Edited: I wonder in modern English what we can say prior to uttering something that might sound offensive or disapproving to the person/people you're talking to?

I know two phrases:

  1. Saving your presence, .... [continue of speech]
  2. Saving your reverence, .... [continue of speech]

As far as I am concerned, they both mean "with all due respect" or "no offense intended" or "pardon the expression." They are a placatory and deferential expressions and are very, very old-fashioned.

Can we say:

You are excepted.


The present company excepted.

I wonder what would a polite person say in both formal / informal situations?

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    Collins dictionary lists saving your reverence (also ...presence, reverence's presence) as archaic. It would be more normal today to just say if you will excuse / forgive me - or more idiomatically / informally, Pardon my French (before or after using taboo words). Jun 19, 2019 at 16:30
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    @Andrew: It's neither. But I'm not quite sure exactly how the usage arose (it was common enough at the time for Shakespeare to incorporate it in wordplay). I may be wrong, but I think it was primarily used to apologize specifically for using taboo words - rather than, for example, simply saying something which might be perceived as insulting or critical of whoever you're talking to. Jun 19, 2019 at 16:34
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    (Outraged palace flunkey: How dare you break wind before the Queen! Apologetic flatulent royal garden party guest: I'm sorry. I didn't know it was her turn.) Jun 19, 2019 at 16:46
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    @A-friend I think you answer your own question. "With all due respect" or "no offense" are just fine. "Present company excepted" is different, as it means "excluding those here with me". It's used when making a disparaging comment about a group which may include those present.
    – Andrew
    Jun 19, 2019 at 16:57
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    @A-friend, I think you meant to say "when you are talking to your classmate at the university and referring to" (not "addressing") some other people. If so, in that situation you could say "all the guys at school are idiots, present company excepted." If you wanted to be less formal, you could say "all the guys at school are idiots – except you, of course" or "…except us, of course." "Excuse my French" wouldn't work, and "if you'll permit me" and the others could make sense but mean something other than what you seem to intend.
    – Nanigashi
    Jun 19, 2019 at 20:11

1 Answer 1


"Saving your reverence" was specifically an apology for using taboo language in front of a high-ranking priest, and the other similar forms were for using such language in front of some other person who might be supposed to be especially offended. I recall it being used in novels from the 1920s, and put in the mouth of a character with rather old-fashioned speech even there. I don't recall any more recent use.

The phrase "present company excepted" is an apology for saying something negative that might apply to someone present. For example, if someone said 'It is well known that most people named David are lazy" and then looked around and noticed that I was present, that person might say "present company excepted."

"pardon my French" means "I just used unacceptable language, but please don't be offended". I advise against ever using it, for several reasons. First of all, anyone who is in fact French, or has a french heritage, may well be offended. Send, it is a cliche, and rather tired. Third, and most important, if you feel a need to apologize for using the language, don't use it. If you think it is really acceptable, there should be no need to apologize for it.

I recall a column/essay from Judith Martin, writing as "Miss Manners", back in the 1990s, making that third point. She advised that a person should decide whether or not it was OK to use "shocking" or profane language in a particular circumstance, but if it was, no apology should be needed. But the "Apologize then use" routine only calls attention to the situation, and indicates that the speaker isn't really comfortable with the language either. I agree.

  • Thank you @David Siegel, but as you said "pardon my French" means "I just used unacceptable language, but please don't be offended". Does it mean that you can use it only "after" using bad language or you can use it "before" it too? The same goes for "present company excepted".
    – A-friend
    Jun 20, 2019 at 16:07
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    @A- "Pardon my french" is sometimes used just after, and sometimes just before, the questionable language. "Present company excepted" is i think more often used after. Jun 20, 2019 at 16:26

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