On changing names - about as OT as you can get

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at Proffitt.com
Wed Mar 12 20:34:29 EST 2003


On Wed, 12 Mar 2003 20:57:56 -0000, Dorian E. Gray wrote:

>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 tend not to move in such elevated circles.  :)  Sure, a party is an
informal setting, and usually the person doing the introduction is someone I
do know well, so that's not a problem.  But I was talking about calling
someone I haven't been introduced to, or don't know well, and for me that's
a different situation.

This is really two separate things, actually: how I want people to behave
toward me, and how I feel I should behave toward others.  They're sort of
influenced by each other....

>> I consider it extremely rude behavior, and I hate it
>> when people do it to me (mistakenly thinking that it will make, for
>example,
>> 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.

I don't mind so much with the doctor (for the reason you cite), but I never
get the same clerks twice, so I don't know them at all and it feels very
random.  My frequent shopper card at the supermarket, when it's run through
the computer, brings up my name--which is how they know to use it.  It just
feels invasive, somehow.

>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".

I use Ms. too, especially since I'm often writing to people whose marital
status I don't know.  I don't think anyone's been offended by me using it,
and I personally wouldn't correct anyone who used it on me.  I think that's
a result of the academic environment, where Ms. really is neutral and
encouraged (even for married ladies).

Melissa Proffitt
(I sound so stuffy today, don't I?  Well, rest assured I don't know how to
use an oyster fork....)

-----
English doesn't borrow from other languages. English follows other languages down dark alleys, hits them over the head and goes through their pockets for loose vocabulary.

--
To unsubscribe, email dwj-request at suberic.net with the body "unsubscribe".
Visit the archives at http://suberic.net/dwj/list/



More information about the Dwj mailing list