My daughter calls me Dad. Her friends call me David. Likewise my accountant, my doctor, my neighbours. Mr Slack, to quote the surfer-dude turtle in Finding Nemo, is my father. About the only people who address me in that fashion are telemarketers and the IRD. Arguably, using such a title connotes respect. Do I really think some poor backpacker wearing a headset and sitting in a cramped cubicle farm has any respect for me as he reads me his dismal script?
One of our nearby primary schools recently proposed that the children might address their teachers by their first name. The principal explained his proposal in the local paper. It seemed inconsistent that the children were addressing the office staff as Fiona, Damian and Keith, but their teachers as Miss Haywood, Ms Edgeler, Mrs Brown and Mr Gracewood.
So from now on, he said, it would be first names for everyone. Call me Graham, children. The following issue of the Flagstaff brought interesting news. Some of the parents had been perturbed to hear of this change. They preferred things as they were; let the children learn to be respectful. So it will be, said the principal.
As a child, every adult I knew was Mr and Mrs. I had an Uncle John, an Aunt Rosemary, an Auntie Adrienne, an Uncle Brian. My godparents, though, were Geoff and Judy, and those were the names their own children used for them. You wouldn’t find kinder-natured, warm, respectful people anywhere.The children turned out just fine.
The rot set in, I suppose, when we got all immoral and started living together without marrying and the women stopped taking the name of the head of the household. What do you tell your child to call the lady next door? Ms Jolie? Mrs Pitt? You settle for Angelina, and the night Miss Aniston arrives on their doorstep, you explain to your child that sometimes grownups forget to be good and they get noisy and say bad things.
Once you’ve made the change, its easy enough; I suspect. it’s the transition that graunches your gears.
I got a nice letter from an old teacher of mine a year ago. I spent fully a month trying decide whether to address her as ‘Mrs’ or ‘Barbara’ as she had signed herself. In the end I addressed the letter to Barbara and began by telling her how perplexed I had felt at the choice I was faced with.
I tried this out on Mary-Margaret this morning. How would she feel if they changed the rules so that she would address Miss Watson as Jo? She thought it would feel funny, disrespectful. I reminded her that they address Rosie and Judith at the office by their first name, not to mention Russell, the caretaker, who received his Ph.D. last year.
She saw the contradiction, but said that all the same, it was what she was used to. Some kids don’t, though, she said. At Rosa’s school they call them by their first name.
Then, because her mind darts all day, she remembered her resolution of the night before when I had explained to her that every school has a scary legend. She said: I’m going to tell Russell about the rat at the back of the PE shed.
1. Jeremy Elwood's 12 Steps show is on until Saturday at the Transmission Room. He has some excellent material on terrorists, deer shooting accidents, and the visceral and psychological ramifications of carnal union. Get a ticket, you will laugh your AO.
So farewell then, Senator Clinton Maybe next week.
3. This morning’s Herald describes the effect of ‘soaring prices’ on a profligate Gen X and Y. What adjective does that leave them to describe what’s happening to prices in Zimabawe?
4. Did you notice that the omnipresent Olympic logo in the right hand corner of the screen disappeared from the One News bulletin during the ‘news’ report revealing the new Olympic uniforms?