Addressing People by Name

Years and years ago, when I wrote my first novel, I handed it over to my wife to read and comment on. Can you imagine my shock when she advised me that I’d repeatedly made the same easily fixable flaw?

Yes, it seemed I’d overdone having characters refer to one another by name when addressing one another in dialogue. Huh?

Sure enough, in writing contemporary fiction, the author should be very stingy in using names in direct address. Even though that’s a convenient way to show who’s talking without saying, “Mary said,” we authors should rely on other methods–more creative ones–to accomplish that goal.

Why was I so shocked to be called on my misuse of names in direct address, then? (Other than the fact I hadn’t yet learned that was a no-no.)

Because I was copying real life. MY real life. I like to call people by name. It makes them feel important.

At least it makes me feel important when other people do it to me.

When we started attending our current church (we’ve been there at least ten years), a female member of the church staff who hadn’t gotten my name down yet kept addressing me as “Buddy.” Yuck! I’d rather not have been addressed as anything. Fortunately that changed quickly, and she calls me by name frequently. (And never “Buddy”.)

I became even more conscious of my feelings on this subject during the three years I worked at Target before retiring to write full-time.  I had a number of African-American–is “Black” in or out of fashion now?–co-workers, and I was pleasantly amazed at how many of them, especially the older ones, addressed me as “Mr. Roger.” It made me feel respected.

Even though I retired eight years ago, those same people continue to address me that way. I would feel artificial if I were to address them that way, and I’d like to believe I give them just as much respect addressing them by first name (I’ve never known their last names, and they probably don’t know mine) as they give me.

I’ve mentioned from time to time that I walk at the mall in the mornings. I can only think of two fellow walkers I actually know (or have known) except at the mall. One from church and one from our former church.

But over a period of time, I’ve exchanged names with some of them. Chris. Grady. John. Sam. Margaret. Dolores. We all call one another by name the first time we meet while walking, and–as strange as it might sound–it makes me feel good to have at least that small bit of familiarity with people I’m not apt to have a chance to really get to know in “real life.”

What about you? Are you conscious of addressing or being addressed by name? (Not necessarily by first name.) What are your feelings on this subject? How about leaving a comment?

NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.


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Best regards,

Respect for All

I don’t think I’ve ever written a post here that I didn’t have the title for first. But now I do.

When I started working at the International Mission Board in September of 1984–it was still the Foreign Mission Board then–my supervisor shared an interesting bit of information. He said that even though many of the staff had earned doctorates, no one was so important that I couldn’t address him by his first name.

That turned out to be accurate with few exceptions, and the choice to say “Dr. So-and-So” was mine. Not because I was intimidated into doing it, but because I felt an extra amount of respect for those people.

Respect is a funny thing. I’m going to share something that will surprise and perhaps shock you. It’s something I definitely wouldn’t have been stupid enough to do once I got a little older, and I still feel embarrassed at the memory of it.

Once while I was still teaching school–probably during my second or third year out of college–I was sitting in the guidance office (I always enjoyed talking to the guidance counselor) when the Superintendent of Schools came in. I had my feet up on a desk. Not a good thing to be caught doing by someone at the top of my food chain.

This fellow was someone I had absolutely no respect for. Not only didn’t he have the degrees you might expect someone in his position to have, he frequently used horrible grammar. “He don’t…she don’t.” Can you believe that?

So, did I do the smart thing and take my feet down? Nope. I didn’t feel I owed this guy that kind of respect. (I wasn’t thinking in terms of proper or improper.)

The older I get, the more I’ve come to recognize that everyone deserves my respect. Even people I don’t like or am usually at loggerheads with.

I’m not any better than anyone else. God loves everyone equally, and that has become the basis of my respect for all people.

My improved attitude about respect motivates me to show the janitors and security people at the mall the same interest and appreciation I show people I’m closer to.

I don’t expect to receive any additional jewels in my heavenly crown because of that. Why should I? I get my reward from knowing I may have been the only person to share a pleasant word with someone that day.

What about you? What is your basis for showing respect ? Do you pay attention to folks whose jobs are menial? Please leave a comment.


I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I use “As I Come Singing” to post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years. Check it out HERE if you’re interested. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

My new novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is out now. If you’re interested, please check it out at Amazon.

Best regards,

To Sir, With Age

 To Sir with Love

Do you recall a 1967 Sidney Poitier movie called “To Sir, With Love”? I remember the title, although I don’t think I ever saw the movie, and I remember the title song, sung by Lulu. (The comic strip character Little Lulu? I hope not!) I remember other movies Poitier starred in, but I don’t recall any other songs by Lulu. Oh, well.

The long and the short of it (okay, it’s a little late for short) is I adapted that movie title for this post. No copyright issues in doing that. Titles aren’t copyrightable, anyhow.

I don’t know how old I was when someone first addressed me as “Sir,” but I recall my reaction. “I know you’re just being polite, but I’m not old enough to call sir.” I hope I sounded more courteous than I felt at the time.

Nonetheless, I shrugged and tried to ignore it. After five or six years, I managed to forget about it. Kind of.

Some years later, someone else called me “Sir.” Hmm. I still wasn’t old enough to think of myself as a sir, but at least it didn’t offend me. Truth be known, it pleased me ever so slightly.

Many years after that, I noticed that more and more people were starting to call me “Sir.” And—shock of all shocks—I was beginning to enjoy it, even though I still didn’t think of myself as old.

And then the horrible day came when someone failed to call me “Sir”—and I caught myself thinking, “Huh! Why didn’t you address me as ‘Sir’? Don’t you have any respect for your, uh, . . . ?” But then I couldn’t even allow myself to think the word “elders.”


 I might not have reached “ancient” yet at that time—at sixty-seven I still haven’t—but I’d definitely hit “older.” Nonetheless—as long as I’m still able to get up every morning—I’ll continue to salute myself once in the mirror.

Please come back again to see what I post next. Follow this blog if you want to. And feel free to leave a comment. What did this post say to or about you?

Best regards,