|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.
Keen observers of this blog may recall that I tackled the same subject back in December 2015 in a post titled "Salutations"