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  1. Member
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    #1

    Who should I call 'Sir'.

    Usually in my country we call someone 'sir' only if they're senior in position. But in English movies I've seen that everyone calls everyone sir to show respect.

    At the airport I asked for directions to a guy at the check-in counter:

    "Excuse me sir, which way is the Jewel"

    My question is, who can/should I call sir?

  2. VIP Member
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    #2

    Re: Who should I call 'Sir'.

    It depends on where you are. In the US, it is common to address someone, especially a stranger whose name you do not know, as "sir" or "ma'am." It is a matter of being polite.

    In the UK, "sir" has connotations of class, and I understand it is not used commonly among strangers.

  3. jutfrank's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: Who should I call 'Sir'.

    No, we certainly do not use Sir to address strangers in the UK. I wouldn't say it has anything to do with class.

    People who are at work (i.e., on duty) use it to address those who are not. For example, a waiter or shop assistant addressing a customer, a police officer or a paramedic addressing a member of the public, etc.

    Also, schoolkids use it to address their teachers.

  4. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: Who should I call 'Sir'.

    I can honestly say that in my several decades on this planet, I have never addressed anyone as "Sir".
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

  5. jutfrank's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: Who should I call 'Sir'.

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    I can honestly say that in my several decades on this planet, I have never addressed anyone as "Sir".
    Ditto. Unless I was being sarcastic.

    And I don't particularly appreciate being addressed that way, either.

  6. VIP Member
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    #6

    Re: Who should I call 'Sir'.

    And I don't particularly appreciate being addressed that way, either.
    And why is that?

  7. jutfrank's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: Who should I call 'Sir'.

    Quote Originally Posted by SoothingDave View Post
    And why is that?
    I don't really know exactly. I think partly because it sounds disingenuous, but also partly because it sounds deferential, which I don't like.

  8. Moderator
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    #8

    Re: Who should I call 'Sir'.

    No, we certainly do not use Sir to address strangers in the UK.
    It doesn't do to speak for all members of a nationality. As I mention every time this topic is raised, I'm British, and am not alone in calling strangers sir, ma'am and miss all the time, and appreciating being called sir rather than mate by teenagers serving me on market stalls and in coffee shops etc.

    I know I'm in a minority, and it has a lot to do with having spent two years in the USA in the last ten, but politeness costs nothing.
    Last edited by Rover_KE; 17-Jan-2020 at 09:08.

  9. Skrej's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: Who should I call 'Sir'.

    It's unfortunately not as common in the US as it used to be, but it's still common. In certain regions of the US you could even call the use of sir or ma'am pervasive even in this day and age. For people who do it, it's also common to respond to questions by tagging on sir/ma'am, with short yes/no answers.

    It also was far more common in the past to teach kids to address anyone of adult age that way, and so once you reached adulthood, you still did it as force of habit with strangers.

    I remember being chastised once by my mother for simply responding with 'hello' to an adult male instead of 'hello, sir". It didn't matter that he was a close friend of the family: that was still far to familiar for someone of my age, in my mother's opinion.

    The only other viable option for addressing adults was Mr./Mrs./Miss, if you happened to know their last name.

    Simple words, but invaluable for fostering respect and courtesy. Good way to calm down someone who's irate, too.
    Wear short sleeves! Support your right to bare arms!

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    #10

    Re: Who should I call 'Sir'.

    I think the practice is especially common in Asia to use "Sir" (or Ma'am) to address one's superior, teacher, customer or people in authority. The person being addressed feels good and respected. The addressor does not mind "lowering himself" if it sounds more courteous and endearing to the person being addressed. People are generally more class-conscious and hierarchy in society is observed.

    Western societies tend to be more egalitarian and class distinction is discouraged. Designations are not used and people call each other by the first names. It is common in Australia where everyone is treated as equals, to the extent that bosses, superiors and university professors are called by their first names. I think it is not uncommon for children to call their parents the same too, which would be unheard of in Asian societies.
    I am not a teacher or a native speaker.

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