Re: [xmca] Terms of Endearment

From: mktostes <mktostes who-is-at>
Date: Sun Dec 16 2007 - 05:22:19 PST

Very interesting thread indeed.
The 'rules', as we can observe are not easy. Just to complement about how
things go in Brazil. My daughter was just criticizing some Portuguese
courses for foreigners the other day, saying that people don't use 'Senhor'
(Mr.) and 'Senhora' (Mrs.) anymore. But it depends on who you are speaking
to, the age and power/social relations.

As for the president, the media keeps using LULA, so we would address him as
Lula. It would be strange to do otherwise. But I don't think people would
use 'você' when talking to him, but 'senhor', indicating respect.

The title here is used with the first name: Senhor (more often 'seu')
Antonio, for example and 'dona' Lucia. Sometimes people are known by their
last name, so you can hear "Seu Pereira". Or with a nickname or even the
shortened name "Seu Zé", for instance.

'Senhor' and 'Senhora' are normally used without the name, indicating
respect. So, one can say "O que o Senhor/Senhora deseja?" (What would you
like?); "Sim senhor/Sim senhora". Similarly to Spanish, as mentioned by
Paul. Older generations tend to use 'senhor/senhora' more often because
that's the way things used to be back then and that's how they were taught
to show respect.

And... we can never forget intonation. Depending on your intonation, using
'Senhor/Senhora' or 'Seu/Dona' means you are angry and not being polite.

As for students. My students normally call me 'professora' Karin or teacher.
They rarely address me by my first name alone and many of them use 'senhora'
when talking to me and not 'você', but I don't like being called 'senhora'
because it makes me feel old 0-0.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Paul Dillon" <>
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <>
Sent: Thursday, December 13, 2007 11:18 PM
Subject: Re: [xmca] Terms of Endearment


  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" <apbrcorSeñ> 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

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

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

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

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 Sun Dec 16 05:25 PST 2007

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