do you call people "Son"?
The term 'boy' strikes me as patronizing and I have only heard it used from an angry father to a child as such: "come here boy, or else" (very common in the African American community) or as a term of racist derision (as Ed referred too). I've heard older men use the term 'son' in addressing younger men on occasion, but I agree with CalifJim I think it is regional.
Ma'am is another matter entirely. As far as America English is concerned, I believe it is more common in the southern part of the United States. I work at a college and notice that many the African American students and students from the southern regions will call me, or any other female ma'am (despite age) and the students from the northern Midwest and north east parts of the country will not (my experience has been limited with students from the north west). Despite joking with my sisters that I am too young to be called ma'am, there is nothing offensive about it.
"Son" is actually used by young African American men when talking about each other as well. This is a recent development, though--as far as I know, it's an odd bit of slang which has been around for only about a decade. It might just be on the East Coast, though (I live in New York).
My eighty-year-old grandfather calls everyone and anyone younger than him "dear", including waiters and waitresses, shopkeepers, flight attendants, daughters and sons of friends, etc.
Example 1, in a department store:
"Excuse me, dear, could you please tell me where I may find blazers?"
Example 2, in a restaurant:
"So, let me repeat, you've ordered a bowl of soup, a veal, and a tiramisu."
"Yes. Thank you, dear."
I think this sensitivity to "verbal sexual harassment" has gone a bit too far. Fondling someone is one thing; calling someone a "dear" is another.
My friend's son (seven years old) is reading The Schoolmouse by Dick King Smith. I flipped through the book today and took note of several remarkable names: Hyacinth (Mummy mouse), Lilac, Lotus, Lupin, Lobelia, Laburnum, Larkspur, Lavender, Love-in-a-mist, Haycorn. My favourite is Love-in-a-mist, the name of the youngest daughter.
If only humans were more creative in choosing names for their offspring. I'm absolutely fed up with Chloe, Jane, John, Kevin, etc. If I ever have children, I would name them something bizarre and lifely (no spelling error), like Aquilegia, Forget-me-not, Fuschia, or Buttercup for a girl, and Kestrel, Wren, Dolphin, or Ocelot for a boy.
It would also be rather desirable for Britons to start naming their children Vladimir, Anastasia, Tatiana, Wilhelm, Friedrich, and Wolfgang; and for Russians to start naming theirs Jean-Paul, Cosette, Yvonne, Carlos, and José.
I don't know what this post has anything to do with the thread topic, except that a name is something by which you call someone. So then, what are your opinions on my opinions?
"If I ever have children, I would name them something bizarre and lifely (no spelling error), like Aquilegia, Forget-me-not, Fuschia, or Buttercup for a girl, and Kestrel, Wren, Dolphin, or Ocelot for a boy."
How do you suppose those kids are going to feel after being relentlessly taunted by their classmates for having a name like Buttercup, Dolphin or Ocelot? And what about when your child is all grown up and in a dignified profession? Having a whimsical name might seem cute at five, but at 54?
"State Prosecutor Buttercup McGavin believes that she has provided enough evidence to win her case..."
"And now, our featured speaker for the evening is pre-eminent nuclear physicist, Forget-Me-Not Smith."
"Senator Ocelot Chung is scheduled to close tonight's convention."
<<<This may be mostly for those of you in the U.S. Don't know if anyone else uses this one.
Does being called "bud" or "buddy" bother you? What connotation does it have for you?>>
Its used often and it does bother me somwhat. When I hear it, I think the speaker is trying to establish some kind of pecking order. I have noticed that only men say it to younger men or about the same age. On several occasions, men about the same age as me have addressed me as buddy, and I was fairly annoyed by it. Now be it a man who was clearly older, I typically don't mind.
Id just like to add that it is also fairly commonplace to be called " "honey" or "hun" by women in the U.S. This is partitucarly heard from blue-collar women, southern women, and significantly older women. For some reason, it dosn't bother me in the least even if its an unattractive woman as long as she is at least my age. Another noteable is that in Texas I have been called sugar or "sug".
I have just spent three years at university in Yorkshire (England) and everybody freely uses the word "love" ......in purest Yorkshire pronounced ['luv]..... to address each other. Among the first to do so to me was a male bus driver when I asked him a question. It is harmless, it means nothing except friendliness and is simply the way in Yorkshire (or the North of England anyway). Anyone who takes offence because of stupid PC reasons needs to get a life.
I think the word "dear" in the same sense is used more in the South of England.
Talking of the name Hyacinth. The most famous is the formidable social climbing termagant Hyacinth Bucket... make SURE it's pronounced: [bu'k-ei] ....!...in the TV sitcom "Keeping Up Appearances". Maybe she should have been given the name Dandelion or Snapdragon.
I know someone whose name, Aquila, means "eagle" in Italian. I know someone else whose name, Chun-tao, means "spring peach" in Chinese. State Prosecutor Buttercup McGavin and Senator Ocelot Chung don't sound too bad, but you're correct about Forget-me-not Smith...it does sound a little funny. As for being teased by other children, let me say that I was teased every day when I was in junior school (and even attacked a number of times) and ended up being by myself most of the time but I never felt bad at all, maybe because I've always been somewhat of a recluse. Hence, I feel no sympathy for children who are sensitive to teasing.
Oh, yes, I forgot about Dandelion and Snapdragon. Since you've brought up Dandelion, I must say that I forgot about all those rabbits' names in Watership Down too...Cowslip, Hazel, Holly, Strawberry, etc.
To people here in general,
I have never been called "buddy". On the other hand, I have been called "pal" quite a few times by people whom I don't know at all and it has sent shivers down my spine.
In Hungary older men often call younger boys "öcsi" ("little brother"). That's an affectionate way of addressing boys, and not offensive at all, but may be uncomfortable for the boy as he gets older... On the other hand, in Serbia they prefer "sinko" (affectionate for "son") or "momak" ("lad, young fellow") or "mladic" ("young man"). However, young girls are usually not addressed in similar terms in Hungary: some adults call them "kicsim" ("my little one") but they are most often called by an affectionate pet name. They used to call young unmarried women "kisasszony" ("Miss"), but it's now getting dated.
On the other hand, I have often felt uncomfortable in Hungary by being addressed as "young man", because I feel it to be distancing and sometimes they say it in a way which suggests that you are "green". However, I have never felt this when called "mladicu" (vocative of mladic) or "momak"in Serbia.
I've done some observing over the past few weeks, and it has struck me that here in California, "honey" seems to be the most common pet name for unrelated, unfamiliar children of both sexes and all ages.
Personally, I've never used the word "honey" except when referring to the stuff that's produced by bees from nectar.
On the other hand, in Japan they also do the opposite and refer to old men as "oji-san." The direct translation of this is "old man" in English, but the "san" ending means it is a term of respect, not one of derision like it would be in English. This term makes is one of the many things that makes it difficult to translate Japanese anime into English. I think it usually just becomes "Mister" although the term is only used for elderly people.