May 24, 2005

Name That Grown-Up

My pal Marjorie, writing over at Chocolate and Peanut Butter, asks the question: how should your child's friends or friends' children address you?

Personally, I detest the practice of children calling adults by their given names on the grounds that children should not be overly familiar with adults but instead should maintain a degree of respectful formality. The major exception that comes to mind is the case of very close non-family connections - God-children and/or children of long-time friends - who may address me as "Uncle Robbo" or "Uncle Llama". But for ordinary friends of the Llama-ettes, it's strictly "Mr. Llama" for me or, if I actually know the kid, "Mr. L" will do. (I believe that the Missus' class at school generally refers to her as "Mrs. L".)

I've also been called "Llama-ette's Dad" by some of their little friends, which I don't mind, especially as it is only the younger ones who do this.

Conversely, we do not encourage the Llama-ettes to familiarity with other adults, but instead instruct them to address grown ups as "Mr., Mrs. or Ms. So-and-So". We do this even when other adults have invited the girls to address them by their first names. To my knowledge, this has never caused trouble with anybody else, almost all of whom have respected our wishes to preserve this particular formality, even when they don't actually approve of it themselves. The sole minor exception that I can think of regarding this practice has to do with a pair of women at church, one of whom runs the youth programs and the other of whom does a lot of musical work with the kids. They are uniformely known as "Miss Lisa" and "Miss Ashley". I don't interfere with this practice.

As an aside, it is only when she is really trying to bait me that my seven year old starts calling me "Robert".

Posted by Robert at May 24, 2005 05:07 PM

I don't want any kids referring to me by my first name alone, and I don't let my children call other adults by first name, but we fall in between though with the Mr. First Name or Miss First Name. I kind of like being Miss Jordana.

Posted by: Jordana at May 24, 2005 05:48 PM

My boss's boys call me Miss Denise, but they're the exception. Usually I'm lucky if kids are even as formal as 'hey, you' :)

Posted by: Ith at May 24, 2005 06:40 PM

It is still commonplace in my area of the south for adults to be called Miss Jane or Mr. John by children. Very few of the children I am acquainted with use first names only.

Posted by: MIna at May 25, 2005 11:06 AM

Here in South Georgia the form of address is "Mr. or Miss. (insert first name here)". Seems to work well. Thus, I'm "Mr. Alex" to my friends children; a nice mix of formality and familiarity.

Posted by: Alex at May 25, 2005 11:10 AM

Yes, that's very much a Southern thing - to my knowledge, nobody up North does it. [Insert your own cultural anthropology theories here.] As I mention, we use it in a couple of special cases here where there is some particular direct bond between the child and the adult. But I don't think any kids around here would use it to address the parent of one of their friends if there was not some other kind of connection as well.

Posted by: Robert the LB at May 25, 2005 11:17 AM

Typically, "Mr. Colossus". Encouraging more familiarity than that is wrong.

"Your Grace" and "Eminence" also work for me. Direct questions may also be answered with "Sir, yes, sir".

Posted by: The Colossus at May 25, 2005 11:27 AM
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