Summit Up 4-25-10
Good morning and welcome to Summit Up, the world’s only daily column caught in a courtesy-title-wave of confusion. The other day we wanted to get our female server’s attention and uttered a: “Pardon me, ma’am. If you could scratch that Budweiser, I’d really prefer a gin and tonic.”The hard stare she returned was tough to diagnose at first.But we pondered that perhaps in Las Vegas, mature women in flashy, low-cut attire don’t dig the “ma’am” title so appreciated by delicate ladies of the South. Oops. The “no sir” and “yes ma’am” expressions repeatedly beaten into our childhood seem to be losing ground to a contemporary paradigm of aspiration for youth and disdain for wrinkles. We seldom use or hear “sir,” for whatever reason. But it seems like “mister” is appropriate as ever. We’ve always been most comfortable referring to males of our age group as “guy,” younger ones as “fella” and older ones as “mister.”With the women, we run into trouble once more with “misses” versus “miss.” The safe bet these days seems that when in doubt, use “miss.”***It’s always easier just to use the person’s first name. If there’s anything the 21st century has offered, it’s the opportunity to know everyone on a first-name basis. This negates the need for any courtesy title and is certainly much more personal. However, we’ve noticed people seem more often to share the same first name – or even nickname – than last name. Our cellular telephone contains 10 Matts, five Johns and five Katies. So it can be tough to remember a unique individual in a sea of acquaintances, which brings us back to the terrible conundrum of subbing in a worthy courtesy title. “Hey, you” never, ever sounds good. Other less-than-useful attention-getting strategies include the “Ahem,” “So hey,” or “You know…” Now these gems must be deployed with great care. Two objectives are essential:1. You must get the person’s neutral attention; you don’t want to start a conversation with them thinking, “Oh, very impressive. This moron’s met me three times and still can’t remember my name.” This will take some practice. 2. Segue with flattery. Even if you did blow it, most people will get over a forgotten name if you can find something to compliment. Shoes and hair are safe bets with both sexes. ***Physical contact sometimes works, but since we’re talking about acquaintances, extreme caution should be taken. We once put a hand on a woman’s shoulder only to watch her jump a good 10 feet in the air. Awkward. The best way to avoid courtesy titles is when the ball is in their court. The person who starts the conversation tends to have the most responsibility for using a name or appropriate substitute.Of course, if they use your name correctly or – gasp – your full name, things could get really hairy. We’ve found that when the stakes get that high, the easy way out may just be a: “Oh dear, I’m so sorry, you’ll have to excuse me but I was really not all there the last time we spoke, and I forgot your name.”This has a 30-70 offensive-to-forgivable success rate. And that ain’t bad.If you feel especially lucky, just give ’em a name you think will pass. The human subconscious has a powerful ability to remember frivolous stuff like first names.Giving it free reign can end in a genuine feeling of satisfaction – or a hearty laugh for all. In any case, a truly apt socialite will sleuth out a person’s name before the moment of contact. Someone may have used the name as little as five minutes before you find yourself on the spot. Or the name could be sticking out of a purse or wallet – or on a keychain or name tag. Keep an eye out for these things. It’s Sunday, and we’re repeating your name to ourselves 10 times.
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