Q: My mother and I are having a debate about how my husband addresses waitresses, female clerks, etc. He’s always calling them ‘darling’ but not in a derogatory tone, i.e. ‘Thank you, darling’ ‘May I have … darling’. My point to my mom is that although this would not be accepted everywhere, in some parts of the country it would. My mom believes it is flat out rude no matter where you are. What’s your take?
A: Your mother is correct that respect is due to all people, and a waitress is most correctly addressed as ‘waitress’ or even ‘miss’. There are some people, however, who are able to use terms of affection without having it seem disrespectful, and there are places in the country where this is more the norm than not, you are correct. It sounds as though your husband is one of those people, since you don’t mention anyone objecting. This still doesn’t make it correct, however. Most correct is to use respectful terms for anyone, whether corporate president or waitress. The real measure of your husband’s intent is indeed whether he would call his boss darling, or the President of the United States. This would make him an “equal opportunity darling user”. If he would not, then he shouldn’t use the term for waitresses, either. It may sound affectionate, but it is not respectful.