All of us exchange words with strangers in our daily lives. Usually it's connected with shopping or receiving services. Now in these exchanges, I always try my best to be civil and pleasant. It's rooted in my nature to respect such people - often on low incomes and probably all capable of better things.
However, the provision of services means that one partner is a provider and the other a receiver, client or customer. Traditionally in England, where service transactions were concerned, men would always be addressed as "sir" and women as "miss" or "madam". Using such forms of address never suggested that the provider was somehow less equal. The terms simply endowed the exchange with respectful formality.
Increasingly, I am finding that those traditional forms of address are being abandoned. Just yesterday, I was in "EuroSpar" over at Broomhill and the twenty something young man on checkout twice addressed me as "mate". I wanted to say to him, "I am not your mate! Please call me 'sir' you scallywag!"
Just before Christmas I needed to see a doctor at my local health centre. When it was my turn to go in, the matronly receptionist announced "The doctor will see you now love!". I mean "love"! I find the term so condescending and disrespectful when used by strangers in such contexts. Does she call the doctors who are partners at the health centre "love"? Would she call her solicitor or her bank manager "love"? I doubt it.
And that reminds me of one of the headteachers I had to labour under - not literally! She was only about five feet three and took over from the headteacher who had promoted me to Head of English a few years before. I'd have been over forty years old at the time. I became annoyed at various levels about how she used the term "love" when addressing me. I thought it extremely patronising and unprofessional. I suffered it for several months and then one day when I was alone with her in her office, I took her to task over this matter, insisting that from then on she should address me by my name. It had all been about the exercise of power. This slight little woman in a powerful position thought she had the licence to almost unconsciously demean me - a six foot hulk of manly Yorkshireness - by using the sort of condescension some people reserve for children. After that meeting, she never again called me "love" and I think I taught her important lessons about use of language and how to win respect from her staff.
"Pal", "duck", "mister", "bro". I don't want to be addressed with terms like these. I want the people who provide me with services to appreciate that I and other customers or clients are their paymasters. Without us they'd have no jobs to go to. And to continue this ranting, it also makes my blood boil when call centre people address me by my first name even though they have not asked for my permission to do so. Grrrr! Gnash! Have a nice day!