What do I call you?

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by Margaret Watson

A recent report in the Telegraph told of the ultra-politically correct plans contained in a leaflet circulated to Members of the European Parliament. The aim is to ban the use of terms such as Mrs, Miss, Frau, Fraulein, Senora, Senorita and Madame, Mademoiselle. Instead females are to be addressed only by their full name.

What can I say?  This is potty, mad, insane, lunatic – just add your own words here. I was recently in a French café. I ordered two drinks. The waitress charged me for two, but only bought one. I had no idea what her name was, so called her back ‘Mademoiselle!’ What else could I have done, shouted "Oi you!"?

In England there was a fashion in certain quarters for a while to call oneself Ms i.e. not defining whether one was married or not. In the past few years I cannot recall even one person insisting on being addressed as Ms. You cannot impose such things on people. We had 'chairperson' for a while too – this seems to have generally become chairman, whatever the sex of the person concerned, though I have come across a few chairwomen.  And why not!

I am not a feminist in the sense that I think women are necessarily better than men – or even worse. We are different. If the pamphlet had banned all titles including Herr and Signor it would have made slightly more sense.

All cultures and even individuals are not equal in the way they address each other. My friends tend to be addressed by their first names, but I know that if I were in France or Germany there are those who would expect formal greetings, even after quite a long acquaintance, but this is breaking down, slowly. However I laughed recently to see my husband going round a group formally shaking hands and muttering ‘Monsieur’ to each one. I knew they were all Londoners, but they in turn thought he was French and went along with it.

We are trying to buy a house in France and so get lots of correspondence from agents we have met there. The English ones always address us by our first names. Some of the French ones do and some don’t , yet all introduced themselves to us by first names only.

As for the difference between sportsman/woman and athlete these are interchangeable words as far as I can see. No winner of an Olympic medal is likely to object to being called and sportsman or woman and sportsperson just sounds awkward.

One of the problems in English is that ‘man’ often stands for mankind i.e. both female and male are included in the term. The absence of another suitable word has been a weapon for feminists for 40 years or more.

These inane regulations aren’t the only ones to come out of the E.U. There was almost a ban on bagpipes a few years ago – I wonder how they would cope with the annual bagpipe festival in Brittany - all played by pipers ( there is a non-sexist word for you). They go to extremes – rubber boots supposedly require a user manual in 12 languages . You put them on, left on left, right on right. That is all – except don’t wear them on my clean floors. They also issued a directive stating that imported bananas should be free from ‘abnormal curvature’. What does that mean? How much is too much? All of it when its comes to the stupidity of such red tape.

People are actually receiving salaries for such nonsense!