First names (was: SIGNIFICANT OTHER)

Kathleen E. Miller millerk at NYTIMES.COM
Fri Apr 12 18:30:47 UTC 2002

If it were a generational thing, I'm not sure which generation it would be.
Technically a member of the X generation, I still refer to anyone my senior
as Mr. or Mrs. or Ms. automatically, never calling anyone by their first
names unless asked to do so. I have never uttered Mr. Safire's first name,
even when talking about work among friends. Even close family friends
usually became "aunt this" or "uncle that" so as to be more personal than
Mr. & Mrs. and more formal than "John."

Going the other way, however, when I was teaching I asked my students
(ranging in age from 14-68) to just call me Katy. I rather prefer being
called by my first name rather than Ms. Miller. Of course that might just
be a side effect of  hearing it so often said with the disdain of a ticked
off history professor.

That, and if someone were to use a title, I prefer Miss, which more and
more often is not even an option on forms anymore.

As for MD's - I'm happy to report that I have yet to have one younger than
me so using my first name wouldn't necessarily be a problem, but, the last
trip to the Dr.'s office my full name was called out when the doc was ready
- and that's the only time I remember being addressed at all.

Kathleen E. Miller
Research Assistant to William Safire
The New York Times

At 10:27 AM 4/12/02 -0700, you wrote:
>--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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