Terms of endearment

13 Jul 2023

I heard someone talking about his elderly mother, let's call her Mary Smith. She was taken to A&E.

The young male doctor said "Mary, can you tell me where the pain is?" No answer. Tried again, same response. The female nurse tried "We need to know where it hurts my love". She was  still mute.

The son took them to one side "She thinks it's very disrespectful to be called by her first name, try saying Mrs Smith". They did, and she deigned to respond.

This was recounted as humorous, admirable "What a character". I could only think what a rude and irritating old bat she must be.

I expect she would claim that her age, sex, social class whatever somehow entitled her to a degree of respect, dignity. To me, respect is not a birthright, it is something earned, deserved. I am not someone with a strong need to be looked up to, which is just as well. I don't feel there is anything overly familiar if a stranger uses my first name, or an affectionate term. 

I know people who hate being asked "What can I get you guys?". They feel affronted if someone serving them says "Have a nice day, doing anything nice this evening..." Why? Given all the truly bad stuff we should get angry about, is this all they can find to criticise?

"We're not in America" they huff.

I love casual mateyness. I don't care if the waiter or shop assistant has been trained to say "Have a good evening" or whatever. Surely it's better than some of the alternatives. How many times I have been served by someone who has been either on their mobile or chatting to a colleague, taking my money and giving  a receipt without so much as a word or glance in my direction. Give me scripted good wishes any day.

The first time someone called me madam I felt an icy chill run through my bones. "This is how it begins Val" a voice whispered."You're not sweetheart or pet any more.”

I am intrigued by the regional versions of friendly address. I grew up near Birmingham. The black country was nearby, so " 'Ow am yer bab?" would be said to a female, and "All right chief?" to a man.

Spock gets called "mate", and lately the much younger men who serve him say chappie or buddy.

I like being called my lovely, sweetheart, darling. The latter is a word I use a lot for people and animals. I find it comes in very useful as I increasingly find it hard to recall names, and it covers all ages and sexes.

I have never forgotten a day years ago. I was so depressed I just wanted to stay in bed. I forced myself to go to the weekly market for vegetables. "How are you today my sweetheart" the trader asked, and that did it, tears filled my eyes. He was so kind, squeezed my hand, "You ok.me duck?"

Just those few words really shifted something, helped me get through another day.

So, my darlings, how do you prefer to be addressed? Are there any regional favourites to share with us?


A Moodscope member

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