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

Dove Valley Walk: Going round the bend

Somewhere between Marchington and Uttoxeter, the wiggles of the River Dove stop wiggling west to east, and start wiggling north to south. If it went in straight lines, it would make a right-angled bend. As I'm following the river upstream, this was my last section walking west. After this it's north to the Peak District and Dovedale. here the Dove swings north The main walk of this section was all on the south side of the river. But I also did a separate, shorter walk, to explore the village of Doveridge, and the old Dove Bridge which is tantalisingly glimpsed from the A50. Walk 1: Marchington to Uttoxeter I liked Marchington even more as I arrived there for the second time. I parked opposite the village shop - noting the "ice cream" sign outside for later - and near the brick-built St Peter's Church, with a war memorial built in above the door.  A few streets took me to the other side of the village, where I found a path alongside a stream, then across some hay m

San Antonio

San Antonio is towards the south of Texas and feels very much more Mexican than American. The balmy evenings, the colourful Mexican market, the architecture of the buildings, and the number of people speaking Spanish around us all added to the impression. The city, in fact, grew out of a Spanish mission and presidio (fort), built in 1718 as part of Spain's attempt to colonize and secure what was then the northern frontier of the colony of Mexico. Texas was then a buffer zone between Mexico and the French-held Louisiana, and Spain was keen to cement her hold on the area by introducing settlers and converting the natives to Catholicism and loyalty to the Spanish government. The missions in general had no great effect, but the San Antonio area was the exception to the rule, growing into an important city with five missions strung out along the San Antonio river. The first of these, San Antonio de Valero, later became well-known as the Alamo, where 182 Texans died in 1836

Lots of cooking

This week, I have mostly been creating enormous piles of washing up. I thought you'd prefer to see the clean stuff. Occasionally something edible escaped from the mounds of mess and made it to the table. I don't know why it turned into such a cooking week; we haven't been entertaining, and I didn't think I'd added too many new dishes to my weekly menu.  The main problem was that I made several things in advance, which spread out the cooking - and hence the washing up - across a much greater time and area. The star of the menu was undoubtedly the barbeque ribs.  I don't believe I've ever cooked ribs before, but I followed the recipe from Jamie Oliver's Save with Jamie , and they turned out - well, just like ribs should!  Soft and tender, and coated generously with a sweet and tangy glaze.  It's not in any way a difficult recipe - but like I said, it kind of spreeeaaads, until you feel like you've been dealing with these ribs for a very