Saturday, 9 June 2012

UNCLE and Proud

It is interesting to see how different cultures appraoch the problem of how to address a stranger, especially someone who is older than you.

The traditional British refrain, made famous by many a black and white movie, is to call them "Mister" or "Sir" (or "Miss" and "Ma'am" if female), alternatively the issues may be dodged slightly by using the words "Excuse me" and hoping that the person in question knows that they are the target of your communication.

But in the south asian community, it works a little differently.

Here, it is all about respect for elders (and BFTF means that in an entirely good way). The rule is very simple.

When talking to someone your own age you call them "Brother" or "Sister".

When talking to someone more than 10-15years older than you, you call them "Uncle" or "Auntie".

. If you are on the receiving end and don't want to be called "Uncle" because it makes you feel old. Tough.

BFTF (who is old enough to remember when colour TV was a novelty) mentions this now because it has become apparant over the last few years that, when served in shops, he is becoming less likely to be addressed as a "Brother" and more likely that he will be called "Uncle". After a few attempts at saying "Hey, I'm not old enough to be an Uncle", BFTF has resigned himself to the fact that this is a tide that it not going to be turned back and that some kind of peace needs to be made with the new designation (which, dissapointingly, does not seem to come attached with a discount on the price of the goods being bought).

So, dear reader, it's ok, you can call me "Uncle" and I'm cool with that.

UPDATE : 10th June 2012

A number of people have pointed out that this post should really be entitled "Uncle Gee and Proud" as the suffix "Gee" if often used as a maek of respect. Whilst this is true in cases where the two people know each other well and in a family context, in BFTF's experience it is plain vanilla "Uncle" that is used when addressing a stranger or someone that is not well known.

The possible exception to this is when trying to persuade an oldster that they are just plain wrong on some point or other, as in "Uncle Gee, I know Pepsi is on offer at Sainsburys, but that store is 5 miles away and you are driving a big Merc, so it'll cost more in petrol that you'll save."



Note : This article has also been published in The Invitation magazine.

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