First names (was: SIGNIFICANT OTHER)

Beverly Flanigan flanigan at OAK.CATS.OHIOU.EDU
Fri Apr 12 22:33:58 UTC 2002

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.
Our colleagues from the West Coast have told us over the years that first
naming is the norm out there (in fact, Susan Ervin-Tripp said so in a
1970-ish article), and they would tell their students on Day One to "call
me Phil/Neil/whatever."  But this "dispensation" (< E-T, Susan, that is) is
one thing, presuming without invitation is another.  MDs are notorious for
doing this, long before telemarketers, I suspect.  I have only one medic, a
dentist, who, even after 15 years, greets me as "Dr. F...," as I
reciprocally greet him as "Dr. R...."   After he eases into my teeth, he
switches to "Bev," which I accept from very few people.  Somehow, though, I
can't yet call him "Jim"--so I'm a bit of a hypocrite after all.

Beverly Olson Flanigan         Department of Linguistics
Ohio University                     Athens, OH  45701
Ph.: (740) 593-4568              Fax: (740) 593-2967

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