On changing names - about as OT as you can get

Dorian E. Gray israfel at eircom.net
Wed Mar 12 15:57:56 EST 2003

Sallyo said (to me)...

>> Blimey - remind me to never ring you up. I hate being snubbed... and I
>> really hate not knowing if a couple cohabiting are (a) married, but
>> using different surnames (b) unmarried and using different surnames or
>> (c) sharing a surname. It shouldn't matter, but as aforesaid - I don't
>> like to be snubbed and it happens if I get the wrong end of the stick. I
>> mean... several couples I know slightly may or may not be married... how
>> would I know, if they don't (a) display wedding pics or (b) tell me?

Ah, but if you were ringing me up, you'd ask for Dorian, and all would be
fine.  And really, if someone rings me and asks if I'm Mrs. Maher, it's
99.far-too-many-9s% certain that it's a telesales person.  *Everyone* else
who rings us is either a friend who just says Patrick or Dorian, or someone
like the dentist, who'll just ask for whichever us he/she wants without
bothering who the person who answered the phone is.

Melissa added...
> To me (and I feel the same as Sally on this) it's because when I call
> someone I don't know well, I will not refer to them by their first name
> unless I've been invited to, whether formally or through the course of
> becoming acquainted.

Well, obviously I don't know about where you are, but in the social circles
in which I move, a quotation from E. M. Delafield's "The Provincial Lady at
War" comes to mind:  "Nowadays you have to know someone terribly well before
you find out their surname!" (or words to that effect; I may have mangled it
slightly).  If, say, someone came along to a party and didn't know many
people, the introduction would go "Cathy, this is John, Sarah, Lisa, Steve,
Martin, Joe...guys, this is Cathy."

> I consider it extremely rude behavior, and I hate it
> when people do it to me (mistakenly thinking that it will make, for
> the doctor-patient relationship all buddy-buddy.  It just pisses me off).

Oddly enough, in principle I feel the same way, but in practice I don't mind
the bank clerk or the doctor calling me by my first name.  Possibly because
these are people that I do know slightly; I see them on a regular if not
necessarily frequent basis.  I *would* be very annoyed if some random
operator at the gas company did it, though.

> And if I get the person's marital status wrong, it's because I made a
> mistake or was misinformed, not because I was trying to be rude to them.
> if I get that kind of response, it feels like an overly sarcastic and
> undeserved snub.  And I hate that, especially if I'm already feeling bad
> about making the mistake in the first place.

Well, this is why I use the title Ms., both for myself and when speaking (or
writing) to a woman whose preference I don't know.  I know it's still
possible to annoy someone with that one, but I find it seems to be becoming
a more neutral term (here, anyway) - and if some stranger addressed me as
Ms. Maher I'd probably just say mildly "No, actually, it's Ms. Duncan".

Until the sky falls on our heads...

Dorian (trying to clarify).
Dorian E. Gray
israfel at eircom.net

"I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be
- O. Cromwell

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