Tuesday, February 26, 2008

What's in a Name?

I know I make fun of the South a lot but today I am going to switch it up a bit and share something about the South that I find quite endearing.

Growing up in the North was great and contrary to what some may believe, we are taught manners north of the Mason Dixon Line (well, most of us anyway). But one area that often left me scratching my head was trying to figure out how to address certain people, especially my friend's parents. It was always a little akward... Did I call them Sir or M'am? That always seemed a bit too formal but "Judy" seemed too casual and a bit disrespectful, even if I was invited to do so. I usually opted for "Mr. or Mrs. Smith", but even that didn't quite feel right so I tried very hard to avoid situations that required salutations all together.

Now that I am a parent living in the South, I have found myself pondering this again. What should my kids call their friend's parents and vice versa. What is appropriate and customary in the South? We are not a Sir or M'am kind of family (we reserve this for our elders). Not that there is anything wrong with that-it just isn't us. M'am would make me feel old and I like to think of myself as a young, thirty-something, hip Momma. "Lisa" just seems too informal and is usually reserved for my friends and family. "Mrs. Jones" is ok but my last name is not really Jones and my real last name is difficult for the most articulate adult to say (which is beyond me because it is actually quite simple) so that is out too. But "Miss Lisa"- now that is just perfect and suits my fancy quite nicely. It's the perfect combination of formal and informal and easy to say. I think folks up North should adopt this practice- it sure would save a lot of kids a lot of grief and anxiety!

Not everyone agrees however; the following excerpt is from a book entitled "Southern Manners."

~"It has now become common practice for young people to use first names or at the most formal, Mr. or Mrs. (First-name). This practice creates a blurring of the lines of authority and a loss of respect. Adults wanting to be a child’s friend instead of their authority figure or role model has wreaked havoc on the fabric of our society. "

I disagree. I think this practice is a happy medium along the formality pendulum. And frankly, I don't think that this practice alone creates a blurring of the proverbial lines of authorty and a loss of respect- our actions do. I believe that I can be called "Miss Lisa" and still maintain my desired level of authority. What do you think?


Katie said...

Being from the south, that is how I addressed my parents' friends (and still do actually). That's what I teach Ellie too. You have been Miss Lisa since we met you.

MomToo said...

I've been wondering when you would come on this subject. Having been born and raised in the North, lived my adult life in the South (note the capitalization!) I whole-heartedly endorse this practice and think it the Perfect Compromise! It's always worked for me.

duchess said...

Completely agree with you. As a girl who is from NC & happy to be back, children can call their friends parents Mr./Mrs./Miss and not lose the authority.
Thanks for helping to keep manners alive with the next generation.

Kellie said...

Here in Hawaii, kids refer to grownups as Aunty Jane or Uncle Joe, etc. Or to be even more informal (or lazy) they just say Aunty or Uncle. Doesn't matter if you're blood or not, over here everyone is family! Love your blog, I will be back to visit again!