off shortly, and we do hope you enjoy the flight. We do ask you to fasten you seatbelt now, and if you do have any questions, we do hope you won't hesitate to ask us.

What is the purpose of this constant emphasis? My guess is it's supposed to somehow elevate their language to a higher register, but why do flight attendants in particular seem so fond of this?

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    It's for emphasis. You will notice that the "do" is usually pronounced with additional emphasis. – Hot Licks Nov 28 '16 at 18:58
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    If you really do the things you do then do please do those thing you do. – SovereignSun Nov 28 '16 at 19:15
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    @HotLicks That's not quite it here. I've added british-english since this is an exclusively British usage (at least I've never come across it anywhere else). It is indeed specific to transportation: it's ubiquitous in airports, on flights, in train stations, on trains, on buses, on the tube, etc. It is the general emphasis pattern, but with the twist that it's being used non-emphatically; that is, the auxiliary is stressed, but there is no semantic emphasis. Almost every auxiliary is stressed in this ‘style’ (if you can call it that). It sounds quite bizarre. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 28 '16 at 19:35
  • @TomB I recognise the pattern you're talking about very well, and I've often wondered about it myself. It's a bit broader than just do, though, so I've taken the liberty of editing your question to describe the phenomenon in what I think is a more accurate way; if I've misunderstood or you disagree with my edit, please feel free to roll back to your version. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 28 '16 at 19:42
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    @JanusBahsJacquet - It's not exclusively British, but is exactly what one would expect from the stew's spiel at the start of a US plane flight. I suppose the British may overdo it a bit, but they don't have an exclusive license to it. – Hot Licks Nov 28 '16 at 20:53

The auxiliary verbs do and does can be used before a bare infinitive to add emphasis to a sentence. The fact that we're using the infinitive becomes more apparent in the third person.

If he does have any questions, he can ask the attendant.

If he has any questions, he can ask the attendant.

The words do and does are accented when spoken. This serves as a kind of auditory cue to pay close attention to the phrase that follows. A useful way of adding emphasis.

After reading Janus's explanation, it seems another question is why are there so many dos and accented helper words. I think this is because the flight attendant, who is talking over the speaker, has only a few things to say but wants to make sure each is understood. It's not a conversation, but rather a few announcements.

An analogy would be when someone presents information as a list. We use the words "first", "second", "third", or "next", "finally", etc. to create order and delineation. In the same way, the flight attendant is using stress and pitch to create delineation, by accenting certain helper words like do, will, etc.

  • Please see my edit to the question; it's not so much a matter of whether this is emphatic or not (it is, at least in its normal usage), but of why this particular style of speaking employs emphasis to such an extreme degree. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 28 '16 at 19:45
  • I wouldn't say it employs emphasis to an extreme degree. I think extreme emphasis would be, We really do apologize, or We do indeed apologize. But I like your suggestion about better explaining the mechanism of adding emphasis. – ktm5124 Nov 28 '16 at 20:17
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    The extremeness of the emphasis is not in the degree of emphasis, but in the amount: emphasising the verb in more or less every single sentence is fairly extreme as things go. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 28 '16 at 20:18
  • Oh, I think I see what you're saying, now. – ktm5124 Nov 28 '16 at 20:20
  • I don't particularly agree with the explanation about "an auditory cue to listen to what follows", nor do I think the flight attendant adds these words to help make sure they are understood. For some reason, airlines include this manner of speaking in the scripts they write for the attendants, and I would imagine there is a real business explanation for it in some handbook somewhere. Trying to sound more upper-class seems the most likely explanation to me, still. – Tom B Nov 29 '16 at 12:23

This is a form of coded speech endured by airline passengers in the US. Everyone who flies knows what it really means and is able to hear between the lines:

We don't give a damn about your schedule or comfort, but we want you to think that We do so we're going to pretend to apologise for the delay, which was due to the fact that we're understaffed and probably also because the pilot is hung over, but which we're pretending is due to technical issues, but we will be taking off in our own sweet time, which certainly won't be shortly, and we do hope you keep your complaints to yourself, as you certainly will not enjoy the flight. We do not think a seatbelt will be of any use during an emergency, but we're going to pretend otherwise as we ask you to fasten your seatbelt now, and if you do have any questions, we do hope you won't bother us. Our obvious attitude of contempt and disdain for you should suffice to make you hesitate to ask us anything.

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    Looks like you had a rough flight. My sympathies. – Cascabel Jul 27 at 20:32

protected by Andrew Leach Jul 27 at 20:17

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