Skip to main content

What did you just call me?

My name is Martha.  This is how I would introduce myself in almost every situation.  If more formality is called for, or I'm checking in for an appointment, I would add the surname: Hello, I'm Martha White.  Beyond those first exciting minutes of marriage, however, I cannot think of any scenario where I would introduce myself as Mrs White. 

Entirely gratuitous wedding photo
 Moreover, I could probably count on the fingers of one hand those that I have addressed in such a fashion over the last ten years or so.  Some of the more senior managers at work.  My obstetrician, if "Doctor" falls into the same category as Mr and Mrs.  Slightly unusually, the couple we bought our house from - at least for the first two or three meetings.

It is perhaps not surprising, then, that I had never given a thought to how Toby referred to adults.  We used our friends' first names; therefore he did, too.  At church, in our neighbourhood, even when he started preschool, no one differentiated between how they introduced themselves to us, the grown-ups, or him, the child.  Like me, they probably hardly ever think of themselves as a Mr or Mrs.  Unless, of course, they're a teacher - that final bastion of Mr-and-Mrs-dom.

Then the other day I was having a conversation with a friend about etiquette, and discussing those Southern American staples of courtesy - Sir / Ma'am, useful in so many situations (including, surprisingly, telling off your kids: "Stacey! No ma'am!"); and Miss / Mr Firstname, for anyone you feel needs little more respect than their first name alone might confer.  Growing up in Texas, my friend had had these conventions impressed on her since babyhood.  While we were there, we slipped relatively easily into the same usage.  But Toby, at that stage, was either non-existent or barely talking, and certainly unlikely to be hollering, "Hey!  Barbara!" at respectable old ladies.  It wasn't until we returned to England that he was likely to be using anyone's name when actually talking to them - and I realised that, if Mr and Mrs are dead, there is no polite British equivalent to those Texan terms.

I suppose the question is, does it matter?  I would never consider it to be a mark of disrespect if somebody used my first name, whatever age that somebody was - provided, of course, they weren't saying something rude to me!  Calling me Mrs White, on the other hand, would have me checking whether you were actually referring to me.  So for myself and most of my peers, it's a no-brainer.  I don't see any intrinsic benefit in perpetuating almost obsolete forms of address, purely for the sake of it.  Toby certainly comprehends the relationship between "Mrs Brown", "Lucy Brown" and "Lucy", but I don't think he would regard any of those as more polite, simply as different ways to refer to the same person.  As he encounters different situations, he will learn which are most appropriate, but I would hope, in this world of universal first names, that no one will consider him deliberately rude simply for using their given name.

Of course, I'm not giving up being called "Mum" any time soon.  Now that really is a title to be earned!

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Advent 2022

It's the first Sunday of Advent coming up, and for once I feel fairly well prepared! Of course, the proof is in the (Christmas) pudding - whether I actually do all this remains to be seen. If you haven't even thought about Advent yet, do grab an idea to join in with. None of them require any advance preparation except for downloading, printing or book ordering - and one of them doesn't even start until 20 December. Something to do I recently went to a Mindful Advent workshop, run by the lovely Stacey and Ella from Create and Connect . We spent a happy couple of hours folding origami envelopes to make our own Advent calendars, with a few mince pies to nibble as the November rain poured down outside. I'm filling my envelopes with a short activity for each day, a Bible verse from the Christmas story, and a tiny treat for each of us. Thinking of 24 different activities was harder than folding 24 origami envelopes! Mine range from "listen to your favourite Christmas car

Catching up

I know some of you appreciate the family news I post on here, so here's a quick summary of what each of us has been up to over the last couple of months. Toby - went to his first Cubs meeting on a night when they were eating hot dogs and marshmallows, loved it, and was very proudly invested as a member just before Christmas. - spends his spare time writing stories, designing vehicles, and playing Super Mario Bros. - has a large collection of beer bottle caps (any donations welcome, as his primary provider was an ex-work-colleague of Graham's). - plucked up courage to go on a zipwire at the playground, and discovered it was great fun. - enjoyed Lego, lots of books, penguin pajamas and a remote control car for Christmas. Theo - likes playing on the bikes and in the home corner at school. - is now right at home with phonics: "I can spell cat!  Cuh, Ah, Tuh."  He's also been telling us about digraphs, at which point Graha

Matcha Green Tea Cake Mix

Some blogs are full of posts which start: Recently, *big company* sent me three pairs of expensive shoes / five bars of delicious chocolate / a free holiday ... This is not one of those blogs. But, recently, a company so small I'm not sure it really exists yet sent me a free cake mix, on the condition that I filled in a survey about it and took a few photos.  Blogging about it was not a condition, but just in case the owner makes it to the big time, you heard it here first! So the Hope Makes It Easy Matcha Cake Mix popped through my letterbox on my birthday (good timing to start) and the rather pretty package sat on my counter for a few days until I'd assembled the ingredients.  Most cake mixes require a few extra ingredients, but this one needed milk, eggs and butter, plus cream and possibly white chocolate for the icing.  Not exactly all-inclusive.  On the plus side, it helpfully provided a cute origami cup for measuring the milk, a line to show you how much butter