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

Baby Language

For some reason baby equipment is an area in which American English differs markedly from British English. As well as learning how to care for a baby, we had to learn a whole new vocabulary! Fortunately we are now fluently bilingual, and I have compiled a handy US-UK baby dictionary for you. Diaper n. Nappy Mom says if you can read this change my diaper. The first time you change one of these you will be all thumbs and stick the little adhesive tabs to yourself, the baby and probably the changing mat before you get them where they ought to go. A few years later you will be able to lasso a running toddler and change them before they even know what's happened (yes, I have seen it done). You will also get through more diapers than you ever thought possible, creating scary amounts of expense and waste. Hence we are now mostly using: Cloth diaper n. Reusable nappy Cool baby. No longer those terry squares, the main drawback is that there are now so many types it can be qu

our new apartment

Moving was a slightly surreal experience given that our new place looks almost exactly the same as the old one, except for being a different layout. That's what you get for living in a throw-'em-up-and-pack-'em-in apartment complex I guess - albeit a very nice one. So, entering apartment 433: To your right is the master bedroom: with en-suite bathroom: and looking back, from your left, that's a walk-in closet, door to the hallway and door to the bathroom: Following the layout so far? OK, go back to the hallway and put your back to the front door again, and this time walk straight forwards into the sitting room: As you can see, ahead of you is the door to the balcony: for which I have grand plans for a herb garden and other plants. Leading off the living room is the dining area: and if you walk through that and round to your right you reach the kitchen: Go back through the living room again: and if you turn right (

Sand, slides and stepping stones

You will probably remember me blogging about Granbury and Dinosaur Valley State Park before - it's a favourite place of ours to take family when they come to visit, or just to hang out ourselves.  Normally we would just do a day trip down there, but this time we decided to make it a weekend. Maddy, Graham and Toby in Granbury Granbury town square was all dressed up for Christmas, with cowboy-hatted Christmas trees and wreaths in every window.  Anthony and Maddy picked up some Texas souvenirs in the stores and we ate lunch in our favourite 50's-themed diner, Rinky-Tinks, with a bit of Elvis on the juke box. In Rinky-Tinks Venturing outside the square for a change, we strolled along a pleasant street and found a park.  Standing in a playground for the afternoon would not previously have been high on our list of weekend-away activities, but having a one-year-old kinda changes your perspective on these things.  Toby discovered slides for the first time and went righ