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Aug 12

Sirprising

Posted on Tuesday, August 12, 2008 in Something to think about, Taxi driving

I believe that if you give respect, most of the time you’ll get it back, hopefully with tips!  I’m trying to teach this to my kids but there’s no way to explain this in pre-schoolspeak, so I lead by example.

The thing is, I’m having problems.  I came home after a work shift recently, exclaiming that men don’t like to be called ‘Sir’ anymore.

“You call them Sir?!” Xboxboy seemed more than surprised.

“Yes, if I don’t know their name, I’ll call them Sir.  Not all the time, just sometimes.”

“But you’re not below them!!!  Never call anybody Sir… it’s demeaning to everybody!”

“Eh?”

I don’t understand this, but it’s true.  Also, instead of calling my mechanic ‘Bert’, a few weeks ago I called him ‘Mr. Byrne’, and he was horrified.   He instantly exclaimed “Jeeeeesus stop!  Mr. Byrne is my father’s name!”.  This is a strangely common occurance among men of all ages… they evade chivalry as though it were an insult.  Did I miss something?

Can somebody please explain to me why ‘Chivalry is dead’, or ‘So-and-so is the last true gentleman’, or ‘Kids have no respect for their elders these days’ are all such common gripes of adults today when all they need to do is accept a bit of respect?

My kid is watching me and learning that the word ‘Sir’ evokes a similar reaction to the word ‘Shit’.  Such surprise and chastisement her mother gets!  Better not do that so.

So what do I do now?

Bring on the comments

  1. Maxi Cane says:

    I don’t think the Irish ever took to calling men Sir, or women Madam for that matter. I once worked for a catering company and you had to do it which made it feel even creepier.

    I was having a row with a customer who couldn’t understand that he was wrong and that was the end of it. He wanted to know my name for when he wrote up his complaint for the boss. I told him to refer to me as Sir. He wasn’t happy at all.

    Maybe it just pisses everybody off.

    Customers don’t want to be called Sir and they didn’t want to call me Sir either.

    Dunno K8, you got a real beard stroker there.

  2. Quickroute says:

    I don’t like Mr or Sir either – it’s too formal and makes me feel older than I am

  3. Granny says:

    At the village pharmacy we are called Mr. and missus and even though I asked to be called by my first name it’s not on!

  4. Sir, I only use in a jovial sense greeting an equal and wishing to ironically appear a prat (as opposed to just being a prat).

    Using Mr. X once a first name basis has been established is a withdrawl, it suggests the barriers of formality have been slammed down, usually as a consequence of a slight.

    I always use Mr. X with anyone older than me when respect should be shown and a rapport of some sort has not been established. Mrs is far more complex (I think) so I avoid using anything if possible (no, I don’t say “oi you”, “but excuse me”, or “sorry could I..” work just fine)

    Using Mr. X with someone who is providing you with a service is a grey area depending on the nature of the service, it can suggest that there is a social (class) distinction between you and Mr. X.

    Typically the language is associated with stratification of some kind, it is maintained in business for that reason, but in more general social intercourse it harks back to less equitable times in this day and age.

    (I just wanted to use the word intercourse, he he he)

  5. I say “Yes Sir” or “Yes Ma’am” and will continue to do so, regardless of where I live or whether people hate it or not. It is a form of respect. Admittedly, the very thought of being called “Sir” makes me feel old. I do not believe that calling someone “Sir” or “Madam” is demeaning to you or them.

    Many years ago I was at the top of the social ladder at work, yet I called people “Below” me “Sir” or “Ma’am”. It was due to my respect for my elders.

    Chivalry is not dead, it’s just hidden away like antique momentous in a decomposing trunk. It’s like people now days are ashamed of where they came from!? I don’t get it. It’s also like we have become so technologically advanced that we shouldn’t used those old words and ways of speaking. Bullox, I say! In my wee opinion, those “Peasants” of our past understood more about nature and the world around them than we ever will.

    Lovely post, Madam. :)

  6. Baino says:

    JD jumped in there, he’s the only person I know who uses “sir” and “ma’am”. (actually I find it quite endeering) I don’t think it has anything to do with being chivalrous or not, it’s just plain old fashioned. I’ll call elderly clients Mr or Mrs because they’re elderley and expect it but peers and juniors are called by their first name. One thing to always be careful of though is to call a Doctor Dr X . . they get very offended sometimes if you call them Mr! They have a degree you know and have sworn a special oath that makes them superior to most!

  7. K8 says:

    Maxi Cane; It does seem to piss everybody off, they all seem to think I’m taking the mick. Which I am, sometimes, in much the same way as you’ve said!

    Quickroute; But it’s meant to make you feel wiser, not older. What’s strange is that generally, gentlemen over the age of 80 are the only ones to accept these terms.

    Mammy; Ah but it could be worse, couldn’t it?! Around here they refer to me as ‘Yer Wan with the head’.

    Thriftcriminal; Excellently theorized!!! It’s a lot like the French and their Tu -vs- Vous. I strictly use the term for elders who are complete strangers, or elder relatives in front of younger relatives. They really should give us an updated alternative though I’ve no idea what that would be! Dude works well generally though, for both sexes.

    Jefferson; See? You’re a gentleman. It does children good to learn from a guy like yourself. It’s so strange how technology has supressed respect, they seeminly have absolutely nothing to do with each other.

    Baino; I called one of Laughingboy’s surgeons ‘Dr’ once, and got a rollicking for it!!! It’s Mr. to you, he told me. Nobody told me that extra qualifications revert you back to Mr. again! Can I never win?!?!

  8. I’m just happy if my name isn’t preceded by an expletive when I’m spoken to.

  9. I for one am a great fan of respect. Really. Especially with these young uns running around acting as if though their elders haven’t learned a thing or two in their time. Here, in the Washington DC area, you get two types. The military kind (and there are so many of them in Virginia) who all call everyone over 20 Sir and Mam. Then, you have the parents around here, who insist on the children calling them Mr John and Ms Tricia – which sounds ridiculous. I’ve just told my children to call everyone by Mr and Mrs and their surname..

    It gets very confusing doesn’t it? The only exception I have is hearing me called Mrs Moran – it makes me feel old, but I’m happy to put up with that for the sake of chivalry. You’re right though – if us parents don’t plant the seed then who will? :)

  10. Kelley says:

    Just call everyone ar$ehat or f**ker. That is what I do.

    Same reaction. More fun.

  11. Medbh says:

    I draw a firm distinction between possessing good manners and being chivalrous.
    Chivalry is when men are nice to you only because they think you are an indelicate inferior or they do it in an attempt to get laid.

  12. Nick says:

    I cringe when anyone calls me Sir, I just suspect them of trying to ingratiate themselves and get something out of me. Sir sounds like some remote authority figure who always ticks you off for something. Nothing like me at all, honest. And of course chivalry’s dead, all it means is patronising women and doing things for them because they’re weak and incapable.

  13. Jo says:

    No, no! It’s just trying to be polite to strangers when you have to call them something and don’t want to say, hey you!

    I”ve been doing it since I went to the States, and while it’s a bit disingenuous sounding, especially because I tend to sound overly sincere when I’m being polite (though I actually AM that sincere) but what option is there?

    I expect the bad reaction is because it sounds sort of Anglo, perhas it’s in our racial consciousness that the colonisers were Sir – our racial consciousness is an episode of the Irish RM.

    I did hate being called Ma am in the states though, when I was still under twenty! That made me feel like a fat old woman. I don’t think I say Ma am here, it’s too weird.

  14. Jo says:

    What do people say in Irish?

  15. K8 says:

    Xbox4NappyRash; Especially where children under the age of 5 are concerned!?!

    Thanks Tricia! Yep, it’s not so much that I enjoy speaking to strangers so formally, but I think it’s important that somebody does it. It might be naff, but it’s a cornerstone I think.

    Kelley; This is true! (Uh… That’s MR. Arsehat to you.)

    Medbh; It’s easy to read tones in those sorts of situations alright, the superficiality of it is damn annoying to say the least. Chivalry is also about respect though. I know a lot of women who could do with lessons on chivalry too… is it really so hard to say thanks if I hold the door open? I find that men are far better at basic manners generally which is weird.

    Nick; I don’t know about weak and incapable, respect and chivalry should be about mutual respect for fellow man/woman, regardless of their stature. Refusing respect because it feels demeaning is surely a contradiction?

    Jo; There really is no Irish formality, that’s bang on… historical repression has left us belligerent! I s’pose the Irish version would be ‘A Chara’ which sounds a bit pretentious and confusing to d’forgeigners!!

  16. Annie says:

    I think it’s lovely to show a bit of respect although it might make some people conscious of their age maybe.

    When I used to work in Dunnes when I was in school and college, mothers used to always tell their children to ‘go ask the lady’ – the ‘lady’ being me. I always found it a bit strange seeing I was about 16 and looked 12 but I reasoned that it was a bit nicer that hearing ‘yer wan’.

  17. I go for friendly disrespect, works well for me?
    Typical line for a couple;
    My god! You must be loaded! cause she isn’t with you for your looks!

  18. K8 says:

    Annie; Haha I had my first ‘the lady’ experience when I was a checkout girl in Dunnes too! It definately bet the pants off the alternative… people leering at your nametag and then wearing out your first name… that sucked.

    Roy; :) Yeah but that only works with the Irish! I seriously offended a drunken Estonian dude last week just because I said “Sorry I’m late – are ya rushin’?’ It took me a long time to realise why he seemed so offended.

  19. Oh darn- “sir” is out now, eh and it’s the only word I can say with a good English accent.

  20. Hmm it really depends on the situation. Personally myself i call some of my customers male of course sir. Would you like a drink sir? But I know some of my male customers who come in the resturant i call them lads sometimes by their names chris paul john it really depends on the situation.

    I remember the night when i met my other half i kept calling him sir and he would go bright red when i did a little curtsy to him. It was a personal joke that we both had and to say the least it still makes me laugh.

    One thing i really hate is when im working in the resturant and blokes call me young lady it makes me feel like a youngster in pigtails and i should be ever so grateful that you have given me that title.

    My god blokes who use that term so be sent away.

  21. K8 says:

    Yep, ‘young lady’ is pretty patronising whatever way you look at it. I don’t really like saying ‘Sir’, but I’m not really sure what sort of example I’m supposed to be setting. It’s a doozy.

  22. Vocabulary is one of the important factors to language. When individuals talk about fluency, they often include some reference to the minimal amount of words and phrases that one should understand.

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