Re: [xmca] Terms of Endearment

From: Ana Paula B. R. Cortez <apbrcortez who-is-at>
Date: Fri Dec 14 2007 - 02:02:53 PST

Thanks for that, Paul!

Paul Dillon <> escreveu:

I'm reading the posts since yesterday afternoon and just before reading your post, it occurred to post about the terms "Don" or "Donha", which are still very common in the Andean highlands. I've been thinking about the relationships between the U.S. address forms "Mister", "Misses"/"Sir" "Madam". "Señor or Señora" are the terms used
with a last name and so are like "Mr. and Mrs." but unlike the latter, one can use the Spanish terms by themselves. "Si Señor" which doesn't work at all with "Mr.", one doesn't say, yes Mr. but "yes Sir". Sometime in English, Mr. does stand alone but only when its use connotes and absolute authority relationship as in, "Do it now, Mister, or else". The one using the term treating the other in an absoutely non-dialogic way

On the other hand, “Don o Doña”, bracketing for now their historical uses and associations with "buenas familias", etc., are used in the central Andes with the first name, and like "Mr. or Mrs.", they can't stand along as far as I know. They are also used across status/class boundaries, a form for indicating respect but a more intimate respect.

For me this difference encapsulates a very fundamental difference in the patterns of interpersonal relations between English and SpanishPortugese American speech communities.


"Ana Paula B. R. Cortez" wrote:
Dear David (Professor Kellog? Mr Kellog? Mr David?),

Although being part of western culture as well, we, Brazilians, suffer from what we can call " the extreme intimacy syndrome". We never, ever, call anyone by their surname. Have you ever noticed that those football star T-shirts display names such as "Ronaldinho", "Kaka", "Romario", "Pelé"? Has anyone ever wondered why it is so? Blame the syndrome. What about the president of the country? Luis Inácio LULA da Silva? Even the nickname was included in his name. Nobody calls him "Mr Silva", but Lula. If I were to address to him, I'd never call him "Sir" (sorry, it's part of the local culture).

Now, picture the difficulties I find when I am teaching. I work at two different contexts: at university, where (of course!) I should be called "Mrs Cortez", but all I get is "Ana" (I don't even bother asking them to call me differently); and at a bilingual school, where (supposedly) the environment should be English-speaking only. Ok, most of them call me "Mrs Cortez" there, but then there are more chances of my being called "Mrs Corta", "Cortez", "Mrs" etc... new nicknames!

As you said, we don't teach "English", but human interaction. If I'm to interact with students that are using the language in a context where terms of endearment are very intimate, I believe I have to be careful to emphasize that it could never happen in an English-speaking country, only in Brazil. So, I warn them to use the proper titles when in Canada, USA, UK, Australian, wherever abroad.

However, the other way is a funny thing too: what do foreigners do when in Korea? If Koreans are supposed to follow and respect English-speaking countries protocol, do English speakers do the same when in Korea? All I can tell you is that we have a fun time speaking to foreigners here in Brazil, they just can't get too intimate! And feel like fish out of water...

I'm not following any theory here, it is just my own way of thinking: if in Rome, do like the Romans. This is human interaction.

Now, I don't know how I'm supposed to close the message. What should I write? Regards? Best Wishes? Or, something more daring, like Brazilians: Xoxo? Whatever!

Ana Paula

David Kellogg escreveu:
Dear Mike:

The problem is that there are cultures (including ours) where it's really TOO intimate to address a colleague by their first name. In most families in Korea, a younger brother doesn't use the first name of an older brother though the older brother may use that of the younger (just as parents may use their children's first names but not vice versa in the West). I can never get my students to call me anything but "Professor Kellogg" even though I am really only a lecturer (and that's why we address everybody except Mike as "Professor" in our contribution to the discussion on development).

I gather from Paul's comments that "dear" as a letter salutation is also considered too intimate now, which was certainly not true when I left the USA more or less permanently in the early 1980s.

In English teaching we try (very stupidly) to teach terms of address as a set of rules, e.g.

a) WHERE INTIMATE: Never use a FIRST name with a title (except that of course here in Korea the last name comes first and the first name comes last)

b) WHERE NOT INTIMATE: Never use a LAST name without a title (ditto).

This succeeds in utterly confusing our learners and erects huge barriers to human interaction where none previously existed. Language is NOT a set of rules--not even grammar "rules" are rules, and to to try to teach respect and collegiality as a set of rules is almost a contradiction in terms (since rules will inevitably involve a clash between MY rules and YOURS and the way I end up expressing my respect for you involves NOT respecting your rules).

So what do I teach? Human interaction, of course. You ask somebody how to address them and then you forget your own bloody rules and just do what they tell you to do. In fact, a question like "What do I call you?" is EASIER to teach than the so-called "rules" above. But most importantly it is clearly LIMITING and LIMITED in a way that so-called rules are not. It's concrete and personal, one might almost say intimate, as human interactions have to be.

Last night I was reading Paul Bloom's book "How Children Learn the Meanings of Words" (MIT: 2001). He has a "rules and words" paradigm for language, so he spends some of the latter part of the book smirking at those of us who consider rules and words negotiable and not innate.

He cites the following parody of the Whorfian (and Vygotskyan) position on p. 244.

Whorfian: Eskimos are greatly infuenced by their language in their perception of snow. for example, they have N words for snow whereas English only has none. Having all these different words makes them think of snow very differently than Americans do.
Skeptic: How do you know they think differently than Americans do?
Whorfian: Look at all the words they have for snow!

First of all, if Inuit who see snow every day have exactly the same perception of snow as Americans who have never seen snow in their lives, it is the skeptics and not the Whorfians who have some tough explaining to do. Secondly, there is really NOTHING circular about language being both cause and effect: the language of previous generations is an effect for them and a cause for us. In the same way, a question like "What do I call you?" is both effect and cause, and so is its effect, namely the answer. What's so hard about that?

David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education


Actually, Paul, though I am not a Stones fan, at heart I am a street fightin' man like you.... But you can see that our Dear Mike takes his pastoral duties on this list very seriously indeed, and that's surely one reason why the list is such a nice quiet place to work.


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Received on Fri Dec 14 02:04 PST 2007

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