Traditions that Need to Go Out of Style: “Mr.” and “Mrs.”
….Specifically, teaching children to call their elders “Mr.” and “Mrs./Miss.”
I suppose it’s a nice gesture. Truth be told, I probably would encourage my own kids to do it. Not because I’m personally sold on its importance, but to avoid offending that one cantankerous person who will surely get bent out of shape if addressed by their first name. (I’m not necessarily a conflict avoider, but I do choose my battles.)
Really, though, the whole idea behind this is lost on me. Who freakin’ cares if a kid calls you by your first name? It’s your name. It’s not an epithet. When I was a kid, this made no sense to me, and now that I’m an adult it makes even less sense.
Actually, I was always told it was a way for children to “show respect”, but I’m firmly in the camp that believes respect is best conveyed through attitude, not titles. You don’t deserve titles unless you’re royalty. Even then, it’s debatable. (I also believe that respect must be earned. It’s not something you should just age into, like Social Security benefits. And yes, I’m aware that this is a minority view on Planet Earth.)
Along the same lines: Parents in the southern United States teaching their children to call adults (even their mother and father!) “Ma’am” and “Sir.” You need to cease and desist with this one, southern people. Please. Please do your part to End Social Awkwardness in America and just stop. It’s your patriotic duty. If you’re at a loss for what else your children should call you, may I suggest “Mom” or “Dad” as suitable alternatives. I’m told those terms have been a brilliant success everywhere else.
It’s not worth whoever might think, for one brief, fleeting moment, about what nice, well-mannered progeny you have. This is especially true in other areas of the country. In the Northeast, for example, if you call someone “Ma’am” or “Sir” outside of a business/customer service context, they’re likely to think you’re making fun of them. Or at least they’ll feel sorry for you, because you’re weird.
If you must, an agreeable compromise is to have children call adults Mr. [First Name] or Miss/Mrs. [First Name]. I’ve never minded being “Miss Sharon”, though if I had to choose, just plain old Sharon fits me best. (But please don’t call me plain. Or old. At least, not yet.)