Motherhood

What Do Your Kids Call Adults?

Toby and Anton

What do your kids call adults? I’m always surprised…

When we were growing up in Michigan, my mom’s best friend was Barb Olmstead. They’d chat forever on the porch; we’d go to dinner at her house and play with her kids. But forever and always, no matter how much time we spent together, we called her “Mrs. Olmstead.” To call her “Barb” would have been bizarre — even at age 38, I cringe with awkwardness just imagining it!

But here in Brooklyn, the children around us address adults much less formally. Our boys call adults (friends, neighbors, crossing guards) by their first names, pretty much exclusively. They’ll ask when Rob and Kath are coming over, or if we can meet Raj and Kaori for lunch. Our friends encourage it.

Is it because we all hang out together, more than we ever did with my parents’ friends? Is it because many couples have different last names? (Same with Alex and me.) Is it because the culture overall is becoming more laid-back? Is it because we adults still want to feel young, and being called “Dr,” “Mrs,” “Ms,” etc. reminds us of our own parents?

Of course, expectations vary in different places and cultures. In many countries (including Australia, China and Germany), teachers typically go by their last names. But in Finland, “it’s first names or even nicknames with teachers,” Rita Rosenback told Expatica. “The whole society is very informal. I don’t think that even the president would flinch if someone called him by his first name.”

And what about aunts and uncles? “Our whole lives, we’ve called my mom’s brother simply ‘Uncle,’ and nothing more,” laughs Cup of Jo editor Megan. “So, if I’m talking to my mom, I’ll say, ‘I’m going to have lunch with Uncle.'” But these days Megan’s nieces have made up pet names for everyone. “I’m Magel, which rhymes with bagel,” she says, “and my boyfriend Mac is ‘Mac n’ Cheese.’ ”

I’m so curious: What do your kids call adults? What did you call adults when growing up? Where do you live, and what do you prefer?

P.S. A motherhood mantra, and the blind-date test for baby names.

  1. for koreans of my dad’s age–i mean he’s dead now–it was respectful to call people by honorific + last name, even if they’re the same age. because koreans, that’s 10,000 mr. kims, mrs. paks, and miss lees. otoh for americans it’s friendly to be called by your first name. our school principal was a phd but was always like “call me joe!” and my dad did not like him. so he would call him joe and inside be like, SICK BURN >:|

  2. Mari says...

    In Afrikaans (South Africans!) we have the words ‘tannie’ and ‘oom’ which is basically aunt and uncle. It used to be that you would call anyone older that you by ten years would need to be adressed like this, nowadays it is a bit less formal but still used most of the time. I only call people oom and tannie if they are visibly gray but I like the sense of nostalgia about it…

  3. Nikki says...

    I laughed out loud when you mentioned that one of the Cup of Jo editors simply calls her Mom’s brother “Uncle.” My brother and I are 35 & 36 years old, and we still do the same thing! I thought we were the only ones! It always made sense to me, I mean you call your mom “Mom,” not “Mom Judy” for example. Why would your other family members be any different?

  4. I am a Filipino and we usually call our friends’ parents or our parents’ friends “Tita/Tito or Auntie or Uncle” regardless of any blood relation or not. For an elder sister or female we call them “Ate” and “Kuya” for an elder brother or male. We never call elder people by their first name unless they are the same age as we are.

    Our company President is half-Canadian and he keeps on insisting to be addressed by his first name but we can NEVER do it! haha

  5. Well, I love the Kenyan tradition and if I was doing it all over again, I might embrace it. But my son called adults Miss First Name and Mr First Name. As in, Miss Amy, Miss Marie, Mr Jeff. It’s less formal than last names and more formal than just first names. It’s a Southern tradition that I taught my son and it’s served us very well. These days, I invite my son’s friends to call me by my first name but most of them are friends from the school where I work and he attends, and they can’t quite manage it. I also invite my former students to call me by my first name when they come back to visit and they never manage it!

  6. Sarah says...

    I think it’s a combination of time and place. I grew up in Virginia in the 90s and early 00s and my sisters and I called most adults by Mr. and Ms. except for a few of my mom’s best friend and my dance teachers — but even they were Miss Chrissy or Miss Dawn. Then, in 2003, we moved to Salt Lake City where all the kids would call my parents by their first name and their parents encouraged me to do the same. It was pretty weird for both me and my parents, but we got used to it. I think it’s pretty common now.

  7. Sally says...

    I remember feeling so awkward about what to call adults when I was a child!
    My best friend’s mum was Evelyn, but I never knew what to call her… Did I call her Evelyn, Mrs Jackson or “Michelle’s mum”? I think I got around it by never calling her anything! I think in the 10+ years we were best friends, I never addressed her by name!
    This is why, as a 30-something year old adult, whenever I meet new children, early on in the conversation, I’ll let them know what to call me. Whether that’s through a first-time introduction, “Hi Soandso! I’m Sally!” Or, if we’ve met before, a gentle reminder, or for really Little’s referring to myself in the third person. Eg: Can Sally have the ball now?”

  8. I grew up calling grown-ups “Mr. or Miss so-and-so.” I still feel weird calling my in-laws by their first names.

    On the flip side as an adult I’m usually called “Miss Jenny” by my friends’ kids. The other day, after hearing my sister say my name, my nephew called me “Jennifer” instead of “Aunt Nen.” It tripped me out and I didn’t like it, haha.

  9. Kasi says...

    I’m a librarian and for some reason, I hate it when parents call me “Ms. Kasi” and make their littles do the same. It seems so forced! It feels so much more natural that the teenagers just say, “Hey Kasi, yada yada yada.” I also don’t mind being called by my title. “Librarian” or any version of that is perfectly acceptable to me, including my own personal favorite, “Libaby.”

  10. Mariana Lauria says...

    That’s such an welcoming invitation down memory lane!
    I am originally from Brazil, but have been living in the UK for 15 years (!!). I remember being in my teens in São Paulo and other kids calling my parents uncle or auntie, regardless if they were related or not. My parents never liked that, they were quiet precious of keeping that title exclusively to their nieces and nephews. Equally, if they were called Mr. or Mrs., they would request to be called by their first names. They didn’t mind the informality, as long as it was within certain boundaries… :)

  11. I remember when my sister started working at our local golf course during the summer after she graduated. Part of her job was to run the beer cart around the course, and our elementary school principal, who was an avid golfer, often had a beer when he golfed. She’d say, “Here you go, Mr. McConnell.” And he’d reply, “Oh please, call me Wayne.” But she just couldn’t do it. It was way to weird for her to call him anything but Mr. McConnell. And I totally understood where she was coming from!

    We call people in positions of authority Mr. & Mrs. & Ms Last name. But if they’re friends then it’s first name basis, very casual. I suppose it’s one extreme to the other!

  12. As a child, my Mom encouraged a mix of formal and informal – We usually called adults “Mr. or Mrs. [First Name].” For example, a neighbor who picked us up from school was Mrs. Carey. I think I’ll probably encourage my kids to do the same!

  13. Navi says...

    I love this post! My family is originally from Punjab, India and I was born in Calgary, Ab, Canada. Growing up we called all our parent’s friends “aunty or uncle”, even if we were not related. It took me awhile to realize that was not universal, and spent years calling my friends parents “aunty or uncle”. We use different words to describe our relatives, such as my mom’s sister is “Masi” and my dad’s sister is “bua”. It can be complicated!

  14. Katherine says...

    My parents, despite being incredibly casual and raising my brother and I in a liberal mecca, were always very traditional about addressing adults. We always called any adults/friends’ parents Mr. & Mrs. until we were asked otherwise. It’s just respectful to start with the most formal, then change when asked to!

    The thing I NEVER got, and will never get, is people who call their parents by their first names. The angriest I have ever seen my calm, gentle father is when my brother yelled at him and called him David when we were small children. He made it explicitly clear that we were to call him Daddy or Mr. Kirk and nothing else. The same goes for my Mom! We’re both in our twenties now and while we get some eye rolls, my brother and I still call him Daddy. Forms of Dad and Mom are all fine, of course, but man, we would never, ever, ever call our parents by their first names.

  15. Brady says...

    As an American living in India I have learned a lot about how different cultures address people. My boyfriend’s mother always tells me what to call everyone who stops by and it’s usually just simple like “mama, papa, brother, aunt, uncle” with the added “ji” (pronounced “g”) at the end for respect. It’s all in Hindi also so it translates to calling her “mami ji” and her husband “papa ji.” It makes it feel formal, but also very comforting and like you have a very close relationship with everyone you meet. If you don’t know their name sometimes just “ji” will suffice. Namaste ji.

  16. Lucy says...

    My fiance is Swedish and is a high school teacher here in New Zealand where I come from. He really doesn’t like having to be called by his last name, or ‘Mister’ and ‘Sir’. These are the most common ways students address high school teachers in New Zealand. As students can have up to 8 different teachers so from what I remember, it is just easier if they were called the same!

  17. VP says...

    In Indian culture, we refer to elders who are not related to us as Auntie and Uncle. Just today, my daughter’s pediatrician who is also Indian called my mom Auntie. It just shows respect. This is how we will teach my daughter too.

  18. Susan says...

    Ugh to the “Miss Susan” construct. That sounds like what you call a preschool teacher.

    And it’s amusing that some of you think that sir / ma’am is a sign of respect and are surprised when it’s not used for parents, teachers, etc. That may be the case in the South or in military families. But in the north, sir / ma’am is a term FOR A STRANGER with whom you explicitly don’t want to develop a relationship beyond the matter at hand. “Excuse me, sir, which way is Main Street?” “Excuse me, ma’am (or miss), I think you dropped your wallet.” Therefore, to most northern ears, it is an actual sign of rudeness and snarkiness to use sir or ma’am for someone whose name you actually know and with whom you have a relationship. Indeed, if my kids were to sir / ma’am us (other than playfully), they’re being quite rude.

  19. I usually heir on the side of informality since it was how I was raised, but something changed my mind recently. I was watching the Maya Angelou documentary on PBS and there is a part where a young girl addresses her as “Maya” and she has this long elegant response about how the young girl should call her “Ms. Angelou” because she has earned that title. It is beautiful and I wish I could find the clip. It made me feel that the way we address people matters and people should be shown the respect that they deserve.

    • Beth says...

      This is a really interesting point. In the Jim Crow era, white women were referred to by Mrs. or Miss, while black women were pointedly never given that honorific title. For younger generations -black or white- a title might not mean much of anything at all, but surely for older generations, honorifics carry more weight (and possibly multiple layers of weight).

  20. Kaitlin says...

    I’m in business school and just the other week we read an article (National Culture and Management by Philip M. Rosenzweig in Harvard Business Review) about how culture impacts business, particularly in global strategy. This conversation made me think of it! Culture impacts how kids refer to adults! :)

    There was one guy, Geert Hofstede, who translated his philosophy on culture into 5 categories that he quantified. (Obviously a gross generalization that you should use only as an indicator and cautiously, but helpful to see why people might react to situations in different ways).

    I find it so much fun to play around on this site and compare different countries with my own: https://geert-hofstede.com/united-states.html

    Even thinking about the US, there are obviously different cultures–yankees vs. southern hospitality vs. midwestern kindness vs. coastal elite…

    BUT to make a long story long, I bet that has something to do with how kids these days refer to their parents’ friends. I bet in Alabama kids are still Mrs. / Mr. / Mamming whereas among my friends in Boston, it’s first name or Aunt Kaitlin. The culture of reference–sounds like a good article for Quartz. :)

  21. Tracy M. says...

    As my mother taught me while living in our informal neighborhood, our children call their friends’ mothers “Miss (insert first name).” So my friend Katie becomes Miss Katie. It’s simple and a little less formal than Missus or using a last name. As for the dads, we’ve always stuck with simply the first name. Why is it different? I’ll have to ask my mom. :)

  22. Josie says...

    Growing up in the South in an American Italian family (respect is big) and also with a mother obsessed with hierarchy, I grew up with a very clear set of rules: “sir or ma’am” when responding to adult strangers or adult figures of authority. “Mr. or Mrs. Last Name” for teachers and all adults whose name I knew, no exceptions. And for extended family, always “Aunt Connie” or “Cousin Vinny”… dropping the qualifier of “cousin” or “aunt/uncle” etc still makes my mother see red even though I’m in my 30s now.

    I’m inclined to teach my children the same, if only so that they err on the side of more respect than less in any given situation. However, if an adult tells them call them by name-only or a nickname, that’s fine . Default should be to show respect to anyone. But if they are warm enough to wave it away, great.

  23. Sanaa says...

    In Pakistan, because the extended family plays such an important role in everyday life, every family member has a different title depending on their relation to the parent. If you are an aunt, you are either “khala” (mother’s sister) or “phupo” (father’s sister), if you are an uncle, you could be mamoo, taya or chacha depending on if you are the older or younger brother! Maternal grandparents are Nana and Nani and paternal grandparents are Dada and Dadi. Older cousins were referred to as “Appa” (female) or “Bhai” (male) for respect. And you could always throw in a “jaan” or “dear/love” to the end of every title as a sign of extra love and endearment. Outsiders always comment how confusing this must be but for me, growing up surrounded on all side by grown ups who considered themselves “immediate family”, it helped orient who fit where in the giant constellation of our tribe!

  24. Amber Olney says...

    I’ve been thinking about this lately! Growing up, I always called my aunts and uncles “Aunt” or “Uncle” whatever – “Aunt Chris, Aunt Linda; Uncle Kent, Uncle Dave.” But imagining my nieces calling me “Aunt Amber” just seems silly!

    Professionally and with strangers, though, I do love to be called Mrs. Olney and can’t STAND being addressed as “Miss Amber” – maybe it’s because I’m the youngest of four and have always wanted people to think I’m older and more important than I am! Ha!

  25. Lindsay says...

    In Iceland everyone is called by their first name since we do not have last names. Sometimes we add the middle name if we want to distinguish which Jón we are talking about :) I find this practice very egalitarian and I think it has an effect on the whole culture of just feeling equal to one another despite age or class. Even the president is called by their first name!

  26. Where I grew up in Malaysia, everyone who’s older must be referred to as ‘sister, brother, uncle or aunty’, regardless of whether there’s any blood relation. Where I am in Australia, everyone’s referred by their first names… which i still struggle to grasp.

  27. KA says...

    I grew up in Finland and addressed adults simply by their first name, including teachers, aunts, uncles, neighbors – basically just everyone. But, the other half of my family is German, thus for that part of the family I used (and still use) more formal names; “aunt Anna” and “uncle Peter”, “Mrs. Müller”.

    Interestingly, my kids do the same – but only for the generation of their grandparents and grandaunts and -uncles. For everyone in our, their parents, generation they use just the first name regardless of the cultural context.

  28. Karen says...

    Here in Norway we call everyone by their first name. Kids even call their teachers by their first name. I think it’s nice. Maybe it has something to do with our idea that everyone is equal.

  29. I am a Brazilian living in Germany for 17+ years. In Brasil we call the adults, medical doctors and people we don’t know with Mrs / Mr / Dr and their first names, like Dr. Joana ;) Here in Germany is always the last name, even people we know for years but are not “friends” with. If you pay attention of the names of brazilian players (soccer players, basketball players and so on) in their tricots you will see that it is always their first name (Neymar, Romário, Roberto Carlos) or a nickname (Pelé, Zico, Pato). The German players always have their family name in the tricots.

  30. Shannon says...

    My 3 year old calls everyone “people” even if the group includes kids. When we are one on one he will remember their names and he does call them by first name. But I much prefer “people”. Kinda cracks me up.

  31. Sarah Sinclair says...

    It may be because my parents were both raised in Texas, but we were taught to call everyone Mr. and Ms., though we did usually use first names, unless it was school teachers, then we used their last names. I never called anyone by their first name without a title in front of it until I started going to youth group and the youth pastors wife insisted I call her Krystal, not Miss Krystal. Now that I’m older I usually just use people’s first names, though sometimes I do slip back into it. When I’m teaching the younger kids at church though, I always call myself Miss Sarah and they usually go with it.

  32. Maddie says...

    In the Philippines, whether you’re related or not, you call someone who is a family friend and around your parents’ age “Tita” or “Tito”, the Tagalog words for Aunt/Uncle. In addition to my actual aunts and uncles, I grew up calling my mom’s friends, my friends’ parents, and pretty much everyone I knew outside of a school/work setting who were older than me “Tita/Tito”. It’s a little close, a little affectionate, but still respectful–I would never dream of calling someone older than me by their first name. I really like it!

  33. Sylvie says...

    Sometimes kids just don’t know what you are. When I was a nanny, a little 5 year old earnestly asked me, “Are you a lady or a girl?” So cute!

    • Beth says...

      So sweet!

    • Darina says...

      I got this question once too, at a wedding from one of the flower girls. “Are you a teenager or a lady?” It was so sweet because she honestly didn’t know, and it kind of threw me off because it’s not really a question you get. And what do you say? Answering “I’m a lady” seemed so awkward, so I just explained that I’m not a teenager anymore so I guess that would make me an adult.

  34. Jenna says...

    I always grew up calling everyone Mrs and Mr, except for my friends British mom who we just called Lulu. However, we stopped and now call all those same parents by just their first names! I’m not sure when that happened now that I’m thinking about it!

  35. my husband, zach, is a rabbi in the west village.. the kids in the congregation adore him and lovingly refer to him as ‘rabbi zach’ versus ‘rabbi fredman’. i love the combo as a way to honor his place in their lives as teacher and friend. growing up, it was also mrs. this and rabbi that. but it was the midwest and close to forty years ago.

    • That is a great way for your community to connect with him?Especially in a place like the west village where I can imagine the Jewish community is small. I lived in the East village from 2008-2010 and the community there was small and informal and I loved it. If I think about it now, in Israel (I live in Jerusalem) all teachers are called by their first names, but Rabbis still with last names.

  36. Namie says...

    As a child, I was never allowed to call my parents’ friends by their first name and frankly, I don’t want my children calling my friends by their first name. No, they don’t call our friends by their last names or professional titles but my friends are not my child’s friends. The whole first name thing is too casual. Even after I became a full-fledged adult and worked in the same profession as some of my friends parents, it was always…’Mr. and Mrs. Cohen or Doctors Cohen.’ Never Ben and Sadie. Never. My parents’ friends were not my friends and although, some of these folks have become my colleagues, I never call them by their first names. Never. By being less casual…I have been able to be professional.

  37. Molly P. says...

    Having been raised in the Deep South, I still (at 33) call the “adultier” adults Mr. or Ms. followed by their first name. My best friend’s mother, who I have known my entire life and is a colleague now at my job will always be “Mrs. Carol.” It was interesting living in other parts of the US and even abroad in the Northern UK and not having that be the norm.

    Of course, there’s also an abundance of nicknames floating around. I’m “Mimi” to my niece and nephew and my friends’ kids. We called my grandmother by her first name as a term of endearment; and I’ve known both a “Boots” and “Boogie”.

  38. Allison Cloyd says...

    So funny – growing up aunts and uncles were (and still are) Auntie Name and Uncle name, but friends of my parents could go many ways – some were FirstName and some were Mr and Mrs Lastname – and they still are to this day! I don’t think I’ve made the switch over to first names even though I’ve been told (many, many times) that now at the old age of 28 I can do that :-P

  39. Lizzy says...

    I grew up saying “sir” and ma’am” even to my parents. I love the politeness of that, but I also do not want to be teaching my kid to identify people by their gender. I wish there was an honorific that was also gender-neutral. If I know the person, I typically introduce them to my kids as “Mister Johnny” or “Ms. Susie”. (I never say “Mrs.”, it just seems unfeminist. Do people still use that today?) And if it’s a stranger, young or old, I usually just call them “this person,” like, “Say thank-you to this person for picking up your ball!” Not perfect, but that’s what I am doing now. Who knows how much my 3 year-old is understanding.

  40. Madie says...

    I grew up in the Bay Area where it’s super casual. (Mr and Ms for teachers, and Uncle or Aunt for those, but otherwise just first names!)
    However, I do remember one high school boyfriend’s parents taking me aside after our first meeting (spaghetti dinner) and saying “We’d really prefer Mr and Mrs XXX”. I was mortified! And also kind of annoyed, like, ‘Who do you think you are?’ Hahaha. That boyfriend sucked.

    • Elaine Carson says...

      I had the same conversation with my (now) mother-in-law. I still call her “Mrs” 22. Years. Later….. :-o

  41. Cheryl says...

    My kid calls my good friends Mama Jess and Papa Shawn because they’re the parents of her friends. Same with all our neighbors: Papa Jason, Mama Amy, etc..
    If they’re not parents they’re Mr. Jim, Miss Courtney, etc..

  42. Nina Nattiv says...

    To this day, when I run into old elementary school teachers, I have to call them by their last name. Too weird otherwise. But my close friend now teaches at our old elementary school. Now our former teachers are her co-workers. I blush every time she refers to them by their first name and I know it was a hard adjustment for her at first.

  43. Hannah says...

    Growing up, I used all first names for my friends’ parents. Partly I think because I had a pretty small circle of friends and all our families were close. We were taught to refer to someone as “Mr.” or “Mrs.” until they told us otherwise. Or to simply ask, “what would you like me to call you?” I think my husband and I will teach our daughter the same thing. It just makes so much sense to ask people what they would like to be called!

  44. Sarah Jane says...

    I’m an elementary school teacher, and everyone at my school goes by their first names. It took me less than a week to adjust. Now I LOVE being Sarah and can’t imagine it any other way. The kids show their respect for teachers and peers in so many ways; I don’t think a title is needed.
    When a parent who is new to the school or outside of a school context asks a child to call me “Miss Sarah”, I cringe. It feels somehow belittling or cutesy rather than respectful, despite what the well-meaning parent intends.

    Side note: Growing up, my family was part of two very different social conventions: that of the yacht club (definitely titles for friends’ parents, to this day), and the Quakers (first names for everyone, including doctors, judges etc.). It was easy for me to separate the two, except with the few people who fell in the middle of the Venn Diagram. I think I just avoided names. :)

  45. Maywyn says...

    When my kids were young, what they called adults depended on the situation. By title for some, first name for others always starting out with the title unless the adult says otherwise. As adults, (last I knew), they use the same rule.

  46. Becca says...

    As a kid I called my most adults by their first name, maybe with one or two exceptions. My kids call adults “Mr.” or “Ms.” and then their first name: Ms. Laura, Mr. Chris, etc. I think it’s a Southern thing? I like it and think it conveys respect but also closeness. Aunts and Uncles are the same – Aunt Meg, Uncle Eric. And the grandparents have a host of your typical grandparent nicknames. Except Cool Papa Richard – my dad is really trying to make that stick!

  47. Annie says...

    My kids call generally call the parents of their friends and preschool teachers by their first names. In preschool that worked for me, too, but now that my daughter is in Kindergarten, I have this weird thing where I can’t call teachers/administrators by their first names. It seems like all other parents do, and they always introduce themselves to parents with their first names and sign emails with their first names. But I always address them as Mr./Ms./Dr. I’m the vice president of the parent organization and feel like I should probably use their first names by now, but I just can’t! For reference, I grew up in the Midwest and live in California now.

  48. Beth says...

    I grew up in NJ for part of my childhood, and all my aunts are Aunt + first name / Uncle + first name, but my mom’s best friend was always just Donna. We then moved to Florida and all of my parent’s friends and my friend’s parents were all Mr. and Mrs. last-name. I recall there always being a great divide between adults and children in my own childhood.

    For my son, he has always referred to our friends by their first names. A couple of my sisters and my husband’s brother and his wife sign their names on cards as Aunt or Uncle plus names, but my son has always referred to all his aunts and uncles by their first names regardless (he does call my aunts and uncles Aunt first name, but not my husband’s, now that I’m thinking about it). His teachers are all known as Mr. or Mrs. last name, including his piano teacher who told him once around the time he started high school that he could call her Nancy- I think that freaked him out. A few months ago my son showed me a string of emails between himself and his future college guidance counselor and I remembered feeling surprise that when the counselor signed her first and last name in the first message, he wrote back addressing her just by her first name. I think my son has always been around adults and he doesn’t feel that barrier I know I felt as a kid.

    We are close with my son’s best friend’s whole family, and the best friend’s grandparents are called by their first names by all the kids and grandkids!

  49. Haylie Swenson says...

    This cracks me up (and I wish I had time to read all the comments!). When I was in college, I used to do some work for a family who *insisted* that their kids call adults “Mr.” and “Miss,” no matter what the adult preferred. I thought that was weird then, and I still do ;) Just seems like, I don’t know, preference should be a part of politeness, ha!

    • Haylie Swenson says...

      Oh, also: I’m a PhD student and teach college English classes, and that’s a whole other, fraught thing. People have really intense opinions on what grad students should be called. I’ve tried both my first name and Professor Swenson and I much prefer my first name. But then, I have a camp counselor vibe in general: it helps me most of the time, I think, but sometimes it backfires.

  50. Tiffany says...

    I wish I had time to read all the comments, honest I do. And many times, for example when you ask readers to name their favorite podcasts, I genuinely wonder about the results. But just looking over the results here today, I’m so curious, but it’s my lunch and there are no quick responses where I can get a vibe. I will never make it through :/ So, I wonder… will you ever summarize the results so we know how it went? Maybe even a chart? I’m sure it’s the Finance major in me but I need metrics, ha!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s a fun idea, tiffany! we will play around and see what we can do!

  51. Giusy says...

    I’m from Italy where I grew up calling my aunts and uncles ‘Zio/Zia + first name’ while family friends would be addressed by their first names, unless they were quite old, then we would use ‘Signor/Signora + first name’.
    I now live in Trinidad and Tobago where no matter whether you are related by blood or not, if you are an adult you automatically become ‘Uncle/Auntie + first name’. It’s used as a sign of respect and although at first it felt strange to me, now I kinda like it and makes me feel closer to the many ‘children’ I have around me :)

  52. Mary says...

    I used to babysit for a close-knit group of moms whose kids referred to all of them as Mama + first name–like, Mama Katie and Mama Laura and Mama Liz. I thought it was so sweet :)

  53. Sofia Mota says...

    I’m Portuguese and we actually use 2 different pronouns for the english word “you” according to the degree of formality and also the use of the verb changes for each one (I know, this is weird for english speakers… and even Brazilians for that matter!). So normally we use “tu” for more casual relationships (like friends and colleagues, spouses, close family, children, etc.) and “você” which is more formal (for older people, adults that you don’t know well, interactions in business/services/stores, etc).
    Another difference here is that it’s not so common to refer to people by their surname, with the exception of some people for whom their family name becomes a sort of nickname (this happens mostly with men). We usually use the first name plus the second or the last when you need do differentiate between 2 people with the same first name.
    But when I was little, calling adults was more formal too! We usually used Dona or Senhora before the first name for women (regardless if married or single) and Senhor for men. Now I think most kids call known adults (like uncles, grandparents, and their parents friends) by their first name only and talk to them the same way as they talk to their parents (“tu”). I guess most people are just not so uptight about that kind of thing anymore and the concept of respect has changed. I sure wouldn’t want any kid calling me Dona Sofia! It would make me feel ancient.

    • Chantel says...

      Very similar in French! You would only use “tu” for someone you’re on close terms with and “vous” for anyone who you aren’t close with. Funny how languages can have such similar rules!

    • Sarah Sinclair says...

      When I had to learn Spanish in middle school, they taught us both the more formal and informal ways to address people when asking things such as name and how they are doing.

    • Sara says...

      This is amazing. I always thought few Indian languages are only ones that have this distinction. In hindi we too use “tu” or “tum” for people same/around/younger age. ANd “aap” for older and formal relations.

  54. Sara says...

    Weirdly, I have a lot to say on this subject…
    I’m 28 and was raised to call everyone Mrs/Mr/etc but I feel like that backfired after high school because I wasn’t sure what to call my teacher even though they said I should call them by their first names but it just felt too weird!
    My cousin started calling our grandparents by their first names when he turned 18. My siblings and I thought that was soooo weird and disrespectful.
    My father insists on my boyfriend (and my brother-in-law) call him Mr. Last Name. My brother-in-law is really uncomfortable with that since he’s married into the family now, so he cycles through nicknames.
    In college I had a couple of professors who told us what to call them and that was really helpful.
    Now that I’m an “adult” I usually ask people what they want to be called… or I avoid calling them anything at all. :D

  55. Nanette says...

    Growing up, it would have been very disrespectful to call any adult by their first name. Close friends of my parents were Aunty so-and-so or Uncle so-and-so. Those not so close, were always called Mr. & Mrs.

    On the other hand, I have nephews who are very close in age to me, and they call me by my first name, yet the nephew who is a little more distant in age calls me Aunty (he asked if he could call me by my first name, I said sure, he tried it, and felt uncomfortable).

    My son, who is now an adult, also uses the Aunty/Uncle and Mr./Mrs. for all adults.

  56. Kathryn says...

    My parents grew up in the south, everything was a bit more formal, that being said- when we moved to Ohio it varied from person to person- there were those that insisted on the formality of Mrs. or Mr., and others that preferred first names. In raising my own children, they call everyone by their first name, but with Miss or Mr. in front- for example my friend Charlotte is Miss Charlotte:) I like it.

  57. Ellen says...

    My parents are from California (where I was born & lived as a little kid) and we moved to the Midwest when I was eight. Where I lived in California, friends’ parents & other adults (including many elementary school teachers) went by their first names. I remember (after moving to the Midwest) calling somebody from church by her first name, which is what my parents always called her. I realized later that maybe I should have used “Mrs.” and was mortified.

    I have another memory–from about age twelve–of my mom snapping at one of my friends for calling her “Mrs. [Last name of whole family except for my mom].” Deciding not to change her last name when she got married was a huge thing for my mom and she was prickly about people assuming she had the same last name as my dad / the rest of the family *and* about the word “Mrs.” I was pretty upset with my mom for snapping at my friend (especially since my friend was just trying to be polite) and I still don’t think this was a good response…but I do understand why the name issue felt fraught for my mom.

    I guess erring on the side of “Mr. / Mrs.” isn’t necessarily the safer choice! Honestly, I think it’s best for adults not to take offense, period, since kids are mostly doing their best to be polite with whatever cultural norms they have absorbed…

  58. Courtney says...

    Growing up in California everyone went by first names. My Aunts, Uncles, teachers, friends parents, everyone! Mr. or Mrs. Felt strange. I am raising my children in Portland Oregon. It’s the same here. First names always.

    • E says...

      In Los A pngeles and age 30 here. : ) Everyone was Mr. and Ms. (teachers, parents) except for my parents’ closest friends. To this day!

  59. Haley says...

    I call some of my best friend’s parents Mr&Mrs, but some I use their first name. My daughter calls most of my friends by their names, some of my parent’s friends by nicknames “aunt so-and-so”, her aunts and uncles by little nicknames of their name. It usually depends on the situation and relationship to the person, but mostly we’re pretty relaxed about names.

  60. Anouk says...

    It’s so weird to me to see that some people think that calling someone their first name has anything to do with a lack of respect. It does have something to do with creating boundaries which I think is helpful in many professional situations. But I’ve always used first names with all my parents’ friends and even with my grandparents’ friends. Being addressed with my first name by my daughter’s friends shows me that they remember my name which I like.

  61. I don’t have any kids, but I can say that I have definitely noticed a difference between me and my parents, and even between my parents themselves. Growing up, I typically called people by whatever they asked me to call them. Some neighbors I called by their first names, some of my parents’ friends I called Mr. and Mrs., some I had nicknames for. I prefer for people to call me by my first name no matter what. Ms. or Miss freaks me out. My dad was much more formal and preferred for kids to call him Mr., but my mom always insisted on her first name. So interesting how it can vary from generation to generation and with personal differences.