Mailvox: inferring rudeness

Morgan, as usual, sees it differently:

I think in your case, I’d insist the kids refer to you as Mr. Ogre since it’s important to you. But as Scintan pointed out, many people today don’t *like* to be referred to by Mr. or Mrs. To me, to have a child who insists on doing that against an adult’s wishes would be rude….

Sometimes I think parents force kids to do things not because they really are so concerned with manners, but so it will make them look good as parents.

I think you would be incorrect to infer rudeness in that situation. Being polite is not synonymous with behaving according to the whims of others. Showing consideration should not be confused with automatic adherence. If Samuel L. Jackson likes to be called Bad [individual with severe Oedipal complex], is a child being polite by addressing him that way instead of Mr. Jackson? I don’t believe so.

1. “Marked by or showing consideration for others, tact, and observance of accepted social usage.”

Regardless of how I personally might prefer to be addressed, observance of accepted and conventional social usage is the key. This is indicated by the second definition:

2. “Refined; elegant”

It is also healthy for parents to be concerned with how others view their children. Otherwise, one might well be content with allowing them to defecate in public, so long as deposits were made in the neighbors yard. What makes one look good as a parent usually is quite similar to what makes one a good parent; children who are encouraged to address adults by their first names will usually do so regardless of conventional social usage or how the adult prefers to be addressed.

Once, when coaching a boy’s team in Italy, an older boy new to the team once addressed me as “cicio”, which is a friendly term that basically means “pal”. However, it denotes a certain level of equality, which is why the rest of the team gasped and looked at me to see how I would respond.

I answered thusly: “Non mi chiama cicio, se non vuole usare il mio nome, puo chiamarme allenatore o signore.” The use of the third person instead of the more personal second person indicated my displeasure with his importunity, as I told him that if he didn’t want to use my name, (as is the common practice by coaches there), he could address me as either Coach or sir.

As I had correctly interpreted his choice of that friendly form of address as a challenge to my authority, the rest of the team took the lesson to heart and I had little trouble keeping them in order over the course of the season.