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When and where is it polite to address someone by last name only? [message #593504] Sat, 17 August 2013 13:14 Go to next message
John Watson
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This is a vaguely Oracle related question, because it comes from participating on Oracle related forums.
I saw a message the other day on the Oracle Forums from Sybrand Bakker, who is well known for being a little prickly. He was objecting to being addressed simply as "Bakker", saying that in his locality that would be rude. I agree: now that I live in England, to be addressed as "Watson" (which happens on Orafaq on occasion) is irritating. Usually, I would expect "John"or "Mr Watson", I think in a place like this the former is probably better.
There was another message from Hemant K Chitale, who I think lives in Singapore, objecting to being addressed as "Hem".
For some years I lived in Germany, and even at social events such as a dinner party I was often addressed as "Herr Watson" which sounded odd to me, but OK, I learnt that German is often a bit more formal than English, and only use first names cautiously. Think of Du and Sie, which English speakers often find difficult. In France, by the way, I always use vous rather than tu, which probably sounds stupid but I assume is safe.
I suspect that in Eastern hemisphere countries it is not rude to use a last name only. Is that correct? Is it in fact rude to use a first name??

Re: When and where is it polite to address someone by last name only? [message #593509 is a reply to message #593504] Sat, 17 August 2013 14:02 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Michel Cadot
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Quote:
In France, by the way, I always use vous rather than tu, which probably sounds stupid


It is not.

Quote:
but I assume is safe


It is indeed.
In France, you can always use "vous" until one tells you "on peut se dire tu" (we can say "tu") which is at the same an assertion that you can say him "tu" and a question if you allow him to say you "tu".
French is very complex with etiquette (when we take it into account). In work relationship, it is usual to say "tu" unless you are an external consultant (and then it depends with who)...
And the most complex thing is the usage of "Mademoiselle" (Miss) or "Madame" (Mrs) when you meet a woman as you cannot ask her if she is married or not, and even if you know if she is married or not, you may not use the word that corresponds to her status. (It is safer to use the first name in this case... but for old ladies.) I think we can write a book only on this word.
Good luck for men that come to France (it is easier for women, they can always say "Madame").

Regards
Michel
Re: When and where is it polite to address someone by last name only? [message #593512 is a reply to message #593509] Sat, 17 August 2013 16:27 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Barbara Boehmer
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This is an interesting discussion. I have always thought that the forums were sort of informal and most people seem to use "first" names, like Barbara and John and Michel. In English and French and various languages and cultures we use such names first, followed by the name that we share with our parents, for example John Watson. However, in some languages and cultures, the name that you share with your parents comes first, followed by your individual name, so you would sign your name Watson John. The result is that some people may not know which name is which. So, somebody referring to you as Watson may think that is your individual name. This is not as obvious when using just what is perceived to be an individual name, but is more obvious when somebody assumes that your individual name is your family name and tries to be formal and calls you Mister John. It also may be difficult to recognize from the name alone, especially if from another culture, whether it is an individual or family name, especially if such a name can be used for either. On these forums, if I can figure out the first name, then I usually use that. Otherwise, I tend to use the full name or handle or login without title or use nothing and just post the message, as I did here. In general, in French I use Vous and in Spanish I use Usted. In foreign languages classes in this country, we are taught that in French and Spanish, tu is used for very informal situations, family, close friends, children, and animals.

In America they found a solution to the Miss versus Mrs. problem by creating Ms. The older I get, the more often people incorrectly assume Mrs. I don't usually bother to correct them, as it is usually irrelevant. The older I get, the more often I also here ma'am. I have used ma'am myself in cases where I am addressing a woman I don't know who is older than me. For example, when encountering an elderly woman in the restroom of a restaurant who appeared to be ill, I asked, "Ma'am are you alright? Do you need paramedics?" When you don't have a last name to go with it, ma'am just seems to sound better than Mrs. by itself or hey lady or some such thing. However, ma'am does not sound right when followed by a last name either. If you get the opportunity, you can try to look for a wedding ring or lack thereof and make an assumption based on that. However, some single women wear "cocktail rings" and such that can look a lot like a wedding ring on the same finger.

Then there are nicknames. There are some people who, for example, are actually Johnathan, and object to being called John, which some people may automatically do. I am used to people calling me Barbara or Barbie or Barb and don't object to any of them. However, I once referred to a Daniel as Dan without even thinking about it and it was objected to. Many other Daniels go by Dan or Danny.

It would be interesting to get some of the famous etiquette people together and hear them debate these things.

I once heard a segment on a radio show, where an older gentleman used various things that were considered appropriate in the era in which he was raised to address the female hosting the talk show in a manner that he no doubt considered acceptable. She, however, considered them sexist, and objected to each one. He would, for example use dear or honey and she would go into a tirade. He finally quit being polite and said, "Listen ..." followed by a word normally used for a female dog. I thought it was hilariously funny. I would have simply recognized that he came from an older generation and was trying to be courteous and let it go without comment.

I have found that some people object to the usage of Sir. Some object on the basis that it makes them seem old. Others say they're just commoners and that nobody knighted them.
Re: When and where is it polite to address someone by last name only? [message #593528 is a reply to message #593504] Sun, 18 August 2013 04:36 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Lalit Kumar B
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John,
I guess you have never been to India. It becomes ever more complex here, because since ages, we do not have the habit of calling somebody with first/last name. And with elders it is a must to add a salutation. Of course for those who are younger to us, they could be addressed directly by first name. Real challenge is how to know someone is elder/younger.

Also, it depends on the type of conversation, whether formal, informal or casual. I work in India for a company which is based out of US, and we were told about the professional etiquette during the induction session that the formal way to address anyone is to refer by their first name. Anybody for that matter, manager, team members, boss, CEO, call them by their first name. Calling by first name is preferable. So at workplace it is not of much difficulty.

But when we are out of office, lies the real challenge. People would take it as an offence if called by first or last name directly. If the person is elder to me, he will think that I don't have manners to respect elders.

In India, there is a perfect way to overcome such situation. The secret is that, we add a prefix to the first or last name as "ji". In Hindi(official language of India) "ji" means to address someone with respect. So, the best way to tackle such situation in India is to simply add this prefix while addressing someone, irrespective of the gender.

So, John Watson would be referred as John ji or Watson ji. Sound so polite. Michel ji, Barabara ji...it goes with anyone...but yes it only goes with real names and not nick names or pet names.
Re: When and where is it polite to address someone by last name only? [message #593530 is a reply to message #593512] Sun, 18 August 2013 04:43 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Lalit Kumar B
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Barbara Boehmer wrote on Sun, 18 August 2013 02:57

I have found that some people object to the usage of Sir. Some object on the basis that it makes them seem old. Others say they're just commoners and that nobody knighted them.


I still remember, on my first day at office, when my manager came to receive me at the lobby, I thanked him saying Hello Sir, and he immediately said, don't call me sir. We do say sir to anybody in this organization.

However, very strangely, I was on a conference call with my US manager who is based out of Charlotte, North Carolina, he has this habit of addressing people as SIR all the time. I just asked him casually the other day, he said, it is a natural way of for the people in the east coast to say SIR.

[Updated on: Sun, 18 August 2013 04:44]

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Re: When and where is it polite to address someone by last name only? [message #593549 is a reply to message #593530] Sun, 18 August 2013 09:51 Go to previous messageGo to next message
John Watson
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OK, it seems that Mr/Ms plus last name should be fine for East and West. If one can determine gender. I'm not going to risk "ji", Mr Kumar, I have too much experience of problems caused by inadequate language skills.
I've never had a problem with being on either end of using "Sir". But during many years in South Africa, I had issues with being called "Boss", because it is easy to conflate with "Baas" which is an Afrikaans word with bad connotations.
An American term I have come across with defence related clients recently is singing off emails with "V/R" or or "/R", something about a lower ranking person should be Very Respectful to a higher rank, whereas a higher ranked person is only Respectful to a lower rank. Or something. As a civilian (and possibly a cheese-eating surrender monkey) I avoid that one.
I shall be formal from now on:
--
John Watson
Oracle Certified Master DBA
http://skillbuilders.com
Re: When and where is it polite to address someone by last name only? [message #593596 is a reply to message #593504] Mon, 19 August 2013 02:26 Go to previous messageGo to next message
c_stenersen
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Registered: August 2007
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Nice to know about the different cultures and their preferences. Michel, how about children? I was told that for children you could always say tu rather than vous, even if you didn't know them (in my French training). And do you know if there are differences there between the French etiquette in France and the French in Belgium or Switzerland?

In Norway it's quite simple. We don't use any polite form at all. If somebody was to say ms Stenersen or mr Stenersen it wouldn't be seen as impolite, but it would be overly formal, and people would think it's strange. We just simply use the first name. We don't really have a form like "vous" which is in use, but back in the old days they used the third person plural. These forms can still be used in very formal letters such as from your bank or the government, but also there it's far from obligatory or even common. Also in formal letters we don't have a line as "dear mr blabla" at the beginning. We rather just use a subject line in a similar fashion as in e-mails. I would in fact only write "dear" to my grandmother. Smile If I'm writing a letter to somebody I don't know he/she is not my dear, so I've always found this strange. For addressing somebody with only their last name it would normally be done only if there are several people in the group with the same first name, so that it's done to distinguish them. (Or perhaps if the person has for instance grown up with being in the same grade as somebody with the same first name, so that the last name has turned into a nickname over time.)
Re: When and where is it polite to address someone by last name only? [message #593605 is a reply to message #593596] Mon, 19 August 2013 02:49 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Michel Cadot
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Quote:
I was told that for children you could always say tu rather than vous.


Yes, this is right; more, if you say "vous" to a child he will look at you with some apprehension. This is correct until teenage years, there you use "tu" or "vous" depending on how adult they seem (for those you don't know otherwise it is "tu").
In Belgium, the usage of "tu" is not a problem even for people you don't know; if you ask for your way in Brussels streets, one will most likely answer you using "tu". But Belgians are more polite than French and in formal cases "vous" is used.
In Switzerland, they see French people are boorish and they are influenced by their German compatriots so, "vous" is in order.

Regards
Michel
Re: When and where is it polite to address someone by last name only? [message #596845 is a reply to message #593605] Thu, 26 September 2013 13:00 Go to previous messageGo to next message
manubatham20
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Hi,

We discussed many things about men. Curious to listen your live examples for women seniors.

Why shouldn't we call someone sir?
I am from India, and there seniors don't like many times when someone call them Sir (Still it works). One of my senior given me an example, in IT (I am not talking about freelancers), you switch jobs, if you are doing very good, may be one day you may be boss of your current boss, then also will you call him 'Sir'? If so, continue using Sir otherwise use first name (or Mr. Lastname - generally it's bit rude here in India, we use like "Listen Mr. Batham, mind your own business and don't disturb me.)

Regards,
Manu
Re: When and where is it polite to address someone by last name only? [message #597370 is a reply to message #596845] Thu, 03 October 2013 19:35 Go to previous messageGo to next message
manubatham20
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Registered: September 2010
Location: Champaign, IL
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One more

A lady manager of a big reputed office noticed a new man one day and told him to come into her office.
"What is your name?" was the first thing she asked the new guy.
"John," the new guy replied.
She scowled, "Look... I don't know what kind of a namby-pamby place you worked before, but I don't call anyone by their first name. It breeds familiarity and that leads to a breakdown in authority.
I refer to my employees by their last name only ... Smith, Jones, Baker ...that's all.
I am to be referred to only as Mrs. Robertson. Now that we got that straight, what is your last name?"
The new guy sighed, "Darling............ My name is John Darling."
"Okay John , the next thing I want to tell you is . . .." J



Not ALL rules can be followed!!!

Smile,
Manu
Re: When and where is it polite to address someone by last name only? [message #597375 is a reply to message #597370] Fri, 04 October 2013 00:29 Go to previous message
Michel Cadot
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Laughing

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