Relationship with Strangers: Use of Endearments

I was in a banking hall a few weeks ago getting some items off my to-do list.  I had made my way along the queue and was finally being attended to by one of the bank’s tellers.  Along comes this tall (at least 6 feet), big-boned (not fat), light-skinned, well-spoken (foné and all) lady who proceeded to start a conversation with the teller attending to me:

Teller: “Good afternoon ma.”

Lady: “Ah, I’m surprised you even recognized me.”

Teller: “Of course ma.” (smiling)

Lady: (handing him her cheque book) “Please copy the number.  That is what you will use for the transfer.”

Teller: “Ok ma.”

Lady: “Thanks hun.”

Teller: (smiles)

After copying the number as the lady had requested,

Teller: “Excuse me ma, you will need to fill this form.”

Lady: “Ok.”

At this point, another male staff member of the bank happens to walk by.

Lady: “Excuse me, may I borrow your pen?”

Other Bank Staff: “Sure.”

Lady: “Thanks darling.”

Other Bank Staff: (looks at her quizzically, then smiles)

In case you’re wondering, I wasn’t being kept waiting unduly, as my transactions’ processes required a bit of a wait, so I didn’t need to tell the sister off for attempting to jump the queue, hee hee.

I felt a bit uncomfortable on behalf of Teller and Other Bank Staff though – here were grown men, being referred to as “hun” and “darling” by a woman who it seemed like Other Bank Staff didn’t know and had never met before and Teller probably only knew professionally.  I personally think such endearments should be reserved for those who are close and in the same age group, and maybe younger people; it seemed so out-of-place in a professional setting.

So, are there inappropriate times / ways to use endearments?  Or is it just me?


18 thoughts on “Relationship with Strangers: Use of Endearments

  1. maybe she just came from the “abroad” cuz they do it here A LOT and i find it very odd and weird! don’t hun or darling me if I don’t know you.


  2. Finally! A post after my own heart. I feel very strongly about this subject.
    I hate people addressing me as ‘dear’. Anybody now use that form of endearment, and no matter who they are, if you are not my mother, or father, you don’t get to address me as ‘dear.” I have taken to immediately informing them, very politely though, that I do not like being addressed as such, just call my name!
    Really, we should imbibe these social etiquette that helps to know when to do what and when not to…the scenario above is most unprofessional. But you know, people who do this do it unconsciously…so I will help bring them back to their ‘consciousness.’ ‘Dear!’ Ugh!


  3. I find it condescending when strangers use such endearment towards me, I feel they are just trying to patronise me to have their way or something for example the scenario at the bank, the lady obviously knew she was jumping the line and all… Oh well, I’m not alone at least 😉


    1. I don’t think it was about jumping the line, but you’re right, it did feel sorta condescending… Didn’t get the sense she intended that sha, but then I may be giving her too much credit 😐


  4. Guilty as charged! On the dear front but only with folks I know. I personally don’t have any issue with these terms of endearment as it’s now an occupational hazard given my line of work and the fact that lots of folks think they’re much older than they think I am. 2 cents…


  5. This is too much of the norm in the workplace, esp where I am. I say leave your “nice” salutations for your personal time and please refer to me by my given name. I will leave it to my Oga to call me his “hun” and so forth!


      1. some of us who are “still abroad” dont think its is a western culture thing, the few times I have observed it happening were with less educated females with a potentially short fuse and with seniors (Women 60 yrs and above) who are just being comical.
        Is there really a western culture? Bcos acceptable behavior and norms are so diverse it appears many people just pick and choose from the many norms to justify the choices they make . . . . story for another day


  6. I see/hear it everywhere now. Although I personally don’t mind when people use them in discussions with me, i dont use them in my interactions with strangers. Can be awkward especially when the stranger reacts to it positively or negatively


  7. This widespread use of endearments is actually a very recent occurrence in Nigeria (in my view), and has become very common in the last few years. I remember the first time one girl called me “dear” for absolutely no reason. It was very odd. But I brushed it off. I mean, no harm can be done by an undue endearment can it?

    Anyway, as other commenters have already mentioned, it does seem to be more noticeable amongst the ladies. I suspect because women more easily express themselves in that manner. As a man, calling a strange lady “dear” or “hun” is a lot more risky than a woman doing the same. One is very likely to get a negative response. And God knows calling a strange man anything effeminate like that is definitely getting a negative response. So there’s just no reason to do it.

    I also wouldn’t be surprised if it was introduced by returnees (as someone else suggested). There’s been a major increase in “Johnny Come Backs” in Lagos.

    As for me? I reserve my “dear”s for those dear to me who express themselves that way, or who I’m joking around with. And everyone else? “My dear, do as you like oh! Na you sabi! I no go vex.”

    Except if you’re a strange man. 😀


  8. I’ve always had problems with such endearments. I also noticed that most people who use the term “dear” intend to make sure you know they are older or higher than you on the social ladder. I don’t like people calling me “dear” or “darling” except you are my personal person and older. i agree with Spazolatto that it is common with half educated ladies.


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