Thursday, February 5, 2009

"Take This Test! Am I Crazy, Or What?" Maggie From Muncie on Terms of Address, Salad Bar Etiquette, and, Darlin', What to Call Folks.

I spend most days trying to think up new features for RYS. I figure if I do you'll eventually publish one of my fantastic posts!!!! Anyway, while reading one of my favorite academic blogs - and I won't tell you which one - I found myself saying, "This is a world gone mad!"

The situation described and the blogger's response seemed so out of whack with each other that I thought that somebody had to be crazy...either me or the blogger. Now I know I'm aiiiiright, but I still wanted to check.

Okay, said blogger, let's call her Dizzy Doris, recently complained on her blog about being called names. In one case she got called a "jerk" by a student, and once got called "Darlin'" by a professor she didn't know. Okay, context.

Dizzy Doris was waiting in line at the salad bar or whatever, and some students in front of her were taking their own sweet time. Doris was in a hurry because some major literature research had to be done, or her cat had to go to the vet, or whatever, and so she says (in what she admits was an "annoyed" voice to the assembled students): "It's impolite to loiter in front of the salad bar when there are people waiting."

So one of the dears said, "You don't have to be a jerk about it." She didn't know the student, but fixed the perpetrator with her eyes in case he ever should have the misfortune to darken her classroom door.

Take this test! Am I crazy, or is Doris really a jerk?

Obviously I'm a proffie, too, but in the lunch room, walking across campus, doing the stair-climber, I'm just another denizen of Campusville. Is it possible Doris was in full teaching mode in a situation where she should have just waited 9 more seconds for a crack at the crouton bowl?

In the other name calling incident, Doris was doing her business in her department's work room when another professor (one she did not know, and who, presumably, didn't know her) asked her help operating a piece of equipment, copier, Scantron, whatever. He used the term, "Darlin'" as he asked. Okay, he's in his 60s. Doris huffed and puffed, gave a "brusque" response, and then fretted the rest of the day away at the man's impertinence.

Take this test! Am I crazy, or is Doris a jerk on this one, too?

I'm old enough, and from a part of the country where it was common for "Darlin'," and "Honey" to be thrown around, man to woman, woman to woman, even sometimes man to man. Someone who's 60 might conceivably have been using the term in this way, friendly, even a form of "Southern polite" and not as some kind of gender-rich attack on Ditzy Doris.

I happen to be in a new position after 7 years at another school where forms of address were remarkably stilted and professional. (I had one colleague who called me Dr. Maggie whenever any student was within a nautical mile of us!) But at my new college - which I love, thank God - people are pretty informal. Students use first names on proffies who offer the opportunity, and I call the President and Dean: Rick and Ben.

I know some profs are sensitive about being shown a proper amount of respect, whether it's the form of address or whatever, but as I read these 2 stories I just felt that I was missing something. Help me if you can...

And if you don't publish THIS piece, then you're jerks, too... (No, kidding...really, Darlin'.)