Friday, 25 November 2011

What do your children call your friends? (Or your friends' children call you?)

1.  My mother, overheard a couple of weeks ago on the phone to the utility company:

No, you may not call me Mary.  You may call me Mrs F....
Good on you Mum.

2.  My friend Elizabeth, taking her children home after worms in goo (spag bol) and snot (stewed apple) on Hallowe'en:

Say thank you for a lovely supper and goodbye to Mrs C

Excuse me?  Mrs C? Who is this Mrs C of whom you speak?  I'm not Mrs C.  Or at least I'm not if you're not the utility company, or my mates having a laugh.  I'd like to say that Mrs C is my mother-in-law, but I think most of the time she'd be aghast at being called that too.

But why?  When did that happen? 

When I was a child my friends' parents (and my parents' friends) were all Mrs or Mr Whatever.  There was an awkward stage when we were at university when we were all separately told, "Call me Marjorie" and we used to mumble "Mrs, erm,  you, erm, Marjorie" and revert back to Mrs Whatever where we felt more comfortable.  In fact there are still friends of my parents whom I feel much more natural calling Mrs and Mr than I ever will, despite my degree and my four children, by their first names.

But my children call people whatever I call them.  And that's almost always first names.  As a result there are, I think, only two categories of people that they call by their title and surname:  teachers, and the elderly neighbours.

Because I call the neighbours Mrs Black and Mrs White.  Of course I do. They're both in their eighties. They're both utterly charming and have said on numerous occasions "Call me Whatever" and firmly, both to their faces and behind their backs, I stick to Mrs Whatever.  That's what you call elderly ladies, after all.

But is it still?  And will it be what my children's friends will call me in fifty years time?  And will I mind then, as my mother (not eighty) is clearly beginning to?  Because somehow I feel that I will, and that it matters.  That there is an element of respect implied in the use of surnames that people of an older generation deserve.

And so I wonder if Elizabeth is right, however odd it may have felt.  I asked her whether she wanted my children to call her Mrs Cotton, and she said "It's entirely up to you,  I'd just rather my children called you Mrs C".  

I suspect it's too late to change the names of most of my existing friends, but should I be changing the names of the new ones?


  1. We used to call my parents friends Aunt and Uncle, which can be very confusing. Well all except the old dears, which were Mr and Mr, just like you. My children's friends call me Jen

  2. I think this is a Scottish/English thing. When we moved to Scotland, I was surprised at how much children were encouraged to call adults Mr and Mrs.

    Here in the Midwest, it's assumed. But then there's a lot of "ma'am" and "sir" too. At first I didn't like it, but now I do. As you say, it speaks of respect.

  3. Darn right it's too late to be changing the names of your existing friends. If I turned up at your house and got called Mrs C- I'd get right back on the train south again. First names, or a straight up E-, I can handle. And m'dear, I'm afraid you will mostly forever be known by your first initial. Except by the utility company.

    Of course, my view may be disregarded on account of my not having children and therefore having no need to set a good example...

  4. They are not my bank manager, I invite them into my home so my first name is fine, thank you very much. I reserve the formal stuff for formal situations. Besides, calling me Mrs T- makes me sound even scarier than I already am ;-)

  5. Joss and Mrs T (see, you're doing it now) I'm afraid you fall firmly into the category of friends for whom it is too late (although E----, if any of them actually calls you E---- I will be slightly shocked!)

    But Iota, maybe it is an assimilation thing, because while I'm not about to start doing it, I am thinking more about how to teach them to respect their elders. Do you think that the US habit extends into more respect when they're older or is that just a Daily Mail-esque myth?

    And MadMummy, you've made me remember, we had a million spurious Aunties too. Weird isn't it?!


I know. I'm sorry. I hate these word recognition, are you a robot, guff things too, but having just got rid of a large number of ungrammatical and poorly spelt adverts for all sorts of things I don't want, and especially don't want on my blog, I'm hoping that this will mean that only lovely people, of the actually a person variety, will comment.

So please do. Comments are great...