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Introducing child to a person in their 60's..
do you address them as "Mary" or Mrs Smith?

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93 replies to this topic

#1 terracottapots

Posted 20 March 2012 - 02:26 PM

I had my 9 year old nephew with me the other day and ran into my neighbour at the store - I just know her as "Mary"(not her real name" and she is a friend to me.
I introduced her to my nephew as "Mary".
She quickly corrected me and "Said, No, I am Mrs Brown".
I felt stupid and awkward and a little offended that she corrected me and silly that I had made the mistake.What was I thinking - this is a child and she is an adult!
What Do you think?

Would you have remembered to say Mrs Brown or Mary or what do you think is the best way of introducing her to the child?

Sometimes I just plain forget.  I think that I have manners but it seems I make mistakes  sad.gif

Edited by terracottapots, 20 March 2012 - 02:35 PM.

#2 cheekymonkeysmum

Posted 20 March 2012 - 02:34 PM

Hmm hard one.

I always introduce ds to people and use their first name they usually have no problems.

But i can see how she would like to be introduced as last name only as when i was growing up all my friends mum and dads were Mr  or Mrs.

I think in the end it all depends on the person.

I sure she would not have minded that much as you have know her as Mary all the time you have known her.
It's a simple mistake.

#3 Tesseract

Posted 20 March 2012 - 02:35 PM

Mary is old fashioned. Today it is the norm for children to address adults by their first names. In fact calling somebody Mr/Mrs Brown was getting dated when I was a kid.

But since that's what Mary wanted, she corrected you, and that's fine.

I wouldn't be losing sleep over it. She probably just thinks you're an ignorant heathen. People today, they have no respect! And all that.

#4 bosmarklar

Posted 20 March 2012 - 02:40 PM

I don't think you did anything wrong, OP.

You said that you just know her as "Mary" - does that mean that you do not know her last name? If you don't know her last name, then there is no other way for you to introduce her original.gif.

Personally, I would do the same, even if I knew the woman's last name! I picture my mum, who is 70, being introduced as "Mrs. ___" and I know she would much prefer to be addressed by her first name, as would I when children address me (of course I am not 60, but still ...).

I guess you might have to gauge how proper or old-fashioned the person is ... or, you can be conservative and go with "Mrs.", and if the person is like my mum they would just say, "Oh, no, please call me (first name)".

I'm sure your manners are just fine!

#5 liveworkplay

Posted 20 March 2012 - 02:45 PM

If I can, I ask them what they would like to be called. 100% of the time I have been told "first name" or "nickname" However, I do have trouble addressing my friends parents with anything but Mr and Mrs. They think it is very old fashioned of me laughing2.gif

#6 bakesgirls

Posted 20 March 2012 - 02:50 PM

When I introduce my children to someone, I always use the titles of Mr. or Mrs. first. If and when the children are invited to call that person by their first name, then they can do so.

#7 2bellaboos

Posted 20 March 2012 - 02:51 PM

To get straight to the point, I wouldn't worry to much about it. I respect someone's wish to be referred to as Mr or Mrs, especially if they are in a certain age bracket, but it's not like people walk around with a t-shirt saying "please refer to me as Mr/ Mrs xxx". It's just a personal preference. I don't think what you did makes you rude or ignorent.

I still call my friends (from school) parents Mr and Mrs. Some have told me "seriously, you can call me Anne now" but it feels weird! Just like running into your old school teachers...

#8 wombat

Posted 20 March 2012 - 02:55 PM

Don't feel silly, you did the right thing.  You know her as Mary, why would you introduce her as anything else.  Where, I wonder, is the cut off age.  When would Mary consider the child old enough to call her by her first name?  12, 16, 18,21?  And how on earth would you know that.  She sounds a bit full of herself IMO.  I have always introduced DD to adults by their first names, and even those in their 70's and 80's have never had a problem.  Except for one old dear in our street who is Mrs Finn, and thats because she was introduced to me this way years ago.  In fact I don't think anyone in the street even knows her first name lol

#9 MummaDiva

Posted 20 March 2012 - 02:57 PM

I always use honorifics for people older than me, and people who occupy positions of respect (teachers, doctors etc).  But I am pretty old-school in terms of manners.  I have also pulled up (gently) a few of my DDs friends who think it is OK to call me by my first name.  If they are kids I know well, they can address me with an "Aunty FIRSTNAME".  If the parents or children don't know my surname, they can all me "DDs mummy".

#10 CallMeFeral

Posted 20 March 2012 - 03:01 PM

I try to get my children to refer to elders as auntie such and such, but I guess that's a cultural thing and last time it started a whole kerfuffle about people who couldn't stand the idea of using that term.
But yes for me I find it a little uncomfortable hearing my toddlers refer to adults by their first names, so while I don't correct them if they use the first name, I do introduce them using the term Aunty.

#11 HRH Countrymel

Posted 20 March 2012 - 03:03 PM

I think that as with anyone of any age you leave it up to them what they will be called.

I would introduce the children to her formally 'Mrs Smith' or 'Mrs Mary Smith' and leave it up to her to say "You can call me Mary." or "Call me Auntie Mary".

If she prefers Mrs Smith then that's what she shall be...

I keep thinking back to my Grandmother's last years in aged care. She was a formidable woman and having been a teacher for over 50 years was used to being addressed formally.

The staff in the aged care facility were calling her by her first name. She had dementia and was utterly confused by this. No one, literally no-one, called her by her first name, bar one person, she had out lived all her friends, her late husband had called her by a nickname, her family (us) called her either 'Mum' or 'Nanna'... one person and one person only called her by her first name and that was her sister. Prior to that it had been her parents... even her former work colleagues called her 'Mrs C'.

When we raised this with the home they said "But it is friendlier"... the thing was it may have sounded friendlier to them - all it was to Nanna was confusing - who were these people? They weren't her sister? They sure as hell weren't her parents.

Calling an elder by their formal title doesn't infer distance anymore than calling someone by their first name guarantees intimacy.

I was the very best of friends with my elderly neighbour as a child - I called her 'Mrs M***' and she called me Little Mel. I don't think me calling her 'Ada' would have made us any closer?

#12 foom

Posted 20 March 2012 - 03:18 PM

With a child primary school age or younger and the adult is old enough to be their parent then I aim to say they are "Mrs/Ms LastName" and let them say "no you can call me FirstName". But I often forget.

High school children I try to use the full name and let the child and adult involved choose - the high school children I know were raised doing a mix of things.  

But after 10 years of marriage I still have trouble remembering I'm "Mrs LastName" to some of my friends teenagers - that's my MIL! My surname can be hard to pronounce so I'm "Mrs
FirstName" to some smaller children.

#13 Mitis angelam

Posted 20 March 2012 - 03:25 PM

To me, the default for addressing anyone significantly older is to use title and surname.  Especially for children.  However, given this...

QUOTE (terracottapots @ 20/03/2012, 03:26 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I just know her as "Mary"

...I can see why it would be awkward.  I would probably have tried for "Aunt Mary" as at least you're still trying to show respect even though you didn't know her surname.

QUOTE (wombat @ 20/03/2012, 03:55 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Where, I wonder, is the cut off age.

When the person invites you to use their first name, and not before.  To me, that's just basic good manners.

#14 paddyboo

Posted 20 March 2012 - 03:28 PM

Mrs Brown. I was always told you have no right to refer to an elder by their first name unless they have asked you to. You have been given the right to call her Mary, you do not have the right to pass the privelage on.

#15 purplekitty

Posted 20 March 2012 - 03:30 PM

QUOTE (Ange Vert @ 20/03/2012, 03:25 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
When the person invites you to use their first name, and not before.  To me, that's just basic good manners.

#16 MummaDiva

Posted 20 March 2012 - 03:37 PM

Even if you didn't know "Mary"s surname, surely you could have done the "Oh, Billy-Bob, this is Mrs ... (aside to Mary) oh, Mary I don't know your family name ... how should I address you?"

#17 Sunstone

Posted 20 March 2012 - 03:40 PM

'when the person invites you to use their first name and not before. To me, that is just basic good manners'


I always ask especially if I know there are different surnames due to marriage, remarriage etc

I'm always happy with 'Lachie's Mum'  smile1.gif

Edited by Stanzy, 20 March 2012 - 03:42 PM.

#18 KC-

Posted 20 March 2012 - 03:42 PM

I like the idea of a person themselves choosing what name they are referred to by. So grandparents will get to choose what they prefer, and aunty can determine if she's wants to be Aunty X or just X. I think this is especially important in my family given the number of step relationships/courtesy aunts and uncles etc.

I'm going to try to remember when introducing my little one to people to ask what their preference is, but if I forget to one day, and they make their preference clear themselves, as Mrs Brown did, then job done!

#19 JRA

Posted 20 March 2012 - 03:43 PM

I must admit, DH is 50, we have a lot of friends who are 60. 60 is far from old, in the sense of "old fashioned".  DH therefore knows lots of what people have called old people, none of these would expect to be me Mrs or Ms.

Especially someone in their 60s, that is the hippy era. Far from "correct" when it comes to these sort of things.n

I don't think you did the wrong thing, you know her as Mary.

If you were introducing her to someone of an era where the Mrs/Ms was the norm, such as in their 80s I think it would be a bit different.

ETA: I would never introduce an adult you don't know well as Aunty.... The OP did not know the woman well, clearly,given she did not know the woman's surname

Edited by JRA, 20 March 2012 - 03:44 PM.

#20 ~Jodama_Feral~

Posted 20 March 2012 - 03:44 PM

QUOTE (♥-patricksmum-♥ @ 20/03/2012, 04:28 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Mrs Brown. I was always told you have no right to refer to an elder by their first name unless they have asked you to. You have been given the right to call her Mary, you do not have the right to pass the privelage on.

I agree with this especially in an older person. I always tell people no please call by my first name because I am Blah not Mrs Blah. But a lot of people still like the respect of being called Mrs/Mr Surname.

#21 Froger

Posted 20 March 2012 - 03:47 PM

I think what you did was fine OP. You are bound to upset some people some of the time no matter what you do. I know an older person (my ex-boss) who got quite cross when they were introduced to a child as "Aunty so and so". She requested (quite meanly and angrily) to be called by her first name as she wasn't their real Aunty, even though the person was just trying to be respectful.

Anyway, the kids of my culture usually refer to me as Aunty. (When I'm older still I'll be referred to as Grandma, but I'm not quite there yet, lol). But those kids not of my culture refer to me by my first name. I don't request this, it just seems to be the way it is. And I find it perfectly acceptable.

My son had a friend come around the other day after school who actually asked me what he should call me. I was very impressed by his lovely manners! He was a lovely well mannered teen boy. I told him to call me by my first name.

Edited by SarahM72, 20 March 2012 - 05:06 PM.


Posted 20 March 2012 - 03:51 PM

My kids are told first name. At DS1 and DD's school most of the teachers are called by there first names, except some of the ones that are still there from teaching me. I even find it hard to call them one by their first name original.gif

#23 Futureself

Posted 20 March 2012 - 03:53 PM

QUOTE (MummaDiva @ 20/03/2012, 03:37 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Even if you didn't know "Mary"s surname, surely you could have done the "Oh, Billy-Bob, this is Mrs ... (aside to Mary) oh, Mary I don't know your family name ... how should I address you?"

Well, technically, to show respect Mary's name should be said first and Billy-Bob introduced to her but I agree with your reasoning "Mary, this is my nephew Billy-Bob." is the correct introduction. That way Mary can say "Hi Billy Bob I'm Mrs Smith" or OP could then say "Apologies Mary, I don't know your surname to introduce you".

#24 terracottapots

Posted 20 March 2012 - 04:00 PM

Thank-you for your replies.
To clarify I do know her surname.

It was her tone that made me feel as though I had said a dumb thing.

#25 la di dah

Posted 20 March 2012 - 04:17 PM

I wouldn't introduce a child to any adult over about 25 as their  first name. Though I expect 8/10 the adult will say "oh no call me Mary, honey." Has nothing to do with her being especially old, for me.

That's my background though. I say yes ma'am and no ma'am in a professional setting, though  I doubt I'll be super strict on children answering all adults as sir/ma'am. I've noticed things are often a bit less formal here but my default is still relatively formal I guess.

Edited by la di dah, 20 March 2012 - 04:18 PM.

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