do you call people "Son"?

Pat   Sunday, July 25, 2004, 09:54 GMT
In the United States, it is not that uncommon for a man to call a child or even an young man "Son" if they do not know each other. Example: "Whats the matter son, got car trouble?" (a 45 year old might say that to a 22 year old) It just occured to me that I don't recall ever hearing this when in the UK nor on TV nor anywhere with non-American English speakers. In the south, as recently as a few decades ago, quite often whites used to call ANY black males "Boy" regardless of the age of either party. I don't know if this still goes on to some degree in the south, it very well may.

Anyway, is that commonplace to call a younger boy or man "son" in the UK and elsewhere?

And for that matter, how often are "sir" "ma'am" "madam" "boy" etc used in your societies?
Ed   Sunday, July 25, 2004, 14:34 GMT
Well. if you're white, you can't call a black guy "boy" because it's derrogatory - during slavery that's how slaves were addressed.
CG   Sunday, July 25, 2004, 15:13 GMT
I don't think I have heard an English person say 'son' in that way. The word 'boy' is rarely used as a term of address, unless you are joking or being rude. Sometimes 'little boy/girl' is used, when you don't know a child's name.

Ma'am, I have only ever heard when a person is addressing the queen or a female police sergeant.

Madam is usually only used in posh shops or resteraunts, by the people who work there to the patrons, as in "Can I help you, madam?"

"Sir" is more widely used. It is put before the name of someone who has been knighted. It is used by schoolchildren too lazy to remember the name of their male teacher ("miss" is used for females). It is also used to show respect to the person you are speaking to, and so is used (like madam) by waitors and shop assistants, etcetera.
Bog Rat   Sunday, July 25, 2004, 18:25 GMT
In Cornwall some people address anybody as "Boy".

Cornish = English
Oh-rit bee? = Alright boy? / Hello boy.
Oh-rit boy? = Alright boy? / Hello boy.

Even adressed to people of similiar age or older.

The saying "Alright my son", I heard a lot of cockneys say. I think that is a London thing. But that doesn't happen in other places.
Bog Rat   Sunday, July 25, 2004, 18:29 GMT
< And for that matter, how often are "sir" "ma'am" "madam" "boy" etc
< used in your societies?

Sir / miss = mainly by schoolboys/girls addressing their teacher.

boy = explained above

ma'am = It's not really ma'am in England, it's mam. That's a term used in Northern England, especially northwest England. People sometimes call their mothers "mam", or their mother-inlaws "mam".
CalifJim   Monday, July 26, 2004, 00:27 GMT
<<In the United States, it is not that uncommon for a man to call a child or even an young man "Son" if they do not know each other.>>

It's a charming expression, but it's probably restricted to certain geographical areas. I couldn't quote any accurate data on the subject, unfortunately, but purely anecdotally I have to say that I personally have only heard that usage about once every 5 to 10 years. I've lived in mostly in California, so maybe that's why.

I concur with Ed about "boy". In the U.S. my advice would be never ever address anybody as "boy" under any circumstances!
Damian   Monday, July 26, 2004, 07:16 GMT
I'm not usually physically aggressive (but sometimes verbally) but if anyone called me "boy" I would feel an enormous urge to use my fist. It has connotations of servitude and quite patronising but I've never heard it used in Scotland, so it's restricted to certain areas of England ......or other countries. I've always associated it with the southern States of America particularly and part of the racist scene maybe. Being called "son" doesn't have the same effect for some's a bit paternal. I still get called "son" now and again and I see nothing objectionable about it.
Fish & Chips   Monday, July 26, 2004, 17:45 GMT
The word ''ma'am'' seems like it's becoming an impolite word because a lot of people say the word just makes them feel old.
mjd   Monday, July 26, 2004, 17:48 GMT
Maybe to some "thirty-something" women, but it's still widely used.
Random Chappie   Monday, July 26, 2004, 21:20 GMT
- I'd call an adult man "mister", 'sir", "doctor", "your honour" (I have a relative who's a judge), or simply avoid a term of address.
- I'd call an adult woman "miss", sometimes "madam", or avoid a term of address.

As for little children, I'd call them by some sweet pet name.

And a personal anecdote: When I was in junior school (Year 5, I think), I once got beaten up by a classmate for calling him an "old boy", so I'd recommend against it.
CalifJim   Tuesday, July 27, 2004, 04:58 GMT
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?
Damian   Tuesday, July 27, 2004, 06:27 GMT
<<Does being called "bud" or "buddy" bother you?>>

Personally no as I've never been addressed this way not living in the USA but I'm not sure really whether it's meant to be friendly or hostile. Sometimes it appears to be the latter.
Julian   Tuesday, July 27, 2004, 07:11 GMT
<<Does being called "bud" or "buddy" bother you? What connotation does it have for you? >>

If you mean total strangers calling me "bud" or "buddy", then no, it doesn't bother me at all. It seems to be a rather harmless, friendly term. Unless, of course someone approached me menacingly and said, "Hey buddy, what the fuck is wrong with you?!" Then yes, I would take offense. Also, if a punk kid called me "buddy", then I would think, "How rude!"
CalifJim   Wednesday, July 28, 2004, 00:47 GMT
OK. Here's the revelation part. I have a white-collar job. My boss, who is younger than I, calls me 'bud', less often 'buddy'. It drives me crazy. I think he's trying too hard to be friendly (?) or "with it" (?) He's trying to convey the idea that I'm his buddy, and I have no desire to be buddies with anybody I work with! Certainly not my boss.

Years ago, when "sexual harrassment" was the hot topic, the women at work used to go crazy when one particular manager (not my boss in the example above) called them "dear". They just hated it.

I wonder if this is the same sort of thing without the sex part. I also think that in this case, it's one way, i.e., I don't think he would like it if I called him "bud".

Maybe it's the idea that someone is trying to be more intimate than is comfortable for the other person. Maybe it's a power thing.

Any psychologist-linguists out there who'd like to comment?
Mi5 Mick   Wednesday, July 28, 2004, 05:24 GMT
Sheesh, in our litigious times I wonder if life could have once been more pleasant with sexual harassment, political incorrectness, less psycho-analysis and sincere mateship at work.

'ow about some tea luv?
On ya bike son!