Thursday, July 10, 2014

You Called Me, What?

I thought oldsters were overreacting when they moaned about the way many of today's younger adults address their elders. That was before a recent trip to my credit union.

I may be cute, but I'm not your honey
A clerk I had never met called me "Honey," "Dearie," and "Hon" all in the same brief conversation. I was appalled and amazed, but not amused. In a flash I came to understand the feelings of my fellow fully mature adults who launch rants about having these labels hung on them by strangers. Waitresses seem to be the principal offenders, perhaps mistakenly believing the unjustified familiarity will result in bigger tips. If they think that, they are wrong.

It should not be difficult for juniors to use more respectful tried and true salutations when speaking to older people. "Ma'am" seems acceptable for older women. I feel good about a "Sir" applied to my geezerly presence. A snappy salute also would be nice, but that would be overkill and is not recommended.

While waiting for respect to return to polite discourse, which may be a long wait, I'm planning a counterattack. However, so far it's a tough decision whether to respond to unwanted terms of endearment with "Darling" or with "Sweetheart."


Tom Sightings said...

I occasionally get "young man" -- not quite sure how to take that. Actually, I kind of like the idea of the salute.

jhawk23 said...

Around where I live it seems the servers are far more interested in telling me what to call them ("I'm Jennifer." "I'm Farouk."). In fact, they seldom call me anything at all. Which works for me!

Marc Leavitt said...


I wrote a poem on the same subject, which I posted on March 24, entitled, "Greetings and Salutations."

I had words with a kid at a convenience store awhile back.

When I approached the counter to pay, he said, "Hey, what's happenin', dude?" (He had waited on me once or twice before, and presumed, based on that, that he could be familiar with me).

I looked at him, and said, "Who do you think you are, calling someone like me, 'dude'?"

He was taken aback, and asked me, "What do you want me to call you, 'sir'?"

I said, "Yes. Call me sir."


Anonymous said...

Welcome to old age. Mostly, it's female service people who use these honeyed phrases...on older gentlemen. Move south and everyone becomes honey!

Alan G said...

When I was younger I obviously gave such things little thought although I was taught to respect my elders and I did so diligently my entire life. But it wasn't until I had retired some ten years ago that I became acutely aware of some egg shells that I myself had been apparently walking upon.

Tom has already mentioned the term "young man" and its associate term, "young lady", is the term that originally dropped this discussion on my doorstep.

I’m not an authority on the subject but addressing an older person with “young man/young lady” in the southern part of the United States has always been considered “term of endearment” in my opinion. Although I do have to say that I have just assumed that stance based on having heard the term used often in various social situations. After retiring and taking up blogging as a past time I got a rude awakening with regard to the term. I initially reacted quite angrily and attributed the complaints directed at the term to ‘political correctness having run amuck but I really don’t have a clue. I still don’t seem to recognize the perceived offensiveness of its use but nevertheless after hearing the rants I have been privileged to have heard regarding its use on certain blogs, I now avoid the term like the “n-word” and I say that in all seriousness. Perhaps someday it will finally register…

But… on the other hand like you Dick, I find being addressed with a “honey, dearie or darling” extremely aggravating at my age. It just seems so condescending to me, not to mention outwardly and blatantly disrespectful. If men or women feel that same way when being addressed with ‘young man/young lady’ I sincerely apologize for all my past transgressions.

Dick Klade said...

I think there are some regional, and perhaps organizational,aspects to this. My experience in the south is limited, but if it is common to call all sorts of folks "honey," then it wouldn't bother me at all.

It was common in the West among U.S. Forest Service men to greet each other with "Hi, young man" or "Hello, young fella." The older men never were offended when greeted that way.

Seems here, as in many places, there can be "different strokes for different folks."

In the U.S. military, "The Old Man" commonly is the commanding officer, and subordinates certainly were not trying to offend the boss with that title!

PiedType said...

Having spent most of my life in Oklahoma City, I'm quite used to hearing "hon" and "honey" from waitresses. That's pure southern hospitality. And country, too. And that's the way I usually interpret it. (Admittedly if I were male, I might not hear it the same way.)

Off hand I don't recall a time when I was addressed in such a way that I took offense or interpreted it as a form of ageism. Maybe I'm just oblivious. Or naive. Or both. But yes, I was raised to use "sir" and "ma'am," to such an extent that I still slip into it when addressing authority figures.

Dick Klade said...

I often call people much younger than I "Sir" or "Ma'am." Sometimes they are surprised, but not often. I think respect should cross age lines.