What’s In A Greeting?

“A’right, luv, how yer doin’?” is a fairly standard greeting in the streets of my native Liverpool, even to strangers. That is, so long as they’re female. Anyone old enough to remember the Beatles in their heyday will recognize the well-known accent, and the use of “luv” to greet any member of the opposite sex, whether they be six or sixty.

When I first moved to America, I got some strange looks from the women I addressed in this manner. Apparently, it’s not the ‘done’ thing in the US of A.

I soon learned not to use the title, and switched to “Hon” instead, which appears much more acceptable.

“Sweetie” is another informal salutation used benevolently in the UK, when a male addresses a female. I’ve not tried that one in the United States, probably because I’d got into enough trouble over, “Luv”.

I understand some women find it insulting to be so addressed. I’m not sure why. There’s no sexual innuendo involved, and any or all of these greetings imply a warmth and friendliness from the person using it. I can think of far worse things to be called.

America is so much more ‘touchy’ over such matters than Britain, so it came as some surprise to discover the BBC running a story about Barack Obama addressing a female reporter as, “sweetie”.[1]

Obama apologized to the reporter when he realized what he’d said, and the story is definitely not newsworthy. Given the present problems in China and Burma, for the BBC to concoct a full page article out of this is truly to highlight trivia.

I rang a friend at the BBC, thinking I might pull his leg over the story, only to be told he wasn’t there. I could get no further than a young girl on reception. She listened to my rant, then in a bored tone, concluded, “I’ll see your message gets to him. Anything else I can help you with today – luv!”

[1] ” Obama sorry for ‘sweetie’ comment”, BBC, May 15th 2008

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3 Replies to “What’s In A Greeting?”

  1. I think it all depends on who is saying it, RJ. You can call me anything, any time, but if a presumptive president of the USA used anything but a strictly formal approach, my hackles might rise.

    I can’t imagine Tony Benn or Geoge Galloway, or Gordon Brown, or any Brit politician calling a female in their audience “luv” or “sweetie”, or anything other than “madam” or their actual name if they knew it.

    I agree that it wasn’t worth reporting, and certainly not worth headlines, but on the other hand it does give us a peek into a certain person’s quality and calibre. Not that it’s wrong, just inappropriate, IMO. I trust he wouldn’t address a visiting dignitary’s wife as “sweetie” – but how would we know? 😉

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