First names (was: SIGNIFICANT OTHER)

Peter A. McGraw pmcgraw at LINFIELD.EDU
Fri Apr 12 17:27:45 UTC 2002

--On Thursday, April 11, 2002 6:05 PM -0400 Beverly Flanigan
<flanigan at OAK.CATS.OHIOU.EDU> wrote:

> But far more common is first-name address, which really bugs me.  I answer
> irately, "How dare you call me Beverly?  You don't know me!"  Talk about
> getting off on the wrong foot....

Hooray for you, Beverly!  (Er, I mean, Ms. Flanigan!)

I once told a particularly obnoxious telemarketer that one reason I
wouldn't buy whatever he was selling was that he used my first name.  He
snapped back: "Peter, this is the 90s!"  I hung up, but wished almost
immediately that I had asked to speak to his supervisor instead.

I was going to reply to Beverly off-list, but come to think of it, maybe
this issue isn't entirely "impertinent."  I first noticed what seemed to be
a trend to abandoning last names entirely about ten or twelve years ago.
This coincided with my move from the East Coast back to the West Coast,
where things have always been a little more relaxed and informal, so I
wondered if it was a regional thing.  Apparently not, if people in
Connecticut and Ohio also encounter it.  And in any case, telemarketers ARE

I was once told by someone at a car dealer that I needed to talk to "John"
at the dealer's other location.  When I called that location and asked for
"John," they said, "Which one?  We have three people here named John."
(O.k., maybe it was just two.)  Apparently it's so important to use only
first names that it doesn't even matter if confusion results.

I suppose it's purely a generational thing.  Or does class play a role?
Did it come in with telemarketing, or did telemarketing simply pick up an
already established more?  Are there younger members of this list who find
the ubiquitous use of first names so unremarkable that they can't
understand how Beverly and I could "have a problem with that"?

Or--maybe this is just a rant, after all.  Thank you for listening.

Peter Mc.

                               Peter A. McGraw
                   Linfield College   *   McMinnville, OR
                            pmcgraw at

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