Call Me Mister.


It is bad enough that one has to listen to a lot of recorded music, and to add to that insult, a new phenomenon in telephoned customer support is the use of the first name of the customer by the representative. As galling as that is it is worse when in written communication too this is done.

When this happens I take serious objection and in the case of telephone calls I ask the representative his/her age and usually find that it is in the early twenties. I tell them that I am as old as their grand father and ask them if they would call their grand father by his first name.  I use the same message in responding to emails as well.

I still do not call people I am not very friendly with by their first name unless I am asked by them to irrespective of how old they are. It simply is not in me and I find it in very poor taste when the same courtesy is not extended to me.  In the blogworld however we bloggers seem to be quite comfortable using first or nicknames and I do not find it least uncomfortable. Perhaps because we share so much of our personal lives in our blogs it becomes easier to be informal.

So, it was quite an amusing spectacle in India’s social media when our Prime Minister called the POTUS as Barak although I think that the POTUS found it difficult to call our PM as Narendra. Perhaps he just could not pronounce it properly!  Somewhat like Bikehikebabe not being able to pronounce Narasimha!

Now what happened in Germany is exactly the opposite of what happened in India.  The POTUS kept referring to Ms. Merkel as Angela while she was unable to call him Barak!  Do the Germans take quite some time before they get to first name basis?

How are you on this matter of protocol?

37 thoughts on “Call Me Mister.”

  1. I was baptized with a traditional Irish name, but my legal documents are all in a simpler English form. What my friends, and everyone else I’ve ever really talked more than once to, call me is the short form of both. When a hotel, airport, or sales person comes up with my document first name, as you say, usually 20 year olds, they get a short Ms, and my husband’s and my mutual family name. In a rather cold tone, I’m afraid. As for “Angie”, Germans are MUCH more formal. Rule of thumb, if you haven’t played in a sandbox with someone, as a five year old, or are a member of a mutual singers, chickenraisers, or etc. club, where you use informal address in the club, but outside it has no meaning, forget it. The new info flow and data exchange form, like at academic conferences, is first name, but Sie, the formal you, not Du, the informal one for family or children or chicken raisers. But it will probably take 20-30 years before this finally is universally accepted, even at conferences. When in doubt, use Mr or Ms, Herr or Frau, and Sie. They will tell you when you can change to Du. Ps Germans call their chancellor “Angie” from the Rod Stewart song, or, “Mutti” an ironic form of mommy.

  2. No synchronicity here 🙂 – whenever someone calls me Mr I suggest they call me Chuck. I am and have always been rather informal. And I was once rather fluent in German and was taught to use the more formal Sie until Du was offered/suggested by the person to whom you were speaking so I am smart enough to use the more formal version when called for.
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