Wednesday, July 29, 2009

SWEETIE? WE DON’T THINK SO.

It’s not that we don’t like sweets, sweet people, sweet stories, etc., but we think calling people you don’t know “sweetie” is in appropriate. Interestingly, it seems that not everyone is qualified to become a sweetie. To qualify, you have to be very young (like a baby) or on your way to becoming very old (over 40).

There’s a lovely, young barister at a Starbucks in Harlem – she’s quick, always with a smile and unfortunately, always with a “sweetie” at the end of the transaction. Another barrister in a midtown shop seems to have the same affliction. We don’t think that this is in the training manual. By the way, this is not purely a Starbuck issue, it’s happened to us in other retail establishments.

Could it be about class? We’ve spent a lot of time on Madison Avenue and no salesperson we’ve ever dealt with has ever used the ‘s’ word. It may be upbringing. Our friend in San Francisco known for her charitable work and parties asked us when we first met her children, “How would you like them to address you?” That’s a class act.

Men, we’d like to think, know better than to call a woman they don’t know of any age, “sweetie”. But what gives a young woman even a teenager the right to call another woman and in most cases a stranger, “sweetie”?

The only people we don’t mind calling us “sweetie” is the waiter or waitress in the local diner. “Sweetie” is part of the wonderful, American greasy diner landscape.

What do you think, dear?

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

"SWEETIE IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE TERMS......I USE IT ALL THE TIME..AND
WHEN I DO ...I MEAN IT AFFECTIONATELY....SO PLEASE DON'T PICK ON THE SWEETIES....
WHAT ABOUT THE "DEARS".....THAT ALWAYS SEEMS CONDESCENDING....AND THEN I HAVE ANOTHER FRIEND WHO ALWAYS USES DAHLING.....I THINK MOST OF THE TIME IT'' S THE TONE
YOU USE...AFTER ALL....." ANYTHING CAN BE CONDESCENDING...EVEN LOVE IN THE WRONG TONE
DON'T WE HAVE ENUFF TO DEAL WITH... WITH THE N WORD CAN'T WE LEAVE THE SWEETIES, DAHLINGS AND DEARS OUT OF IT...AND STOP PICKING ON THE POOR THINGS ?"

OK SWEETIE....THAT'S MY 2 CENTS !

riva said...

Well.... I have to admit, I'm guilty of doing this. Usually with people I really adore even though I may not know them very well. So next time I'll bite my tongue. If I can.

Anonymous said...

Well, sweeties, I beg to differ on this one. I call people "sweetie" all the time--from the Puerto Rican receptionist in my office at Brown Harris Stevens to the young brother who goes out his way to hold the subway door for me when I'm running down the stairs to catch the train. It's not as intimate as saying "baby," which I reserve only for my son and my significant other, but I think of it as a term of endearment that suggests a certain fondness for the person being so addressed. It's sort of like those Hispanic women who call you "Mommi," a term I happen to love when it rolls of their tongues with a certain charm. In a society that has become more and more informal, but also brusque and rude, "sweetie" connotes a little loveability. A friend of mine trained her granddaughter to call her Sweetie from the moment she could talk because she didn't want to be called "grandma" or "nana."

Anonymous said...

Dear Yvette,

You and Yvonne may not have noticed, but "sweetie," "honey," "darlin'" and
"darling" have been used for DECADES in the oddest places. It's especially
prevalent in certain regions of the country (let's say Duh Old South,
especially).....like practically everywhere
except straightlaced New England (Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine), I'd
guess.

It first came to my attention when a "girlfriend" from Denmark, living in
San Francisco, huffed to me in 1964 how "rude" she thought it was when a
bank teller had called her "honey." I chuckled and said, "You're in the
United States of Democracy (HA!) and you'll just have to get used to our
strange way of trying to appear to be friendly!" It's all artificial and
you know it! At Starbucks they all have to hate their jobs, so perhaps it's
just a way to get a larger tip? Hell, I don't know!

I grew up saying, "Yes Sir, No Sir, Yes Ma'am, No Ma'am," and it was
exceedingly difficult for me to break the habit when I moved to
Michigan.....to learn that "Yes and No" were NOT impolite responses to
simple questions. As for affectionate or informal words of address are
concerned with people I don't know, I don't use them unless I'm making an
EFFORT to be "RUDE" or just trying to be funny, "Honey!"

Rosemary said...

Terms of endearment from nearest and dearest are delightful (obligatory?), but I find them offensive and disrespectful from strangers, similar to the ever more common habit of addressing senior citizens by their christian names, as if they were children (unless they invite it, of course), or indeed over-familiarity of any type when addressing an adult stranger.

Anonymous said...

"Some people call others Sweetie because they don't remember their name. lol"

Arthur said...

Y & Y -- I wholeheartedly agree with your premise and the anonymous commentor. Calling people you know (family and personal friends) sweetie, hon, or dear is appropriate so long as they know it is a term of endearment. However, using this casual form of address is entirely inappropriate in a business setting!

Anonymous said...

My sister just started calling others "sweetie", and for some reason it really gets up under my skin! She is only 16, and thinks that because she is a lot smarter than others her age, it is okay to talk and act like an adult. I am 34, and I really can't stand it when she calls me this! It just seems disrespectful to me! Amy-California

Anonymous said...

I am with you both on this. I'm a 50-year old woman and own a bistro-type restaurant. When patrons call me sweetie, it gets under my skin. I start looking around and wonder if the place is coming off like a greasy spoon. Or I feel disrespected and wonder what I'm doing to project such a jejune vibe. It makes me want to pull out my portfolio, college diploma, or birth certificate. I'm very grateful to read so many responses from readers who mean no harm by using these terms. They think they're being nice! I find the term so deeply offensive that I would only call someone sweetie as a putdown, but I can't remember the last time I used that word. And I have to say I usually find a reason to get rid of employees who refer to customers that way.

Jacqueline Vick said...

People I don't know are Sir and Ma'am, even though I'm in my forties. I agree that it's impolite to be informal with people you don't know. And it also drives me nuts when people refuse to call me Mrs., as if it's an insult.

BTW, I just discovered your sight and I love it! Our society needs more etiquette training. I believe it would eliminate many problems if people held back a little in the name of manners.

Thank you for what you're doing with this blog!