6 November 2018

Addressing

Nebuchadnezzar by William Blake (circa 1795)
I know that this will come as a huge surprise to many who visit this blog, but my real name is not Yorkshire Pudding! That is just a pseudonym I adopted for personal reasons in order to hide my true identity and thereby frustrate ill-intentioned searchers.

My real name is Nebuchadnezzar Smith. 

Now I have absolutely no problem when friends or acquaintances address me by my first name. That's sociable and nice. "Hi there Nebuchadnezzar! How are you doing?" or "May I buy you another drink Nebuchadnezzar?" Sometimes these known people even abbreviate by name and I don't mind that too much - "Lovely weather today Neb!", "Neb! Good to see you buddy!" etcetera.

If I could turn now to e-mail communications from businesses. They are definitely not my friends and I very much prefer that my relationships with them should be formal and business-like Consequently, I bristle with annoyance whenever they address me by my first name without my agreement.

Take yesterday for example - I received an e-mail from my gas and electricity provider - Octopus Energy. Instead of writing "Dear Mr Smith", they began their message with "Hi Nebuchadnezzar". Previously, I informed them that I did not appreciate this pally form of address that would have been considered outlandish in past times. The people at Octopus Energy are not my friends. They are a profit-focused service business and I resent their deliberate strategy to create an illusion of friendly togetherness. I want distance.

Octopus Energy are by no means alone in this. It has become a widespread and rather sickening e-mail communication habit. Insurance companies say "Hello Nebuchadnezzar"  while Booking.com and Trip Advisor say "Dear Nebuchadnezzar" as if by getting personal they have really got me on board their ships.

To all businesses or service providers I deal with I always want to be "Mr Smith" and never "Nebuchadnezzar". As customers and clients we have allowed this misplaced informality to develop over recent years and I guess that very few of us have raised any form of protest about it. In the final analysis, I know that I am like King Canute trying to turn back the tide but that still does not make the presumptuous informality right and proper.
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Keen observers of this blog may recall that I  tackled the same subject back in December 2015 in a post titled "Salutations"

33 comments:

  1. Virgin Airlines treat passengers with this kind of false friendship and zany hilarity. It's not cool, it's just embarrassing, hey Ned?

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    1. I like your term "false friendship". That's exactly the character of their communications. By the way, it's Neb - not Ned - but you can call me Mr Smith if you like.

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  2. It doesn't upset me being called by my name "Lee"...it is my name and I prefer to be called by my given name. "Miss", "Mrs" or "Ms" is not my name.

    When initially communicating with someone/business or similar - with someone who doesn't know me - knows me only by name - I do put "Ms"...in brackets after my name - because my first name and last name are both female and male names...and to the uninitiated....they can easily assume, in the most part, that I am a male.

    In fact, my first name, middle name and surname are each male and female names. (My middle name "Frances" is spelt the female way with an "e", of course, and not with an "i", which is the male spelling).

    Also, to confuse the issue further, my three names can be placed either which way and back again...and still make sense...if this, itself, makes sense! :)

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    1. To avoid confusion perhaps you should adopt a different name. I used to work with an older female schoolteacher called Muriel Stonehewer and I think that this new name would suit you just fine Lee...I mean Muriel!

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    2. Ooh - I like the name Muriel - can I borrow that too? In the past when I used another name I used Rita and when I thought of writing a book about my daily walks I thought of Beverly Walker - Beverly because two women that saw me regularly walking once stopped me and asked my name because to them I looked like a Beverly. Maybe adopting a new name each year would be fun? I also thought if I wrote a cookbook I could be Mrs. Violet Green. Where do these ideas come from???

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    3. Why should I change my name, Yorkie? If others have a problem with my name, that is their problem, not mine.

      I have no desire to change my name. I like my name...and if others don't, I don't give a damn.

      They are the ones confused...not me.

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  3. On the flip side, I had a hard time getting used to being called "Mrs. Barlow" and calling my coworkers "Mr. Mrs. Ms" when I started my current job. Now that I'm used to it and it doesn't sound so weird to me, my problem is a near inability to call my coworkers by their first names when we become friends. Our music teacher is getting married next summer, and he asked me for my mailing address to invite me. If I attend his wedding I need to try to call him "Ricky" because a formal "Mr. Hyman" would sound ridiculous outside of work...never mind that he's 18 years my junior!

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    1. Why was Mr Hyman named after a membrane? I think there's a big difference between face-to-face human contact and official emails from companies.

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  4. Your Majesty.

    This is a very interesting subject so far as I am concerned. In the UK In a situation where I am not on friendly terms with the correspondent I tend to prefer to be called by my surname when I'm being talked to in person or addressed in a 'proper' letter i.e. one that is not automatically computer-generated. I really don't care what a computer calls me. In New Zealand, however, the culture is different. I would not expect to be called by my surname in, for example, the doctor's surgery or give my surname if I am ordering a take-away. It would simply confuse the norm. However I was rather taken aback when speaking on the phone to an obviously young person in a Vodafone shop in NZ when she referred to me as 'mate'. That did rather go a little too far.

    I have the honour to be your Majesty's humble and obedient commenter ...etc.

    (With apologies to readers from the US and elsewhere who will not have any idea what I'm writing about and with further apologies to those readers with a good memory).

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    1. Dear Subject 47,342,106,
      Thank you for your response and reflection.
      Yours regally,
      King Nebuchadnezzar

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  5. Neb, I feel your pain. But if customer service folk don't call me Vivian, they call me Ma'am, which makes me want to kill them.

    When I was younger, I used to feel humiliated when someone would forget my name (Vivian) and call me Valerie, or Vicky. The absolute WORST was being called Virginia. Virginia is repulsive: Why would anyone name their daughter after unsullied lady genitals? And why is there no male equivalent...Virgino, say, or Celbatino. And on the rare occasions when someone does remember my name and they call me "Viv", I know that we can never be friends. I've never in my whole life been a "Viv". The only being who could get away with calling me "Viv" was my cat, the late, great Woody Robinson, the best cat in the world.

    By the way, Graham, I know where New Zealand is, and what "mate" means, and how to sign off on letter to the Prince of Wales. No apologies necessary.

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    1. I humbly apologise Vivian. I was rather thinking of the curiously English (sic) way of addressing people with titles which my American friends (and most of my Scottish friends) find most odd.

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  6. I could only repeat what I already wrote in my comment on your 2015 post. Addressing someone in German is different, as our language is different. The informal way is, however, spreading fast, especially in email Newsletters.

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    1. You have a very good memory Meike - like an elephant!

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  7. That must be a real pain filling out forms with a name like Nebuchadnezzar.

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    1. Better that than Wayne or Vladimir or worse still... Donald!

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  8. Dear Mr Smith, father of Ian Theasby,

    I don't care any longer. When in England do as the inmates do. If you nailed me to the cross I couldn't tell you most my acquaintances surnames. Even their first - abbreviation of. Yes, Neb. Whenever I come across a John I hope he is a Jon as in Jonathon.

    Sure, no probs, call me from whatever company; ask me "for security" my date of birth, my mother's maiden name, name of my first pet, to then proceed calling me Ursula. Just, please, do NOT be startled when I ask your name in return. And spell it.

    As to children calling their parents by their first name: That's a difficult one. For reasons I don't speculate on, my son calls me "Mama", his father has always been ..... [insert first name].

    U

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    1. Thanks for calling by Ursula. Are you Italian Mama?

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  9. You will always be brother to me.

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    1. And you Sister... but not a nun!

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  10. I think it may be people of a certain age who are annoyed by these familiarities, younger people do not mind. Like calling teachers by their first names for example.
    When I was young and still at home all of the neighbours were all spoken of a Mr, so and so or Mrs so and so, we would never have dreamt of calling them by their first names.
    I just feel a comment coming on here, lol
    By the way, I'm not a Briony either.
    Briony
    x

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    1. I already knew that your real name is Chardonnay.

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  11. I agree with you on business and service providers as well as people I don't know. I worked many years as a medical receptionist and the patients often called me by my first name but they were more like friends and I did not mind at all.

    I am happy to say we just got in from voting and the voter turnout has been excellent. It took us over an hour with the lines and the long ballot. I am hoping that most voters are as fed up as I am with the way our country has been going and we will see a change in the Congress.

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    1. It looks like your Congress dream has definitely come true Bonnie. Well done for doing your little bit.

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  12. At least they call you Nebuchadnezzar. If they just called you "Neb," that would be much worse. "Hey Neb! Have we got an energy deal for you!"

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    1. Good point. That would make my blood boil!

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  13. I ignore junk mail so I don't care if they're trying to be friendly . Now if it was from my bank it would be different.

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    1. I am not referring to junk mail Red but to businesses/companies with which I have a proper relationship.

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  14. I don't mind being called by my first name. The other day I had to smile (privately) when a kid at the store called me "dear" - he was maybe sixteen. It sure beats being called some other names!

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    1. Formal rules of communication suggest that businesses should always begin communications with you in this manner - "Dear Mrs Donkey..."

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  15. I hate being called Madam in shops......they sometimes do it in Waitrose ! I think it relates to being called a " little madam" by my mother when I was little !!

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    1. You must have been a naughty little girl Frances! I also hate being called Madam.

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Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.