October 22, 2007 in Features

Calling strangers ‘Hun’ not so sweet

Judith Martin The Spokesman-Review

Dear Miss Manners: I am happily married to a man that I have waited for for a long time. My problem is that he thinks nothing of using the terms Hun, Sweetie, Love, etc., to female strangers such as waitresses, cashiers or bartenders.

He insists that he is just being polite. In my opinion, these are words of endearment and should only be used when addressing a loved one.

He thinks it’s funny and that I’m over reacting.

I take it very personally and this hurts me. I would never think to do this to him. I have done this out of spite once to see his reaction, and he was shocked; however, he never brought it up.

Please help me accept his politeness or continue to express my feelings on the subject.

Gentle Reader: You would do better to express the feelings of others about this method of address. Your argument that those are terms that should be reserved for you is, Miss Manners is afraid, unattractive. And it isn’t going anywhere.

Furthermore, it is not a valid interpretation in this context. Far from being considered polite, much less a sign of affection, this mode of address to strangers in service positions was condemned decades ago as being patronizing and sexist. In fact, this was so long ago that many young ladies so addressed now merely consider it a foolish, if somewhat creepy, habit of harmless old duffers.

Miss Manners recommends dropping the argument that as his wife, you have exclusive rights to endearments. As his wife, you have the duty to alert him when he is inadvertently making himself look silly. He will not think your objection so funny if he understands that this habit makes him look old and out-of-it.

Dear Miss Manners: What is the best way to get people out from behind my desk?

My office is not large, but there are two chairs and sufficient room not to feel cramped on the “public” side of my desk. The furniture is arranged to clearly delineate the occupant and the visitor sides of the room.

Still, co-workers will sometimes walk around to my side, and though I don’t think any of them mean it aggressively, it really puts me on edge.

Sometimes it’s necessary for us both to look at my computer screen, but I can swivel it out so that it can be seen from both sides of the desk. There is, in other words, no reason for anybody to invade my territory. How can I prevent this, short of a velvet rope?

Gentle Reader: People didn’t used to do this. But wait, don’t sink into a lament about the decline of manners. They didn’t used to have to look at computer screens.

Please allow Miss Manners to rearrange your office for you. Swivel your monitor out beforehand when you know someone is coming who needs to look at it, and head off any approach to your desk by saying, “Please have a seat. You’ll be able to see better from there.”

But just in case, plant your briefcase on the floor next to your chair, with something else on the other side, if necessary. Then you can stop people by alarming them with a “Watch out!” before you re-direct them to the visitors’ chairs.

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