Probably the most frequent use of this term is in various parts of Britain, where working-class men use it to address another man, usually one who is unknown to them. In his book The Cockney, Julian Franklyn writes:
   ‘Guv’ner’, generally so written but rarely so pronounced, expresses a measure of respect, but none of servility. Cockneys of equal status will address each other so at times of slight distance, as, for example. during an argument that is not quite an altercation: ‘Scuse me, gubner, wasn’t I in front o’ year?’ ‘No, gunner - I don’t recon you was.’ ‘Scuse me, gubner - I was, this ‘ere laidy o’n tell yeh…’ Franklyn says that ‘the pronunciation varies: gubner, gunner, gumner, and as often as not, in simple abbreviation, guv.’ Perhaps the safest thing to say is that the pronunciation varies with the speaker, but most men so addressed are well aware that ‘governor’ is meant. As for the written form, it is ‘guv’nor’, for instance, in D.H.Lawrence’s Women in Love, when a working-class man uses it to a middle-class stranger. In Pygmalion, where Doolittle addresses Professor Higgins by this term, the spelling is giver. in full as ‘Governor’. Doolittle at one point uses ‘Governors both’ when speaking to Higgins and Pickering. Franklyn thinks the term is in no way a servile one, but it is frequently used in what is meant to be a flattering way to someone who will be asked for some spare change. London taxi-drivers are also likely to use ‘Guv’ to male customers, avoiding the far more obvious servility of ‘sir’ or some such term.
   In The Pickwick Papers, by Charles Dickens, Sam Weller calls a strange man ‘Governor’, equating it with ‘old fellow’ and ‘old ‘un’. He also uses the term to address his father, which was common nineteenth-century usage, albeit at a social level above that of the Wellers. This middle-class family usage was also prevalent in the USA until at least the 1920s. An American Tragedy, by Thomas Dreiser, has Gilbert Griffiths addressing his father in this way. ‘Governor’ is also used on occasion as a synonym for ‘boss’, or ‘chief’. Ngaio Marsh comments on a special theatrical use in Opening Night: ‘as yet she had found no label for Poole, unless it was the old-fashioned one of “Governor”, which pleased her by its vicarious association with the days of the Victorian actormanagers.’ British policemen are likely to address their superior officers as ‘guv’nor’ or ‘guv’, especially if they regularly work together as a team. In the USA ‘Governor’ can be a title of considerable status when used, for example, to the governor of a state. There are many examples of such usage in Face to Face, by Edward A.Rogers.

A dictionary of epithets and terms of address . . 2015.

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