Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Thursday 27 February 2014

Sweetheart, Darling, Hun

A tweet turned up in my Twitter feed yesterday from Kelly Jensen @catagator; it read as follows: Men don't get called "sweetheart" in the line of their professional work, do they?

Clearly women do... By men.

Feminists rage at this sort of thing. 

I am a feminist.

I remember being sixteen and sitting in my first A’ level maths class (that surprised you, didn’t it? Smiles) with a lovely teacher called Mr Calvert. He was genuinely a good teacher and a nice man. He called us Blossom or Petal. We were all girls in an all girls grammar school. I disliked his habit because it suggested to me that he couldn't tell us apart, that he couldn't be bothered to remember our names. I was probably doing him an injustice. A week or two into that first term, when he called on me in class in his usual fashion, I simply told him that my name was Nicola. He always called me Nicola thereafter.

It makes me wonder why men do it. I wonder if they don’t do it to be charming or ingratiating or perhaps just non-threatening? I hope that’s why they do it. Of course women in the workplace feel condescended to, and of course it isn’t necessary to do it at all.

I wonder how many women do it and how many of those women do it to men.

I remember a fellow student at university who called everyone Hen. She was Scottish and annoying (those two things are mostly mutually exclusive in my experience, but sadly not in this case) and I hated it. She was barely eighteen and thought she was fifty.

I am fifty... I can do what I like.

I answered the tweet, though, for the very good reason that this is something that I’m guilty of. I’m TOTALLY, HORRIBLY guilty of calling people darling and sweetheart at every touch and turn. I'm very sorry if you're offended by that, and if I do it to you and it offends you personally, please do put me right.

I absolutely do this to men, and I absolutely do it to men that I work with and I do it to men at all levels of seniority. I do it to bank clerks and waiters, too, and just about anyone and everyone else.

I also use people’s names.

If I’m talking to someone on the phone and they give me their name I always jot it down and I always use it. I don’t overuse it, because I dislike it when that’s done to me, but if someone’s helpful, or when I say goodbye, I will use the person’s name.

My kind of name badge… Or yours.
I read name badges in shops, too. Funny how people who wear a name badge every day are baffled when I use their name. At the end of a friendly transaction at a cash register, I’m quite happy to say, “Thanks, Jason, have a good day.” Jason will then look at me as if I’m some sort of weirdo psychic, until I point and say, “name badge.” Then comes the smile and the embarrassed gesture.

I use the darlings and the sweethearts (and no I never use hun, but it did come up in the Twitter conversation with Ms Jensen) in all sorts of ways. I do it affectionately when someone has been particularly wonderful. I do it with people I know well. I do it to take the sting out of a complaint, and, yes, once in a very long while I do it to be condescending... But it is once in a very, very long while. I probably haven’t used a darling or a sweetheart that way for two or three years... In fact, thinking about it, I’m probably over it. I might actually never do that again. I don’t feel the need.

Never think I’ve forgotten your name, because I haven’t. If I’ve forgotten your name I’ll be terribly apologetic and I’ll ask you to remind me what it is, because I can’t bare to be the person that never speaks to you again because I’m embarrassed by something like that. I’d never using a darling or a sweetheart on you to cover for my own stupidity... That wouldn’t be fair to either of us.

Dearheart is my favourite. If I call you dearheart I mean it more than I mean other things... and if I give you a nickname you’re set for life.

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