Metro-East Living

Is it okay for strangers to call you ‘sweetie,’ ‘honey’ or ‘hun’?

Q: I cringe when a stranger, especially someone younger than me, calls me “sweetie,” “honey” or “hon.” For example, after I paid for my items recently at a local store, the checkout clerk said: “Have a great day, sweetie.” It just rubbed me the wrong way so much that I returned to her lane (there was no one checking out at the time) and I quietly told her that even though I was somewhat older than her, as a female, I didn’t really like her calling me “sweetie.” Her eyes got big and she said she was only trying to be nice. I told her people, especially those older than her, feel it is disrespectful rather than “nice.” Maybe I’m getting to be over-emotional in my senior years, but I think I have a point. Do I?

A: Yes, your point is well taken and thank you for your question. This “bugs” me as well. It is not proper for strangers to refer to others as “sweetie,” “honey” or “hun.” Those terms are to be used by those who are in more intimate relationships, such as boyfriend and girlfriend, husband and wife, grandparents to grandchildren, or by close friends, such as long-time female bridge players. It is borderline disrespectful, if not totally disrespectful, for a stranger to refer to you with any one of those terms. I suggest all business owners add this to their list of “don’ts” when training new, and retraining current employees.

On the reverse: if, in the situation you described, you had said to the younger female clerk (or male clerk for that matter), “Have a great day, sweetie,” it would have been equally as disrespectful. Just saying, “Have a great day” is fine.

Q: When three people go together for a wedding gift is it proper to just send a thank you card to the first one signed on the card?

A: No, it is definitely not proper. A separate thank you note should be sent to all three of the individuals who “went together for the wedding gift.” If all three individuals live at the same address, one note can be written using all three names in the salutation: “Dear Aunt Jane, Suzie and Eileen”. All three names should also be included in the address on the envelope: “Mrs. Jane Doe, Miss Suzie Doe and Miss Eileen Doe” all on the first line, if possible. If not enough space, list them on three lines and then the street address on the fourth line. For example:

Mrs. Jane Doe

Miss Suzie Doe

Miss Eileen Doe

2025 Sunny Lane

(city, state, zip code can be combined on one line, if necessary, depending on size of envelope.)

Dianne Isbell is a local contributing writer. Send your etiquette questions to Dianne Isbell at Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to