Dear Ann Landers, In your response to the woman who couldn't understand why her husband never called her by her first name, you quoted Dr. Will Menninger, who said, "The sweetest sound in any language is the sound of your own name." Actually, it was Dale Carnegie who said that. You added that your former husband, an accomplished salesman, found that using the customer's first name was a good sales ploy. Please be aware, Ann, this practice is not acceptable worldwide.
In the Spanish culture, one never addresses a stranger by his or her first name. In fact, Spanish has two forms of salutation: the formal, which is used for elders, people of authority and strangers, and the familiar, which is used for friends, family and close associates. Using the familiar form to address strangers is a sign of disrespect or poor upbringing. In fact, this is the case in most European countries.
Even now, after 40 years in the United States, I find it difficult to address casual acquaintances by their first names. And many salesmen never get past the first sentence when they use my first name. It's not because I am aloof; it's just a formality born of my native culture. -- E.M., M.D.
Dear Dr. M., Thank you for a letter sure to teach many people (including me) something useful today. If any of you readers are planning a trip to a Spanish-speaking country, or any foreign city for that matter, I suggest that you remember this column.
Hi! It's Margo here. I'd love to know what you think of the letters -- and the answers!
Also, any additional thoughts you might have. Thanks!
When people I don't know address me by my first name I find it presumptuous and rude. It is a pretense for them to act as if they know me when they do not. It is especially galling when it comes from sales people. When speaking to someone you do not know, or know only casually, do not address them by their first name until they invite you to do so. This is especially important when speaking with older people.
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Our Reader to Reader Question of the Week:
Dear Readers, , whatever they needed I provided. What really hurt my son and I the most was the obituary - we were not mentioned at all. Our friends (mine and hers) were appalled. I was embarrassed and upset for not just me, but for my son-who loved her also. I never been so upset. Her x-husband put his wife and kids and their grandchildren in the obituary, who my girlfriend barely knew. They live an hour away from us. I know its silly to be mad over a little section of the newspaper, but it still hurts. Will time let this devastating loss of her and this article ever go away? I am so angry at this whole situation, its not like we can go and rewrite an obituary notice.