Please address me as...

February 4, 2019, 9:05 AM · Paul Deck brought up and interesting and important question about relationships in general and the student-teacher specifically.

Paul's comment was about the growing use of M.(Given Name) as opposed to M.(Family Name).

As an American over 70, I've found this a bit weird but my travels outside the USA have taught me that other cultures have a broader range of terms of respect. The use of M. (Given Name), in some cultures indicates a slightly closer degree of familiarity than M. (Family Name) while still being slightly formal.

Americans tend to be either M. (Family Name) versus a direct reference to your given name with some exceptions for professional credentials.

The question becomes: what do you prefer and have you communicated that with the people you deal with?

Replies (28)

February 4, 2019, 9:10 AM · My impression is that the "Mx. FirstName" convention started with Gen X. To us, "Mx. LastName" refers our parents, and it felt weird to be addressed as such. But just a bare FirstName seemed to be too informal for children speaking to adults, and so "Mx. FirstName" became a common convention.

In business conversations, pure first-name address has become the norm. It's only "Mx. LastName" in service industries, where it seems to be used to convey an inferior-to-superior relationship between the worker and the customer.

It potentially also avoids some of the complications with the fact that the two halves of a couple frequently now have different last names. We are now often no longer "Mr. and Mrs. LastName".

Edited: February 4, 2019, 9:59 AM · I have found that hospital nurses seem to use the Mx. FirstName format and I find it somewhat offensive - especially after they have retired and are in a social context. Be familiar or formal, either way, I don't care - that's what I think but this middle path can sound like an attempt to stress dominance - at least in American culture. I would not take offense were the other person from a different culture.
Maybe nursing is a different culture!
February 4, 2019, 9:34 AM · Indeed, tradition is usually quite a poor reason for doing just about anything. The safest thing is to just ask people how they'd like to be addressed. My violin teacher prefers that his young students call him 'Mr. (first name)'. Because I accompany some of his other students on the piano, I'm introduced as 'Mr. Paul'. I would prefer just 'Paul' but I acquiesce because (a) it doesn't really matter, and (b) he's just being self-consistent, and (c) it's his studio and those are his rules. Likewise, if I'm at a party, say, with colleagues, and there are some children there, I don't insist on being called 'Paul' if I know that the parents are trying to teach 'Mr. Deck.' I have an acquaintance who insists on 'Mr.' or 'Mrs.' for everyone, and he prides himself on getting all those titles right. But he insists on calling me and my wife 'Dr.' and 'Dr.'. Well technically that's correct because we both have PhD's, but in our field (chemistry) the title is not used in private life so it's almost a little embarrassing to be addressed that way. I cringe a little inside, but I move on because I know he's only trying to be respectful, albeit in rather idiosyncratic fashion.
February 4, 2019, 9:35 AM · Mx.FirstName seems to me to be much more prevalent in the southern United States than in the north.

My students address me as Mrs. Goree, except for adults (non-college) who address me by my given names. The sole exception is one student who is on the spectrum, verbal with difficulty, who addresses me as Miss Mary. Not sure how that one got started but I don't even try to change it.

If I am in social or professional contact with a student beyond their college years, I ask them to please switch to using my given names.

February 4, 2019, 10:55 AM · The north-south distinction is much less than it used to be, especially in urban centers where the populations are more blended and where the local public schools have more basic disciplinary issues to deal with than whether a student is saying "sir" or "ma'am" and such. Still, even where I live, which is a college town and therefore heavily populated with not only northerners but also immigrants, I don't have to drive very far to find myself in places where "sir" and "ma'am" are useful conversational lubricants.
February 4, 2019, 11:35 AM · Timothy, yes, the "deep south" still exists. 500 miles south would put me in Brunswick, GA. But ANOTHER 400 miles beyond that and I'd be in Miami...
Edited: February 4, 2019, 11:54 AM · I used to have an Argentinian girlfriend. When we were in Spain she would address a person as either Senior Deck or as Don Paul. Perhaps the latter, or the Japanese Paul San, with the help of Family Guy's Mexican cleaning lady all goes towards making this form of address popular.
Edited: February 4, 2019, 12:11 PM · Indians often use Mister as a way of expressing anger, so it may be best just to be relaxed about it all.
February 4, 2019, 12:46 PM · "When in Rome..." does not always apply. You will never learn how to properly bow to a Japanese person. If you attend church because your friend invited you, call the office beforehand to find out what their policies are for taking communion. Etc.

Don Paul has a nice ring to it though. Except it would be Don Pablo. In which case you'd better like brandy!

February 4, 2019, 1:05 PM · A lot of interesting responses. I do note that just about all the respondents translated my given and family name designations into the Anglo/American First and Last.

I have to admit that I'm more than a bit sensitive to those designations as I have done a lot of business travel during my life and I have learned that the majority of cultures place your family name before the given name when writing or introducing yourself or others.

As for me, most people just call me George. Young musicians are requested to call me Mr. Wells until we become duet partners playing just for fun and they have another teacher. I do get some parents and their young musicians (or children in a non-musical setting) who insist on calling me Mr. George I just roll with the punches.

Edited: February 5, 2019, 3:02 AM · I've taught in 4 different environments: Elementary classroom, university tutorial, adult group lessons, and private 1/1 sessions.

I've run the gamut from Mr. Michael to 'Professor' (which I am certainly not) to Mr. McGrath to just first name basis with everyone.

I've found I really don't care all that much as long as it's not something insulting or completely separate from the paradigm of the environment. I just go with whatever the culture is of where I'm teaching - it doesn't really affect me. I'm the person at the front of the room - that's indicator enough of who's delivering and receiving the lesson.

From personal experience you can tell a lot from how someone introduces themselves - except for one professor when I was in school that I was never quite sure what to call him. I never did decide. As I get older more people introduce themselves to me as their first name. Sometimes school teachers will introduce themselves as Ms. Anne or Mr. McCarthy when in front of their students - that's the cue on what to expect and as it would be rude to deviate from their classroom culture when you're a guest. If someone uses their title in their introduction - 'Dr. Paul Deck' - then I'm going to assume you care about that and use it, otherwise *shrug*

February 5, 2019, 3:13 AM · I grew up in Dubai, where a lot of people are from South Asia. In South Asia it's common for people to be addressed as Mx Firstname in any social setting. (There are practical reasons for that: English is a lingua franca there and last names may be especially difficult to pronounce; and in some regions last names were not used historically are a relatively recent introduction.)

I use the more standard English convention of Mx Lastname, but I hardly even notice when I'm addressed as Mr. Andrew.

February 5, 2019, 6:13 AM · Perhaps similar, when I was a kid I insisted on being called Andrew, not Andy. But most people have always called me Andy, and I've learnt to accept it.
February 5, 2019, 7:13 AM · One of the things I've always loved about music is that age,sex etc. don't matter in the slightest. To go back to youth orchestra days, I played with someone who played with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the age of 14. At that stage, our conductor had been 1st trumpet in the L.S.O for 5 years. Both were just known (and addressed) by their given names. It's been the same always. To make me feel really old, in one of the gigs I did recently, I was chatting to a girl in the section who said she'd been at school with my youngest daughter.
My leaders (concertmasters) have been known by their given name. As other people have said elsewhere, respect is earned.
Luckily, even at my advanced age, I'm just one of the boys, and judged by my ability not my age.
Luckily, if you're good enough, you're old enough. And I hope that while I'm good enough, I'll be young enough.
February 5, 2019, 7:14 AM ·
February 5, 2019, 7:19 AM · To specifically reference a pupil / teacher relationship, children would tend to refer to "Mx XXX" - as they would outside music. In more adult situations, I'm just "Malcolm" to everybody. The same goes for every student an teacher I know.
February 5, 2019, 6:46 PM · I agree with those who say you should ask how someone wants to be addressed. It is not just a matter of cultulre, but personal preference plays a role as well. I know some people, for instance, who go by their first name because their last name is weird, long, or hard to remember. Some teachers will let students go by Mx plus the first letter of their last name. I know a school teacher whose students address her by her first name because her last name is long and complicated and it starts with P and calling her Mrs. P is just weird.
Edited: February 5, 2019, 10:08 PM · Here's another thing I've noticed. When I get emails from students I've never met (including graduate students at other institutions inquiring about postdoctoral opportunities in my lab), they say things like:

"Dear Paul Deck" or "Dear Dr. Paul Deck"

I used to see these kinds of salutations only in emails from overseas places like India or Egypt. I always assumed the student just screwed up and put too many fields in his or her Outlook mail-merge. But now American students are doing it!! One wonders if simple stuff like writing a basic business letter is every taught anywhere anymore or if people just assume that you'll use whatever template Microsoft Word happens to provide.

Paul Deck

February 9, 2019, 5:11 PM · I am probably in somewhat more uniquely unusual situation than most of you. I have been living with (and still live with) a name problem all my life.

You see, my name is Sander Marcus. Yes, Sander is my first name. And so, I am routinely called "Mr. Sander," or "Mr. Sanders," or "Marcus." Often I am called "Chris," since my wife (Christine) has the nickname "Chris" and my nickname is "Sandy," and most people assume that I must be Chris and she must be Sandy.

So what are the rest of you complaining about?

So, have some sympathy for people such as
Mr. VanKliburn

February 9, 2019, 10:00 PM · One of my teaching colleagues has her young students address her as Ms (first name) because she knows they will grow up and eventually address her with her first name! I still go with Mrs. Niles though!
February 10, 2019, 4:00 AM · In my culture people are just called with their first name, without the Mx. If you call someone with Mx Family name it means that they are very old or people are being very formal (like banking, internet shopping mails etc) and there is only Mrs and Mr, no Miss.

Many women hate being called Mrs because if they dont have their own Surname it means they are in a sense called only by their huspands name. I hate it too, it implies that I am married and subservient to a man and old lol.

The middle ground is if you are introduced to someone you are introduced as ”First name Last name” without the Mx. But after introduction its First name only. And if you are talking about someone formally you use Firstname Lastname combo.

Intresting cultural differencies :)

Edited: February 10, 2019, 5:28 AM · Here in France, it's rather complicated.
I call my 11-14 year-old girl students by their given names, and refer to them as Mademoiselle (Mlle) + family name. They call me Monsieur (M) Heath, (which they pronounce "eece"). For "you" they call me "vous" out of respect, and I call them "tu" because they are children.
Amongst teachers we usually use "tu" and given names because we're all in it together!
With the hierarchy, its' definitely "vous" and Madame (Mme) so&so, out of respect for me and deference for them.

The "vous" and "tu" is very subtle. "Tu" is reserved for friends and family, and new acquaintances use "vous" until one us suggests using "tu".
My immediate boss called me Adrian, and she gave the customary peck on the cheek, but the "tu" was longer in coming..

I even know couple where the man uses "tu" to his wife, but she call her husband "vous": very old-fashioned!

Someone said that before the French Revolution, you called your servant "tu" (as an inferior), but your spouse "vous" (from respect.
Since the Revolution, it's the other way round.

Edited: February 10, 2019, 6:10 AM · Vous and tu are complicated. It may depend on locality. In Montpelier 25 years ago a friend introduced me to a friend and her daughter down from Paris, and I asked the mother, did you have a good journey, using vous. She immediately took offence, so I wriggled out of it by saying I meant her and her daughter.
And in Barcelona 25 years ago I was buying a ticket in the train station and the guy behind the counter addressed me as tu.
Among youth (I forget which country I was in when I had first hand evidence of this) there was or is a movement to ban vous in order to be provocative. Among peasants there is possibly even a forgetfulness of how to say vous. My German boss was a peasant who never said Sie to anyone - we suspected he didn't really know how. I don't know how he got on with the police, who charge a heavy spot fine for disrespecting them.
February 10, 2019, 7:37 AM · The egalitarian socialist in me has always regarded titles as a subtle method of pulling rank on people because you haven't been able to earn the respect you think you deserve. Just call me Michael.
February 10, 2019, 10:38 AM · In Barcelona "tu" means "you", singular, and should only be used in informal speech among friends and family. Even the Latin American students when I was teaching knew to use the word "usted" when speaking to me, as that is the example I set speaking to them. "Usted" is a more formal "you", singular. Only the hard core gangster who "recovered" the tools stolen out of my private vehicle was allowed to us "tu" when speaking to me, and by politely returning the usage informality he earned by recovering tools, we never had an in class conflict. Teachers found that amazing, but the other two facilitators on the faculty just smiled knowingly and respectfully, and the gangster never messed up in their classes, either, granting respect by witnessing the looks in their eyes and the honesty of their smiles and handshakes. I think this story substantiates you pint, Mr. Darnton. I sort of agree.

I train people from all over the world. I refer to all of them as either Mr. or Mz. lastnamehere. I expect the same, and straighten them right out if I don't get it. The rudest overall seem to be the 21-30 year old Americans, who get really pissed when I lock their smart phones away, even when they are technically "off duty". Such fools don't realize they are paid to work 14 hours per day, and only have 10 hours to take care of personal needs such as food, shower, sleep, etc. Most people can not take care of personal needs in 10 hours without being taught how, and phones just make self care that much more difficult. Really, I don't want to be stuck in a closed truck 14 hours with someone who does not adequately bath or wipe.

What learning I facilitate these days, if not mastered, can easily result in crippling or killing innocents. Some formality is required so most foreigners and 20-somethings know the place they've earned so they can plan their next step of advancement. My experience is most of them significantly overestimate their actual abilities, and 80,000 pounds at 70mph can do significant damage. That is especially true of Gen-XtremelySelfLoved.

The few exceptions are true blessings.

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