A Rose by Any Other Name

A couple of days ago, I watched this Momversation about the way children address adults, which contained an astounding number women at least a decade younger than I am, if not more holding forth about how kids addressing adults by their last name (e.g. Mrs. Smith, Mr. Jones) is an essential form of manners, of showing respect and something that they insist on from the kids’ friends, going so far as to link kids calling adults by their first names to not showing adults to respect they apparently deserve merely by the fact of being adult.

And I am gobsmacked.

I was born in 1962 and as a kid growing up, my generation called adults by first names and the familiar du instead of the more formal De (like French, German and many other languages, Danish has two versions of the word you), although there was a distinction made - people my grandparents age were addressed by Mrs. and Mr. last name and formal De, not necessarily because of their age, but because they grew up at a time where this was the way you did things and we respected that. Starting in grade 1, our teachers were addressed by first name and when I went to university, so were the professors there. Coming to Canada in 1982 when I was 20, I was flabbergasted by the level of formality - it was Mrs. This and Professor Such and Such and it's been one of the hardest things to get used to in this new country of mine (is it still ‘new’ if I’ve been here longer than I lived in Denmark?).

And here's the thing... looking back on my own childhood this informality did nothing to affect the level of respect paid to adults. Adults were respected automatically and come to think of it, everyone automatically received respect, regardless of age (until they proved that they didn't deserve it). The form of address absolutely nothing to do with the level of respect given and as Heather Armstrong says in that particular momversation mentioned, it's about teaching your kids how to interact appropriately with other people, including giving and showing respect and we're right back to manners again…

Because that's what it's about, isn't it? Manners give you a code of behaviour by which you navigate the world showing consideration for other human beings. Whether it’s not wearing a hat inside or chewing with your mouth open,. being polite (to everyone), helping to clear the table after dinner, filling up the gas tank when you borrow a friend’s car, knocking on the door before you enter a room or respecting the wisdom, experience or position of your doctor, your teacher, your friend's mother (etc., etc.), I don’t believe any of those are intrinsically linked to what type of address you use.

Your thoughts?

I will be on The Biggshow on Talk 820 tomorrow, November 3, at 1:30pm talking about living with RA.


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