Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Why is Everyone Calling Me Sweetie?

It's can't be a Term of Endearment, I know that much. I'm hearing it all the time. At the Grocery Store, at work, among mixed company, formally, informally, everywhere. I can not get away from being called Sweetie. Its not uncommon for familiar terms to differ across generations: I once had a boss that constantly called me "Guy." As in, "Hey, guy" and "Good work, guy!" It was infuriating.


I'm getting called Sweetie by nearly every southern female I encounter. Because the South was "Polite Society" for a long time, there is plenty of lingering condescension in the language of today (see Vocab: Bless Your Heart). I would expect to hear Sweetie from elders, supervisors, and superiors in their own mind, but I hear from ladies across the age, business, and social strata.


It isn't as infuriating as the boss who only called me "guy," but Sweetie is at once condescending, quaint, and disarming. From what my close friends tell me, I am anything but a Sweetie, so like most social and societal issues, it's something I am just going to have to live with.



6 comments:

Jen Smith said...

I thought you were from California? Don't you know how to chill, relax, be cool?

Sweetie, honey, and dearie are not condescending. They are Southern for dude.

Josh (the oak) said...

Well, a lot of this stuff is cultural, and therefore subject to interpretation.

It may not be intended as condescending by the speaker, but it is addressing adults the same way one addresses children, so I would content that it is condescending on those grounds.

There is a clear gender distinction here - I have not been called Sweetie by any males - and I suspect that the use of Sweetie is a linguistic construct to passively assert power. Because the South is still VERY patriarchal it is one of the few socially acceptable way for women to express equality in the more "traditional" pockets of Southern Culture. Clearly it isn't always used thusly; habit and peer influence extend language quite a bit.

This is all speculation though, I haven't done any research to back this up.

onefinemess said...

Don't worry sweetie, I'll keep your secret.

I still can't believe you are living in the South.

jenny moon said...

once again you have pointed out something i never experienced in california, but have simply had to accept here in west virginia. although as a female,i have been called "honey" and "sweetie" by both men AND women of all ages (equal opportunity condescension). at first i thought every gas station attendant and convenience store clerk and postman was hitting on me and it freaked me out but bob explained to me that is is indeed just "the way things are here"...not that it makes me like it any more...

meg said...

i concur. you are not a sweetie.

and...I can not for one minute believe that you don't come back with a carefully constructed, sarcastic remark.

Bret said...

Josh, if it helps, I promise never to call you sweetie...