Tuesday, March 10, 2009


My name is George. It's not Dude, Chief, Buddy, Pal, Boss, Yo or Nigga. Yet, I'm called one of these names everyday. When I walk down the street, I hear it, too. Some of these people are talking to each other like they're good friends, which makes me wonder, Do they really know that guys name?

I've heard women referred to as Hun, Honey and Sweetie, yet the people calling them these names are nothing more than acquaintances, customers in many cases. I couldn't even imagine myself walking into a restaurant and referring to the waitress as "Hun." As in, "Hun, I'd like some steak and eggs." That's just plain rude.

I did a little survey of friends, trying to find out which of these terms is the most offensive. We came to the conclusion that for guys it was "Chief." As in, "Hey, Chief how have you been." I'm not sure what it is about that word, but it's condescending, almost a superior tone, as if, "Hey, little man, how are you." "Little man?" I don't hear that word too often, but every once in a while some guy will blurt it out, even to a tall guy. Boss and Pal were close second and thirds. I just plain hate, "Hey, Pal."

"Dude" is so outdated, I'm not sure why anyone uses it anymore. "Buddy" is a word that's used when the person speaking it isn't so sure he's really the other guy's friend. "Nigga" (short for Nigger for those of you not living in the city) is like saying, "What's up" or the bastardized version "Wass up." It's urban slang, kind of like what "Mate" is in Britain or "Lad" is in Ireland. It's generally used by those who are under 30. Black kids started it. Then the Latinos picked up on it. Now, white kids in upper crust Cobble Hill say it to each other. Hip Hop music and it's thuggish artists got it started.

In schools, some teachers leave work each day thinking their names are "Yo." As in,
"Yo, when's my homework due?" Or "Yo, can I go to the restroom."

I'm actually guilty of using another phrase when I can't think of someone's name. I say, "Hey there." Not so bad, right? But, after a few "heys" the person probably catches on that I'm clueless about their name.

Randy Jackson, one of the judges on "American Idol" throws around "Dog," like its everyone's first name. "Hey, Dog, what's up." "Dog, that's the best performance tonight." "Dog, you got it down." I couldn't imagine substituting dog with any other animal. Years ago, it was "cat." That's one cool "cat," often spelled with a "K." "Kitty" is somewhat endearing, but only if used by a loved one. Pig, for instance would be offensive. It was, at least, for a whole generation of police officers. Sometimes people will say, "Hey, Tiger." Cute, I suppose. But, they'd never use Lion, Gorilla or Zebra. But, words like Elephant and Cow refer to fat people and are typically used behind their backs. Whatever you do, don't ever call someone a monkey.

In the end, these are all just words---- simple, silly words. I urge you, however, to choose them carefully. "And if I ever have a son, I think I'm gonna name him
Bill or George! Anything but Sue! I tell ya, life ain't easy for a boy named Sue."

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