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Published Date: May 25, 2011

Published Date: May 25, 2011

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What’s (NOT) in a Name?

How does the man address the young woman who waits on him at the hardware store? “Kiddo.”

What does the male lawn worker say when the lady of the house pays him? “Thanks, hon.”

How does the fellow ask for directions? “Sweetie, can you tell me . . .?

I am appalled!

I have actually heard all these interchanges—or experienced them. There is something wrong with this picture! Maybe the man involved really doesn’t know how to address a woman or summon her attention when he doesn’t know her name. “Ma’am” is acceptable, and one doesn’t usually go wrong with that term; perhaps even “miss” is okay if the woman is quite young. However, some women don’t like being called “ma’am,” supposing that is only for the matronly. And some women dislike “miss,” especially if they are gray-haired gentlewomen. What is a poor fellow to do?

It seems to me that the real problem lies in a lack of respect. While a man may be trying to be warm and friendly, these designations are no substitute for the genuine dignity women deserve. That does not mean cold or stiff conversations, but look at it this way: Would a man call another man “kiddo” or “hon” or maybe “buddy” (probably not sweetie”!) No, I don’t think so; it’s just too lacking in appropriate respect for the other. Men as well as women deserve a certain dignity.

Many situations can be handled courteously with no name at all. “Good morning,” to the clerk. “Thank you very much,” to the person who pays for the job. “Can you tell me, please . . .?” to ask in what direction to go.

Or was I just raised peculiarly and “kiddo” and “hon” are all right everywhere but in my small world?