Is It Disrespectful to Refer To An Elder By Their First Name?
How do you address or greet someone that is considered your elder? Do they deserve a certain amount of respect attached to their name? Does it even matter? To some, it matters a lot.
I grew up being taught that you ALWAYS greet your elders with a Mr. or Mrs. along with their last name. If I didn't know their last name, I had to address them as Ma'am or Sir. This is just one of the ways I was taught to show respect to not only elders but strangers as well.
My mom used to make us answer our home phone by saying, Hello, Morgan's. If we didn't do that, mom would get so mad. She thought it was disrespectful NOT tell someone who they just called. Weird. If you ask me, that is too much respect. Don't even get me started on the fact that we had to address our grandparents by their last name too.
In the South, people greet you by combining a salutation and your first name like Miss Leslie or Mr. Ryan. Moving to Tennessee, for my first full time radio job, I really had to immerse myself in the culture of greeting people in this way. If you didn’t, it was disrespectful or you were "too Northern." I actually really liked the way it sounded to refer to people in this way. It was respectful and relaxed, all at the same time.
How do others feel abut the subject of referring to an elder by their first name? Maya Angelou, an American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist, put it like this,
I’m not ‘Maya.’ I’m 62 years old. I have lived so long and tried so hard that a young woman like you, or any other, you have no license to come up to me and call me by my first name. That’s first, ...Also, because at the same time, I am your mother, I am your auntie, I’m your teacher, I’m your professor. You see?”
The comment was sparked when a young woman, in the audience of a talk show Ms. Angelou was a guest on, called her by her first name. Even though this exchange happened in 1989, it still rings true, for many, even to this day.
In some ways, I agree with her and in other ways, I don't. Now that I AM considered an elder, (that just sounds weird to me, I still feel so young) I still want to be relatable to everyone, young and old. I want them to treat me like any body else. So, I really don't care what someone calls me. In fact, I prefer if everyone just calls me Leslie. If they call me Mrs. Morgan, I feeling old. LOL
What do YOU think?
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