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Addressing people by gender at a restaurant

A friend of mine and I were discussing why/whether or not it's wrong for folks who work in a restaurant to address people by gender. For example, if two people who look like women come into a restaurant, the bartender calling out, "Good evening, ladies! Sit where you like!" or two people who appear to be male sitting down at the bar and the bartender saying, "What are you drinking, gents?"

I'd like to know where the Chowhounders stand on this. good? bad? indifferent?

Edited to add, for clarification:

As opposed to not using gender at all, as it does offend some people. e.g. "Good evening, sit where you like!"

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    1. re: Harters

      maybe it's my crazy imagination but this made me spit out my coffee.

      1. re: Harters

        "If not that, then what?"

        "Welcome, fellow humans."?

        1. re: MGZ

          Well, I love Big Brother so I vote for "Citizen(s)!"

          1. re: hazelhurst

            I think that's how they address customers in North Korea.

            1. re: hazelhurst

              My soft spot is actually for "Comrades", but it has a lot of negative baggage these days. Then again, in another couple decades, when resources continue to deplete and wealth continues to concentrate . . . .

              1. re: MGZ

                See the "Holy Grail" where Arthur addresses to "Old Woman" who turns out to be "Dennis'

                I didn't know your name was Dennis

                You didn't bother to find out. What I object to is automatically being treated as inferior.

                I am King!


                1. re: hazelhurst

                  I thought we were an anarcho-syndicalist collective!

              2. re: MGZ

                But can one *really* be sure of this?

                1. re: Harters

                  In my line of work, we're allowed a little bit of leeway and it can get a bit, um, CREATIVE sometimes.

                  1. re: POAndrea

                    I'm sorry you can't make a post like this without expecting some jerk like me calling you out on it!! What line of work might that be????

                    1. re: jrvedivici

                      Law enforcement. (Though I should qualify the statement above by adding "as long as it isn't on the radio.")

                      1. re: POAndrea

                        Ahhhhh PO-Andrea....gotcha. FYI my mother was in the first graduating class of female police officers in Newark, NJ. If you don't know much about NJ geography, that's not a desirable place to become a police woman.

                        Yes you are correct, you can get away with a lot more when it's just your word vs. theirs, not on the airwaves.

                        1. re: jrvedivici

                          Hey! No Jersey putdowns outside our forum!

                2. I am firmly, profoundly, and unwaveringly in the "Who gives a sh*t" camp. It's gotta be at least a bit better than calling everyone "guys", but, at bottom, initial communication in social interaction is limited and awkward.

                  Guess you'd chalk that up as "indifferent"?

                  1. I think it would be more confusing if the FOH staff asked everyone what their pronoun was

                    1 Reply
                    1. It's funny that English doesn't offer a good universal way to address a group. There is no second person plural. Y'all serves the purpose, but not used everywhere, obviously (people up here would look at me funny). In turn, I say "you guys" all the time and my southern Aunt does NOT like it! I suppose "you all" is an option.
                      To answer your question, no, it does not bother me.

                      59 Replies
                        1. re: ludmilasdaughter

                          In some neighborhoods, referring to the wrong group as "people" or "folks" can get one shot.

                          1. re: POAndrea

                            Really? Which neighborhoods are those? Where dogs rule?

                            1. re: acgold7

                              Where crips, bloods, stones, popes, vice lords, etc "rule."

                              1. re: POAndrea

                                So what would be the preferred form of address?

                                1. re: acgold7

                                  Good question. Since I never get the response I'm hoping for, I guess I'm still working on it!

                                  1. re: POAndrea

                                    Are waiters generaslly at the same risk of getting randomly shot as Police Officers in their line of work?

                                2. re: POAndrea

                                  and so when I note red or blue bandannas at the host stand I should refrain from "folks"? I'm just now learning this????

                              2. re: POAndrea

                                "Folks" is a gang word? Huh. Never knew.

                                1. re: ludmilasdaughter

                                  It's not a gang word, but I believe what the person upthread was implying is that it's how African-Americans have been referred to, either at some point in history, or currently, e.g. "black folks." I hear "white folks" just as frequently, and again, have no dog in this hunt, but potentially, an AA person could take offense to it and I think that's why the upthread poster was saying "folks" isn't a good term to use. I think that's a little ridiculous, but I'm not AA so it's not really for me to say.

                                  1. re: rockandroller1

                                    The Folks and the People are two rival gangs. Knowing the difference in my blighted bit of Chicago in the 80s could keep you from getting shot.

                                      1. re: JungMann

                                        Yeah I've met quite a few members of the Folk Nation while I was in the military.

                              3. re: julesrules

                                "Y'all serves the purpose, but not used everywhere, obviously (people up here would look at me funny). In turn, I say "you guys" all the time and my southern Aunt does NOT like it!"

                                Youse guys???

                                BTW, "Y'all" only covers one or two people. For a larger group the proper term is "All Y'all".

                                1. re: PotatoHouse

                                  I think "all y'all" is more a younger generation thing, because it was definitely looked upon with derision in Virginia in the 1980s. "You" covered one or two, and "y'all" covered groups (three or more). The handful of times I heard "all y'all", it was roundly met with disapproval.

                                2. re: julesrules

                                  I thought "you" was both second person singular and plural?So "Good evening, sit where you like" works for individuals and groups equally well.

                                  1. re: julesrules

                                    "It's funny that English doesn't offer a good universal way to address a group."

                                    Simply not so. The mileage you can get out of "folks" may vary from region to region, but I used it liberally ten years a waiter in the Midwest.

                                    1. re: julesrules

                                      'you guys'
                                      'youse' (Philly)
                                      'you folks' (midwest, maybe other places)
                                      'y'all' (south)
                                      'you all'
                                      'yinz' (western PA)

                                      The problem with English isn't that there is no second person plural. It's really that the second person plural varies by region and some people get all up in a huff like you spit on their shoes when someone uses a regional variant that they don't favor. Also, because it varies by region, there is no second person plural that is especially formal sounding... which further exacerbates the ire of people who's day is ruined if they are addressed in a way they feel is incorrect.

                                        1. re: PhilD

                                          Depending on where you grew up, "y'all," "youse," "yinz," etc, may be more common, more accepted, and less apt to create confusion than the plural "you." There is no universally correct dialect of English.

                                          1. re: cowboyardee

                                            Are they not colloquialisms...? And I though that English standards were established in dictionaries etc and core of the language was universal so "you" works everywhere whilst "y'll" is best used in Texas.

                                            1. re: PhilD

                                              "You" as second person plural is far more likely to be misunderstood (usually as singular, referring to one out of a group) than 'y'all' in places where the locals all say 'y'all.' It's not technically incorrect, but it's certainly not the least bit more correct than 'y'all' is either.

                                              "And I though that English standards were established in dictionaries etc and core of the language was universal"

                                              "Are they not colloquialisms...?"
                                              English is a language of colloquialisms and appropriated words.

                                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                                yeah, go write a tearful missive to the ghost of Samuel Johnson </snark> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_J...

                                                I was NOT raised to use it but adopted y'all at some point when I became aware that other languages don't have the ambiguity English does in the word 'you'.

                                                it just seemed more efficient and who cares if somebody thinks I'm a bumpkin.

                                                1. re: hill food

                                                  "yeah, go write a tearful missive to the ghost of Samuel Johnson"
                                                  I'm only on my first glass of bourbon for the night, but if I decide to have a few more... I've done worse at 3 am.

                                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                                    tell him I said 'hi' and I'm still ticked off. he'll know what it's about.

                                                  2. re: hill food

                                                    Hill food, not sure what you mean about "other languages don't have the ambiguity English does in the word 'you.'" Although it is true that many languages have a different word for the second-person pronoun that is uniquely singular, in most of those languages that form is reserved for use with persons with whom one has either a familiar relationship or where the speaker is in some way of higher status.

                                                    E.g., in French "tu" is used to address, in the singular form, friends, family members, and children. If used to address an adult stranger, it is typically meant to be insulting -- e.g., how one might address a beggar. Where one's relationship is more formal, the form of "you" that is used for the singular is identical to the plural "you." That is, "vous." And this usage is common in other European languages as well (and perhaps non-European too; I just don't know any.)

                                                    In other words, in both English and French, an individual restaurant patron or a group of patrons would be addressed with identical form of the second-person pronoun by a waiter or host - "you" in English, "vous" in French, etc.

                                                    Edited: I do realize that Spanish has different forms of "you" for the singular-formal and the plural (usted/ ustedes) but I believe this is unusual among European languages, although I do not pretend to be sufficiently schooled in enough languages to make categorical pronouncements on the subject. Suffice it to say that many other languages, besides English (e.g., French, Italian, Russian) use the same word for the singular-formal and the plural "you.")

                                                    1. re: masha

                                                      Many languages and cultures have traditionally made the distinction between the likes of "tu" and "vous" when it comes to politeness and decorum, including many Germanic languages. Using "Sie" in German, "ni" in Swedish, etc.

                                                      1. re: masha

                                                        masha - yes I bungled that and this still isn't articulate, I think it was when I started being aware of other languages having a familiar vs. formal that I felt English ought to have one that is clearly a plural since it's all familiar and has to be considered contextually.

                                                        1. re: hill food

                                                          Understood Hill Food. I think it is fascinating how different languages evolve so that some have more precise/ multiple words, whereas others have only a single word for that concept -- e.g., that the Eskimos have 28 words for "snow," although I believe that's a myth. But, for example,Russian has "multi-directional" and "uni-directional" verbs for activities that involve movement, so that there are 2 different words for "walk," "carry," etc.

                                                          Of course, English does/did have a singular-form 2nd person pronoun that connotes familiarity -- "thee" -- but it is no longer used in common speech.

                                                          1. re: masha

                                                            I think the Inuit might very well have at least that many. in the novel "Smilla's Sense of Snow" the Danish author devoted practically a chapter to the different ways a Greenlander might describe ice and snow textures and densities.

                                                            1. re: hill food

                                                              A terrific book. But I read it a long time ago and don't remember that passage

                                                    2. re: cowboyardee

                                                      Who mentioned correct? I am not arguing you don't use the other expressions, just saying that "you" is universal, and is it really true people don't understand it when its used after all its pretty common on TV etc.

                                                      Are you really saying the core language is not universal - if it wasn't it would be very tricky.....!

                                                      1. re: PhilD

                                                        "Are you really saying the core language is not universal"
                                                        Pretty much.

                                                        More precisely:
                                                        - The core of the language is only universal if you define 'core' to mean the parts of the language that are universally understood among English speakers (let's assume said English speakers are fluent in at least their own regional dialect)
                                                        - Those parts of the language that are universally understood are fewer than you seem to realize, and have little to do with dictionaries.
                                                        - The second person plural 'you' is not universally understood among English speakers.

                                                        1. re: cowboyardee

                                                          Surreal - if people from many countries can communicate easily in English how can it not have a core? I think you need to travel more if you don't think "you" is not well understood.

                                                          1. re: PhilD

                                                            I may have created some confusion earlier when I emphasized what is 'understood' - that's a bit imprecise. In many cases you can understand a dialect of English you don't speak simply due to context. For example, if it is clear that a speaker is referring to a group from the context of a conversation, then the plural 'you' may be understood even by people who don't use it in their dialect.

                                                            Filling in the blanks via context and inference is generally how people who speak different dialects of the same language can effectively communicate with each other. In conversation though, you're often not conscious that you're doing it.

                                                            That said, you seriously underestimate how difficult it sometimes is to understand people who speak a different dialect of English from your own. In addition to Chowrin's example, you might find yourself having a very hard time following a conversation in certain parts of Scotland, among some subsets of the working poor in England, some Caribbean Islanders, or among some South Africans. And there are many other examples I'm less familiar with. It's tempting to assume this is all because of accent or pronunciation, but if you listen closely, you'll find variances in word choice and sentence structure that go far deeper than accent alone.

                                                            1. re: cowboyardee

                                                              Not really my experience. Grew up in various areas of the UK with strong regional dialects, lived in a afro-caribean area as a student, worked in Eire and Scotland. Lots of colleagues in Italy, Germany, France and Spain, and now live in Asia and travel extensively to 14 countries. So lots and lots of experience of speaking English to people from many countries., and have just returned from a holiday in South Africa.

                                                              Certainly word choice, and sentence construction can vary, for example Indian English has a lot of quite old fashioned English phrasing. But across all these countries the core of the English language remains and that is why its simple and easy to communicate. And I can't recall anyone (including colleague in the US who didn't understand you in the singular and plural).

                                                              For example: could you turn off your phones please; could you be outside the hotel to catch the buses; can you turn to page X; you are invited to the football tonight; make sure you are checked out of the hotel by 9:00am; could you be outside the hotel to catch the buses. Are all pretty common expressions used at meetings (in the US) with groups of colleagues from lots of countries. Do you think they didn't understand it was addressed to them as a group rather than to a single person?

                                                              English constantly evolves, see the latest words in the OED, but that doesn't mean the fundamental core changes, certainly it slowly evolves, with words coming and going. But the core grammar and usage is pretty consistent.

                                                              1. re: PhilD

                                                                "Do you think they didn't understand it was addressed to them as a group rather than to a single person?"
                                                                I'm sure they did understand. But why? There are so many possibilities you're not considering.
                                                                - I never said the plural 'you' isn't common. Just that it's not universal. Likely enough it was already a part of their dialect.
                                                                - They understood from the context alone. If it is already obvious that they are being addressed as a group, then it's easy to infer that 'you' is plural even if you're not familiar with that usage.
                                                                - They were international businessmen who were already exposed to and versed in the most common dialects of English spoken in business settings.

                                                                "But across all these countries the core of the English language remains"
                                                                Which part is the 'core'?

                                                                1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                  So people across the world understand "you" in its plural context but its not standard (nothing is universal as its an absolute) English...doesn't that strike you as odd? Maybe I should reverse the question - what do they use instead or is a gap in their language - I get y'all but is obviously used by a very small minority of the approximately 1.5 billion who speak English as a first or second language.

                                                                  Which part is core - well that is the part that is standard and as its a fluid language some of that will change as the language evolves. Is "core" 70%, 80% to 95% I do't know. All I can say is that it is substantive because the billion plus people can speak to each other.

                                                                  1. re: PhilD

                                                                    "Maybe I should reverse the question - what do they use instead or is a gap in their language"
                                                                    I listed a bunch of alternatives in my first post of this subthread.

                                                                    "Which part is core - well that is the part that is standard"
                                                                    So, which part is standard? It sounds like you just picked a synonym for 'core.'

                                                                    We can agree - if that's all you're looking for - that there are parts of the English language that are widely used and understood by MOST English speakers in conversation or writing, especially if those English speakers have experience in talking to people who use other dialects.

                                                                    I object, however, to the notion that there is a core set of English rules, a standard English language, and that dialects simply take these rules and make superficial changes like they were hanging ornaments on a Christmas tree. That's not how dialects evolved (be they Cockney, Ebonics, your dialect, or mine). And it's not how they work. What you're taught in school as a 'standard' English language is really just an arbitrary dialect that is readily understood by other educated English speakers... because they were taught the same arbitrary dialect in school.

                                                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                      "What you're taught in school as a 'standard' English language is really just an arbitrary dialect that is readily understood by other educated English speakers... because they were taught the same arbitrary dialect in school."

                                                                      Puzzled why that doesn't create the "core" English language. I didn't use standard as a synonym for core it was a very deliberate choice of word as above.

                                                                      I don't see how your point about a dialect conflicts with the notion of a core language. Some dialects vary from the core a little, some a lot. All will have words and grammar standards unique to the language and some of these will morph into the core or standard English.

                                                                      So "you" as a plural is generally understood by English speakers as a plural. The examples you give in your earlier post are examples of dialects or other expressions of the plural, so not all English speakers understand y'all but all will understand you all (as it's standard English as the "all" adds emphasis). I would understand all your examples except yinz, and interestingly youse is in common use by Lebanese Australians and Glaswegians - "what youse looking at pal" (being a common invitation to have a fight) - although it's usually singular.

                                                                    2. re: PhilD

                                                                      Wherever there's a perceived gap in a language people will fill it with something. In someplaces it's y'all, in others it's just you...
                                                                      If the gap doesn't get filled, it's not perceived to exist.

                                                                  2. re: PhilD

                                                                    Listen to some Cockney Slang for a bit. (yes, it's deliberately hard to understand by outsiders). And I haven't even broached thieves cant.

                                                                    1. re: Chowrin

                                                                      Now my old china cockneys still spoke English and some of their words came into common usage in the UK e.g. to call someone a berk, or to take a butchers. Certainly there are true secret languages but are they not languages rather than dialects and the evolve for a specific purpose.

                                                            2. re: PhilD

                                                              AAVE has an entirely different grammatical structure, based more on west african grammar.
                                                              No, English is a trade language, just about nothing is standard, and nothing be universal, capiche?

                                                              1. re: Chowrin

                                                                Well put. Even those things that may presently appear "universal", are undergoing changes constantly.

                                                                1. re: MGZ

                                                                  Definitely changing, definitely evolving, its a living language - but its at the periphery its not to the core of the language.

                                                                2. re: Chowrin

                                                                  AAVE is a distinct dialect but doesn't it share a lot of its core with mainstream English?

                                                                  As an aside English in Africa can be a lot more precise (in terms of pronuciation) than English in England, in some respects some African English has stayed truer to the original than the UK.

                                                                  So yes I get that the English language has a lot of variation and variety. But to say nothing is standard is simply wrong. English has a core that is why we can understand English speakers in other countries

                                                                  1. re: PhilD

                                                                    Core word choice? sure. But the grammar is quite different.

                                                                    1. re: Chowrin

                                                                      A lot of AAVE grammar reflects slightly archaic forms of historically English grammar--such as expanded use of the subjunctive.
                                                                      Example: ...he be...
                                                                      Vs. I recommend that he be...

                                                                      1. re: Chowrin

                                                                        Really depends on the level of mutual intelligibility as to whether it is a English language dialect or a new language.

                                                                  2. re: PhilD

                                                                    I'm 100% with you on this, Phil. "You" is both singular and plural. There needs no other modifier to indicate plurality. To a group: "Good evening. Would you like to sit at the window table?" addresses the entire group.

                                                                  3. re: cowboyardee

                                                                    As for "appropriated" words, of which any form of "you" is NOT, I think the word you want here is "calque". Nothing resembling "you" is a calque. I disagree with you from a fundamental standpoint in most all arguments you propose.

                                                                    "Ya'll" is not universally known.

                                                                    "You" is.

                                                                    Ya'll is not a colloquialism, it is part of a dialect. "Snogging" is a colloquialism.

                                                                    Related to food... "guys", "y'all" etc. when asking for orders as a server is just poor manners on the servers' parts. There is no linguistic implication in that other than being too oblivious to use "you". Why complicate matters?

                                                                  4. re: PhilD

                                                                    The english from the dictionary is ain't (12th century or so). And pea is still a backformation (the original word was pease).

                                                                    1. re: Chowrin

                                                                      Chowrin - OK you proved your point - I don't understand your last post.

                                                                      1. re: PhilD

                                                                        Pease sounded like a plural, so they made up the singular "pea".

                                                                        1. re: Chowrin

                                                                          And your point is....? I agree language evolves, I suffered through Chaucer at school, but all languages have a common core. The core will evolve slowly, the periphery will evolve faster.

                                                            3. re: julesrules

                                                              Actually "you" is the second person plural, it just gets used all the time as second person singular having pushed "thou" aside.

                                                              1. re: Wawsanham

                                                                Thou was second person singular, Informal. There's a reason the King got ticked when Penn called him "thou"

                                                              2. Honestly, does that offend you? I see no problem with it at all.

                                                                1. No, it's not wrong to address people by gender. It's preferable to be a group of ladies and being called ladies vs. "Hey you guys! Have a seat - I'll be right with you!"

                                                                  1. It doesn't bother me.

                                                                    Then again, my (male) partner and I stopped in our local for a nightcap last night, our friend/bartender referred to us as "you guys" at one point and I wasn't bothered in the slightest.

                                                                      1. What else are you going to say ?

                                                                        1. I embrace my gender and identity. For what greater purpose is it served to deny my being?

                                                                          1. I re-read your initial post, rockandroller1, and I'm seeing two clarifiers:

                                                                            > if two people who look like women
                                                                            > two people who appear to be male sitting down at the bar

                                                                            So are you asking if this would be wrong to do if the bartender is potentially serving a person who is transgender and in the process of transitioning?

                                                                            18 Replies
                                                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                              Thanks for looking further into my OP.

                                                                              Basically, not everyone who feels they are another sex has surgery for it, so the answer to your last question is no. But the larger issues is that many people who are "gender fluid," or trans could be very offended when addressed in the way that they don't see themselves or present themselves. Sort of how if you were just a very effeminate-looking man, and someone called you a lady, you might be offended.

                                                                              Gender fluidity and related issues are coming up more and more - just having a "male" and "female" box to check on forms is going to go away eventually, so I just wondered how CHers felt in relation to the issue in terms of restaurants.

                                                                              The question we were discussing was, since it can be offensive to some people, maybe it just shouldn't be said at all? Like, why can't you just say, "good evening," and not "good evening, ladies?"

                                                                              I will clarify that this is not my personal issue, and so I am playing Devil's Advocate in a sense as I want to see what the general temperature is. But it is the issue of the friend with whom I was having the discussion, who is a good friend and who was offended by such an address recently.

                                                                              1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                Yes, you could just say "good evening", rather than have a gender attached to the greeting. But as JungMann says below, the greeter is looking to be polite and friendly. And if the gender was mistaken in his/her greeting, I'd choose to believe it was an honest mistake, and not be offended.

                                                                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                  That's pretty much my position too - the greeter is only looking to be polite/friendly, and not offensive. Honest mistake. I was once called "young man" when I was younger and had really short hair. It hurt my feelings, but it's not like it scarred me for life. It was just a mistake.

                                                                                  But I thought it might be interesting fodder for discussion as to whether those in the service industry should be more careful and just not use pronouns at all, given the increased sensitivity to gender issues. I mean, even Facebook is now presenting different choices besides just "male" and "female" for a profile, so I think these things are evolving.

                                                                                2. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                  The "modern approach" mirrors the Old one but not for the same reasons. I recall a time when it was considered wrong to refer to to an unknown woman as a "cleaning lady" because one did not know if she was a lady or not. She COULD be a lady and be a cleaner but you don't know that. Same was true for "gentlemen." Addressing a table of women as "ladies" who were unknown was considered unfounded and reckless.

                                                                                  Of course, the same group believed that if some man called you an "SOB" it was your obligation to slug the guy for insulting your mother (not insulting YOU).

                                                                                  A friend argues for "Humanoid" but he also has a thirty word substitute for the Washington DC Football team name, involving "indigenous peoples" and the Piedmont watershed."

                                                                                  1. re: hazelhurst

                                                                                    Pinochet refered to Communists (and others) as humanoids. Not in a nice way.

                                                                                  2. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                    Linda hit the nail on the head for me, I knew this was a "loaded" question by the way you phrased it.

                                                                                    Personally I think your friend taking offense to someone calling him "Sir" if he doesn't identify himself that way is ridiculous. If he is out in the public realm as a "man" then he should be prepared to be identified as such. The general public is not here to psycho-analyze him so he should just relax about it. In normal terms "Ladies, Gentlemen, Sir, Ma'am" are signs of respectfully addressing someone who's name you don't know. If a bartender was to call out "Hey Dude" or "Hey Sister" I could see a cause for concern or potential offense, not by a simple Sir or Ma'am.

                                                                                    The world is an imperfect place, if someone isn't meaning to be offensive with their comment, even if you personally take it as offensive, let it roll off your back. We need to be a little more thick skinned if you ask me.

                                                                                    1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                      I would ask, though, what's "identify as" mean? My friend was born physically female, but believes she is a male, identifies as and presents as a male in every way. A "mannish" haircut, completely male attire, what some people would call a "butch" look, etc. She looks male enough to often get "mistaken" for a male in these situations, and then the server/bartender corrects themselves when they look closer and realize she is a woman. But my friend feels the "mistake" is the fact that because of how she was born, she still looks somewhat like a female, enough to find it a little offensive when she goes out of her way to do everything to walk, talk, dress and act like a man, but is hailed with "good evening, ladies" when entering a bar with a female friend. And as I understand it from my friend, others with gender fludity feel the same offense in these situations. Heck, as mentioned elsewhere in the thread, even people without gender fluidity have objected to being referred to as "ladies."

                                                                                      I generally agree with you, for what it's worth - if someone doesn't mean to be offensive, we should all take it with a grain of salt and let it roll off our backs. However, if there is a growing movement that something not previously considered offensive is now growing to be recognized as such, then social conversation turns to accept that. Which is why we don't use certain names to refer to minorities any longer, even though, when those monikers were still generally popular and used widely, those using them didn't find them offensive. It's because the people they were addressing DID find them offensive that people quit using those terms. So I was just kind of wondering if that's how the tide is turning in dining. Or not. Always interesting to get the Hounds' take on things.

                                                                                      1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                        First, I find it odd that you refer to your friend throughout your post as "she," while taking others to task for doing the same thing.

                                                                                        Nonetheless, he can go through life being offended by people recognizing his female biology and their using common references to it, but he is going to be unnecessarily unhappy.

                                                                                        He is also going to be extremely lonely in a campaign to eliminate from our language any acknowledgement of factual, obvious biological differences. He - and others like him - are so much better off simply acknowledging that they are very unique individuals - not worse or better - just different, and demanding basic human decency from others while giving others the slack they ask for themselves.

                                                                                        1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                                          My thought too- this male-identifying female wants to be accepted and understood. Well, then, extend the courtesy to others and give a server or whomever a break if they get the gender wrong.

                                                                                          1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                                            It's not my place to speak for my friend, but I refer to her as she because I believe that's how she refers to herself. She still uses a female name and identifies as "gender fluid" vs. either male or female. It's a new area for me so maybe I'm not describing it well or doing the right thing, but the mutual friends we all have refer to her using female pronouns as well.

                                                                                          2. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                            I respect what you have said with exception to;

                                                                                            "Which is why we don't use certain names to refer to minorities any longer"

                                                                                            I fail to see any correlation between that comparison and calling someone Ma'am, Ladies, Miss, etc. etc. The names that have been used to refer to minorities were rooted in derogatory or insulting terms and meanings behind those terms. The words no longer used for minorities had their inception in words of hate and discrimination.

                                                                                            Conversely terms such as Ma'am, Ladies, Miss, Mister, Sir, Gentlemen are all terms that have carried different levels of respect over the years. They were never rooted in hatred, but rather respect. So I'm not sure how you can use an example such as the lack of the use of the "N" word as a comparison for someone not wanting to be called a Lady because she doesn't identify herself with that term.

                                                                                            Using your example your female friend takes great care to present herself as a male, or mannish. If/when she is out and dressing and doing her best to appear mannish, would she prefer to be called Sir, Mister, Buddy......a masculine moniker or does she not want to be identified by any gender title at all? Is she desiring to be addressed in a completely A-sexual manner?

                                                                                            1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                              Good points, and fair enough.

                                                                                              What my friend asked, which prompted me to post here, is why do people working in restaurants have to use anything at all to label you. Why can't they just say, "good evening, sit where you like?"

                                                                                              1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                                With all due respect to your friend, wishing that everyone would change behavior, which most anyone cisgendered or otherwise would recognize as respectful, friendly and polite, simply to accommodate inner feelings which are not necessarily perceptible in biological fact is rather egocentric. I understand that gender dysphoria can be very painful and it cuts right to the heart of a person to perceive they inhabit a body that is not their own. But it is one thing to ask for respect and sensitivity, and quite another to demand the world around you reverse course to become a bit of a blander place to accommodate your brand of "diversity."

                                                                                                What is the alternative? Should we strip our interactions of any reference to the visible signs of our individuality for fear that someone might get their feelings hurt? Should we no longer recognize the color green because it makes some see red? It would be perhaps too much to ask that restaurants hosts be mind readers, so perhaps the safest course of etiquette would be to not even acknowledge a guest for fear of tripping on the potential landmines they've placed around their fragile egos. I prefer to live in a world where we can respect each other in our diversity, not gagged and blindfolded by "diversity."

                                                                                                1. re: JungMann

                                                                                                  It is a general rule of human decency to address people as they want to be addressed. However, one should have a bit of sensitivity in applying this to strangers. If you're a regular, and you wish to be called sir, despite being female, that's your right, and I expect your server to comply with that demand.

                                                                                                  1. re: Chowrin

                                                                                                    Of course, if the matter has been brought forth by the addressee to begin with.

                                                                                            2. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                              Anyone correcting themselves upon realizing that your friend is still physically female is doing what they think they're expected to do. They aren't mind readers; they cannot know that your friend identifies as a man, other than the manner of dress.

                                                                                              Perhaps a little leeway on your friend's part would be in order. Perhaps it's not the way s/he wants to be addressed, but until s/he is able to fully transition to become a male, it's going to happen.

                                                                                          3. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                            This strikes me as a case of "know your audience" - either in regards to trends in your city/region or the type of clientele that the establishment particularly tries to attract. I can think of a few places that try to establish a certain kind of vibe/atmosphere - and there it definitely makes sense to consider warm and friendly but gender neutral greetings.

                                                                                            However, for many establishments - I don't think it's highly aggressive in regards to toe stepping. That being said - I also think that a lot of gendered terms do risk rubbing people the wrong way regardless. I identify as female - and depending on how the world "ladies" is said, that can still bug me. Gender issues aside. I also have male friends that cringe when called 'sir'. That being said, if a service worker is attempting to be polite and friendly, even if their specific word choice isn't 100% to my liking - I usually am less likely to notice.

                                                                                            1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                              While your position appears to be well thought out and articulately presented, and I can appreciate that you are considering the a position that does not impact your personal life and therefor you are obviously a caring person. But I can only respond to those who would take offense in such a situation in the only way I was raised to respond to said situation;

                                                                                              "Suck it up, cupcake, the world doesn't revolve around you".

                                                                                          4. I wonder if the OP is looking at it from the perspective of calling people "ladies" when one is a woman and the other an effeminate male or vice versa with using gents when one is a male and the other a mannish looking woman?

                                                                                            Either way ladies, gents, guys...doesn't bother me at all.

                                                                                            1. I got it wrong once when addressing a table for the first time. After that it was gender neutral.

                                                                                              1. In my experience, the type of people who are offended by any reference to gender are looking for a reason to get their panties (or manties, to be gender neutral) in a twist. Perhaps I am a cretinous cisgendered male, but I see no harm and take no offense in strangers' earnest friendliness and attempts to be polite.

                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                1. Just make sure to take a good look first :)

                                                                                                  When my SO let's his hair grow long, we are sometimes greeted as "ladies". We laugh about it, but it's probably embarrassing for the server when they take a closer look and notice the mistake.

                                                                                                  I think the term folks would be fine for a group.

                                                                                                  10 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: pamf

                                                                                                    Actually, I think the term "folks" is good for a large group *or* a party of two.

                                                                                                    1. re: pamf

                                                                                                      Funny. I had shoulder length hair for several years, One day at lunch, our server, a lady in her fifties, approached our table from behind me, "Hi girls, can I get you something to drink?"

                                                                                                      As she came around the table, and could see me from the front, her face lost all color. Now, I might have passed for the "ugly" member of the 1992 East German Women's Weightlifting Team, but "girl" was clearly a stretch. Mrs. Z and I laughed. The waitress struggled to regain her composure and departed, devoid of all grace, to get a pair of Anchor Steams.

                                                                                                      At bottom, I took no offense, the beers never showed up on our bill, and, we had a funny anecdote to share.

                                                                                                      1. re: pamf

                                                                                                        <Just make sure to take a good look first :)>

                                                                                                        I know a few people who, even if you took a REALLY good look, you'd be hard pressed to figure out if they should be addressed as male or female.
                                                                                                        If the person addresses them, with courtesy and respect, I'm not sure these people I know would care one way or another if they were called 'ma'am or sir, Mrs. or Mr.'
                                                                                                        As a few other posters have mentioned, it's all about the attitude of the addresser...

                                                                                                        1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                          "I know a few people who, even if you took a REALLY good look, you'd be hard pressed to figure out if they should be addressed as male or female."

                                                                                                          Is this by their intentional design, to blur the line, or just their natural unadulterated appearance? If you don't mind me asking.

                                                                                                          1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                                            I went to high school with a guy who wasn't intentionally looking to blur lines but physically looked very effeminate, and despite being quite tall hadn't entirely gone through puberty. I know women with more aggressive cases of hirsutism that have more masculine appearances. I've met some elderly people where it's just not 100% obvious at first glance. I've known some morbidly obese individuals who's body shape just no longer reads as standardly male or female.

                                                                                                            There are loads of ways to not obviously register as male or female without trying to obscure gender lines.

                                                                                                            1. re: cresyd

                                                                                                              Hey I'm Italian half my aunts have better mustaches than me!! I completely understand, the motivation for my question was the fact latindancer was responding to someone who posted about accidental confusion. I was wondering if latindancer experience(s) were the same or not as you have pointed out.

                                                                                                              1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                                                Yeah - I get that. I think that questions like this immediately bring to mind notions of transgender individuals - I think there are a wider variety of individuals who one risks offending.

                                                                                                                Not necessarily related, in my line of work using terms like Mr. and Ms. (not even bothering with Mrs.) has become tricky as I work with a number of internationals who I don't always get to meet prior to addressing. Therefore I don't want to be writing Mr. John Doe and then address FirstNameIDon'tRecognize without an honorific. So it ends up being more polite to drop all honorifics unless in more narrow circumstances.

                                                                                                            2. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                                              jrvedivici: i, too, know a few such people.
                                                                                                              some got to that place from intentional design, and some got there "naturally".
                                                                                                              i have no idea what you meant when you said "to blur the line", so i can't speak to that.

                                                                                                              1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                                To blur the line between what they were born towards something they weren't, the "intentional" portion of our example.

                                                                                                            3. re: latindancer

                                                                                                              All I am saying is that if you can't tell with certainty then avoid the gender specific address.

                                                                                                              And this also comes from the service person not really paying attention to the customer and addressing the "ladies" because they see shoulder length hair. In their job in customer service it would probably be wise of them to keep their address gender neutral if they are not going to take the time to actually face the customer or if they are uncertain.

                                                                                                          2. OOOOhhhhhh my. What a topic for CHers to get lathered up over.

                                                                                                            Gender is so (ridiculously) hot a topic that even acknowledging a biological reality will offend some.

                                                                                                            There is nothing at all negative in observing that the group is all female.

                                                                                                            What might be stupid (but not "wrong") would be over-familiarity..eg "you guys"

                                                                                                            1. Germany is working to make their language gender neutral. So, obviously someone else has the same thoughts as the OP.


                                                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: Gio

                                                                                                                  in germany, though, names are gendered, aren't they? you can't call a boy sue.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Gio

                                                                                                                    For a kinder, gentler nation...

                                                                                                                    1. re: jpc8015

                                                                                                                      There are lists of approved names. Naming your child Jesus is a huge No Go. One of my Hispanic troops found this out when he tried to name his illegitimate son.


                                                                                                                  2. There is always "Y'all" for groups of two or more, singles with split personalities, and also applicable for those who choose to dine accompanied by their canine companion.

                                                                                                                    1. On the grand scale of things to worry about this is pretty damn close to the bottom.

                                                                                                                      1. In general I don't really care how I'm addressed, as long as it's correct. True Story: my wife and I (we're gay women) walked into a Mexican restaurant and were greeted by the hostess with a "hola muchachos.....oh, muchaCHAs". Translation, she thought we were fellas and then corrected herself. No, we're not THAT butch (not that there's anything wrong with that).

                                                                                                                          1. I think they should be required to use one of the 56 Facebook gender options.


                                                                                                                            "Good evening 'two-spirit', sit where you like."

                                                                                                                            1. "Sit where you like"????????

                                                                                                                              Isn't that just another way of saying "I consider you so inferior and insignificant that I'm not willing to take the time to help you find an agreeable and appropriate place to sit"?

                                                                                                                              It's an outrage!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                                                                                                              1. Adding the "gentlemen" or "ladies" adds a bit of formality and class to the whole interaction.

                                                                                                                                I would, however, prefer to be gender neutral over "guys" any day. I just can't stand that use of "guys," at least in a service setting.

                                                                                                                                9 Replies
                                                                                                                                1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                                                                                  I don't like "guys", either. Male gender assumption aside, it just seems overly casual for what is essentially a business interaction. In my job, I was one of only a few women among a large group of men. Management was used to an all-male workfloor. I knew that a direct suggestion of a change in terminology would mean retribution, so I made a point of calling my co-workers
                                                                                                                                  "primates", with a wink and a grin. Eventually most of management transitioned to using "people" or "folks" when addressing the whole group of us.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: greygarious

                                                                                                                                    See, that is where it is tricky for the server. I like being called "guys". (I am a female). I prefer the friendly informality and it is a very commonplace greeting where I am at in the world.

                                                                                                                                    Servers just can't win.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: sedimental

                                                                                                                                      It is for sure difficult. I know since I've waited tables at a variety of places, from very informal to very formal. I always defaulted to the more formal greeting, simply because it is more respectful. And though it it may seem more appropriate to a high end restaurant to say "ladies" or "gentlemen," why shouldn't the guy getting a blue plate special get the same treatment?

                                                                                                                                      1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                                                                                        I don't know.

                                                                                                                                        I still can't figure out why anyone really cares *at all* how they are greeted in a restaurant. So long as they don't say something like "hey, bitches", I don't give it a thought.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: sedimental

                                                                                                                                            It shouldn't really matter, I suppose, but it does. Maybe it's an age thing. I'm 48. To me when everyone is reduced to "guys," it's the equivalent of people wearing jeans and sneakers to the opera. It is, somehow, a diminishment. "Can't we keep anything nice anymore?!"

                                                                                                                                            1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                                                                                              I am older than you! ;)

                                                                                                                                              I like change. I also live in an area where a friendly, respectful, casual greeting is "hey guys, how's it goin'? I think regional differences account here too. No one in my area would greet anyone with a "hey, y'all" but if I were somewhere else, I wouldn't find it disrespectful in the least.

                                                                                                                                              Formal dining is different. The greeting, dress, etiquette, etc needs to match the environment, not the individual diners preferences. ...except when I am at Buckingham...then ole' "Liz" should have briefed the footman on my personal preferences ;)

                                                                                                                                        1. re: greygarious

                                                                                                                                          I take exception, in a working environment, to people stopping to recognize that I'm female. "You guys" is fine. My gender is unimportant to my job, and everyone's aware that I'm a lady.

                                                                                                                                      2. Theoretically, I don't see a problem with addressing by gender as in your example. However, if you have even the slightest bit of doubt, go gender neutral.

                                                                                                                                        Also, I read the food critic's weekly chat in my local paper and people, mainly women, are *constantly* getting up in arms about being referred to as women, girls, ladies, you name it. Ma'am is unacceptable to many as it makes them feel old. Miss is presumptuous, they might be married. With that type of sensitivity, I can understand a server who avoids a gender reference.

                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                        1. re: tcamp

                                                                                                                                          I agree. the presumption is that the server doesn't know you. So, um, yeah, what you look like is what you're gonna get called.

                                                                                                                                          Now, if a server sees a person cross-dressing, he/she ought to call the person by the manner of dress. That's simple politeness, I think.

                                                                                                                                        2. As long as it's in a friendly voice and not so blatantly rude "hey bitch" I really don't care how I'm addressed.

                                                                                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                                                                                          1. re: SaraAshley

                                                                                                                                            This morning, one of my kids called me "bro" when I asked about his breakfast preference. I'm his mother. And that is why I'm pretty desensitized to addresses.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: tcamp

                                                                                                                                                  Oh yea, I've heard that from my 12 year old.... He just got the *look* and reversed his statement.... Only happened once, lol!

                                                                                                                                              1. I enrolled in a class at a community college in Washington State. As part of the enrollment process I had to take a demographics survey. One of the questions asked me to identify my gender. There were eight options and neither male nor female were included.

                                                                                                                                                5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                1. re: jpc8015

                                                                                                                                                  Ummmmm can you elaborate on what was available?

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                                                                                    Masculine, feminine, transgendered, androgynous, other...I can't remember the other three.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: jpc8015

                                                                                                                                                      As I re-read your post I guess the key word is "identify" your gender. As apposed to asking you to "state" it I guess.

                                                                                                                                                      I can understand the additional options, although I don't identify with them, I'm still curios as to the substitution of male/female with masculine/feminine. Interesting, thanks for the follow up.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                                                                                        I found the whole thing to be exceptionally stupid.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: PattiCakes

                                                                                                                                                    Nah, in Philly a simple "youse" will do.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: dulcie54

                                                                                                                                                      I worked with a young woman who did this. Drove me nuts.

                                                                                                                                                      1. Actually, it's sex, not gender. Two different things.


                                                                                                                                                          1. I'm old fashioned.

                                                                                                                                                            I still prefer "ma'am" or "sir" in a formal dining/service setting.

                                                                                                                                                            If there was a formal gender-neutral option I think that would be great! Perhaps one will be invented?

                                                                                                                                                            "Y'all" and "you guys " are great neutrals, but less formal.

                                                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                            1. re: pedalfaster

                                                                                                                                                              In Dubai, many of the Filipino service workers have resorted to addressing everyone as Maamsir.

                                                                                                                                                              It causes no end of amusement.

                                                                                                                                                            2. If I were the server and dependent on tips, I would avoid any language that could make somebody mad. No presumptions.
                                                                                                                                                              When are you due?
                                                                                                                                                              Merry Christmas.
                                                                                                                                                              Is this your mother(or wife or daughter)?
                                                                                                                                                              No gender specific greetings.

                                                                                                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: wekick

                                                                                                                                                                Hah, this reminds me of my one brief stint as a server. This was a casual family chain restaurant and we were always taught to try and upsell on drinks. A couple is seated and I ask what they'd like to drink and "maybe you'd like to try one of our signature cocktails, blah blah" and the male part of the couple tells me that he doesn't drink and that his wife is pregnant so she won't be having a cocktail either. Oops! I tried to save it by complimenting her on how good she looked and that I hadn't even noticed.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: SaraAshley

                                                                                                                                                                  < complimenting her on how good she looked and that I hadn't even noticed.>

                                                                                                                                                                  That's digging yourself a deeper hole, AFAIAC. Translation: "You look so nice that I would never think you could possibly be pregnant." You implied that pregnancy makes women look unattractive. Some may FEEL that way, but hardly need to have that concern confirmed by a stranger!

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: greygarious

                                                                                                                                                                    My bad, I suppose in that case I should've responded with "silly me, how did I NOT notice, it's so obvious now that you mention it."

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: SaraAshley

                                                                                                                                                                      Better yet: "Oh, I'm sorry, I just thought you were morbidly obese."

                                                                                                                                                              2. I suppose "human beings" would work and be pretty innocuous?

                                                                                                                                                                "Hello Human Beings Please have a seat at the bar. Our host will be with you shortly...."

                                                                                                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: pedalfaster

                                                                                                                                                                    "Good day, Earthlings. Have you decided on your choice of sustenance?"

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: pedalfaster

                                                                                                                                                                      But it sounds like a bad Star Trek episode....ugh!

                                                                                                                                                                    2. OK I love what pedalfaster suggests...*hello human beings*! Perfectly logical.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. As the human race. Have we become so mamby pamby that we would even consider this a issue. I've been called a lot of things in my life.I'm not going to snivel if someone calls me sir,mister,gent,maam,lard ass,whatever.Get over it.

                                                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                        1. The All-Inclusive WE is also pretty bad.

                                                                                                                                                                          Good evening, and how are we on this snowy day?
                                                                                                                                                                          The dining room is open, so we may sit where we please.

                                                                                                                                                                          For some reason, I've just started hearing this-- I'm sure it's not new, but it is getting caught more often instead of passing through my generic pablum filter.

                                                                                                                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Kris in Beijing

                                                                                                                                                                            I call that the "Royal We", as in when Queen Victoria referred to herself in the third person: "We are not amused."

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                              And we call it "the corporate we". In Re decision making and policy.

                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: Kris in Beijing

                                                                                                                                                                              As in 'are we still working on that?' Grrrrr I don't remember sharing my meal with the waitron.

                                                                                                                                                                              Now I've just opened another can of worms, what should we call the waitresses and waiters? I personally hate the word server.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Kris in Beijing

                                                                                                                                                                                owch. yeah, that's just... patronizing.

                                                                                                                                                                              2. I am pretty much open to anything except using "you guys" when addressing a group of men and women.

                                                                                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Tripeler

                                                                                                                                                                                  Or the even rarer jewel "you's guys".

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                                                                                                                    It's yooz guyz, and so what? In some areas, that's normal.
                                                                                                                                                                                    I truly, really, sincerely do not think if I'm addressed as a "guy" that the server thinks I have a boy parts.
                                                                                                                                                                                    It's a coloquial expression!

                                                                                                                                                                                    Why is that so hard to embrace?

                                                                                                                                                                                2. You can call me whatever you want, but if there is a line, PLEASE don't ask me if you can "help who's next."!

                                                                                                                                                                                  37 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: monavano

                                                                                                                                                                                      Because the grammar is horrible. The sentence "Can I help who's next?" is actually asking if it's my fault who the next person in line is.

                                                                                                                                                                                      I think it would be more grammatically correct to ask "Can I help the next person in line?"

                                                                                                                                                                                      I know it's a ridiculous, petty thing, but it drives me insane every time I hear it.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: jbsiegel

                                                                                                                                                                                        More often than not, "who's next" is what I hear. I just don't think most people realize the grammar is not proper.
                                                                                                                                                                                        I still screw up lie and lay, and well and good. DH corrects me on the latter all the time, but it's hard to change!

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: monavano

                                                                                                                                                                                          What's wrong with the grammar? It might be awkward and inelegant, but ungrammatical?
                                                                                                                                                                                          The question "can I help who's next?" has the exact same grammatical construction as "can you see who rang my doorbell?"

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Wawsanham

                                                                                                                                                                                              Depends on the rules you follow. A high school English teacher would tell you that 'whoever is next' or 'whoever's next' are preferred constructions because 'who' is either an interrogative pronoun (who is next?) or a relative pronoun (the man who is next), and 'I can help who's next' drops the specifying information for the relative sense of 'who,' potentially creating confusion.

                                                                                                                                                                                              In reality, is anyone confused by 'I can help who's next'? No, of course not. It's a relatively accepted use of the word, and the meaning is crystal clear.

                                                                                                                                                                                              Likewise, 'I can help the next person in line' sidesteps the issue, but adds words to get at the same meaning, which isn't necessarily a good thing.

                                                                                                                                                                                              Then there is the 'can I/may I' issue, which also mainly stems from excluding accepted aspects of the definition of 'can' in favor of a more specific verb (may), despite the usage being widely accepted and understood.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Hopefully, those English teachers who distinguish between "who" and "whoever" (in THIS CONTEXT) are dying off at this point! Said by an English teacher.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Wawsanham

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Wawsanham 1 day ago

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Hopefully, those English teachers who distinguish between "who" and "whoever" (in THIS CONTEXT) are dying off at this point! Said by an English teacher.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    God, I hope not!!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                                                                                    It depends... My highschool teachers would have smacked us with a ruler if we used "who ever." However "whom ever" was perfectly acceptable.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Just for the record. '-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                      In this case, 'whomever' is actually somewhat inappropriate because 'who' is the subject of its own clause.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      "...who's next" = Who is next
                                                                                                                                                                                                      Whom is next = not correct

                                                                                                                                                                                                      It's tricky though, because the clause as a whole ('who's next) is acting as the object of 'help.'

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I suspect most ardent grammarians would take the stance that "who"s function in its own clause trumps the clause's function within the sentence, and 'whoever' would be preferred to 'whomever.' OTOH, 'Can I help whomever's next?' sounds good enough to use anyway. Ironically though, 'can I help whoM's next?' sounds awful and stilted by pretty much any standards.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Nope, sorry -- "can I help him who is next" -- object of help, so "whomever is next."

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Or, because Caroline1, you know.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: DebinIndiana

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Sorry deb, you're just wrong on this one.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          'Can I help he who is next,' btw.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Here is a clearer example:

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Help the person who deserves it most.
                                                                                                                                                                                                          Help the person whoM deserves it most.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          If you say the above sentences aloud, it's relatively obvious that the latter is awkward, forced, and incorrect. Because 'who' is the subject of its own clause.
                                                                                                                                                                                                          (Who deserves it most? He deserves it most. Not 'Him' deserves it most)
                                                                                                                                                                                                          This stands in contrast to:
                                                                                                                                                                                                          Whom should I help?
                                                                                                                                                                                                          You should help the person whom you love.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          In the first case, 'whom' is the object of 'help,' and not part of a separate clause. And in the latter, 'whom' is the object of its own clause.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          **It's worth mentioning that 'whom' is kind of dying out, and using 'who' in all cases is slowly becoming safer in all but the most formal settings anyway.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                                                                                            OK, you convinced me. Just goes to show that my first inclination -- avoiding this awkward construction altogether -- would be best.


                                                                                                                                                                                                  3. re: Wawsanham

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Here is my issue...

                                                                                                                                                                                                    "Can I help who is next?" to me (with a contraction of "who is" to "who's") sounds like a question about responsibility. i.e. "why am I responsible for who's next?"

                                                                                                                                                                                                    I don't think "who's" is an appropriate object for the verb "help". I think the object should be a noun, and I don't think that "who's" is a noun. That's why it should be something like "the next person" instead.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Gio

                                                                                                                                                                                                        "I'm now available to assist the next shithead?"

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                                                                                                                                          I love this! It's straight and to the point!

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                                                                                                                                            ...She said, slamming her menus down on the Hostess station.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: jbsiegel

                                                                                                                                                                                                          "who" is a pronoun. A pronoun can be the object of "help."

                                                                                                                                                                                                          "Help him."

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                                                                                              when the pronoun who is the object of help it takes the form whom. Whom should I help? You should help him.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: jbsiegel

                                                                                                                                                                                                        And my Mom would have responded "I don't know. Can you?" ;-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                                          That's a snarky, petty, and unfair remark on your mother's part. The modal verb "can" is not only used for expressing ability but also expressing permission (along with the more "standard" may).

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Wawsanham

                                                                                                                                                                                                            "May" is asking polite permission. Can is expressing ability. But hey - thanks for calling my mother -- who was a speech and English teacher for her career -- snarky, petty and unfair. Since I know my mother, I will beg to differ.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                                              I love grammarians. They hold the line against the linguistic savages.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                                                                                                                                                                They ain't no better than the rest of us.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                [The number of English dialects that use double negatives is significant.]

                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                                                I'm also an English teacher, and those English teachers have damaged generations of people with their being sticklers for, in most cases, artificial grammar rules.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                "Can" is used for permission all the time. It is clearly understood as a way to express permission (besides "may").

                                                                                                                                                                                                                I'm sure your mom was a nice lady in general, and I don't mean to be putting her down as a person.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              3. re: Wawsanham

                                                                                                                                                                                                                well what's the alternate? "Is there anyone remotely able to accept my assistance?"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                although Linda's mom may have had more fun with a sly smile and a wink, responding "well whattya say we find out!"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Maybe, we should just arrive at restaurants with needy looks on our faces and wait for the person with the helpful friendly facial expression to motion for us to follow to our padded booth.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    How about "Next, please." Or "First, please." Or "Who's next, please?"

                                                                                                                                                                                                              4. re: jbsiegel

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Especially when I'm the only person in line.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: jbsiegel

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Isn't the problem with "Can I help who's next" in the context of the OP is that its the "Can I help" is redundant as we assume everyone is waiting for service, thus "Who's next?" is fine.....especially with a rising inflection at the end of the sentence.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I'm the OP, and I'm still having trouble wrapping my head around the fact that "who's next" is an appropriate object of the verb help. In my mind, it should be something like "he who is next." (Of course, imagine the looks a cashier would get if they said, "Can I help he who is next?"...and then we're back to the gender issue LOL!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: jbsiegel

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Or maybe simpler with just a "Next" with a loud emphasis on the first symbol is both gender neutral and efficient.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Or how about "Get over here." <wink>

                                                                                                                                                                                                              5. re: jbsiegel

                                                                                                                                                                                                                I dunno, maybe it's the result of diminished expectations, but just being acknowledged in a somewhat obliging manner seems to almost make me gushy inside.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                yeah I know, pathetic.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              6. I read somewhere that some people are creating a "genderless" 3rd person pronoun, something like "ze" (if my memory serves me). I guess the plural greeting would be "Hi zes!"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. Why use gender at all? Maybe it seems more personal? The bartender probably doesn't know your name, so chooses a seemingly simple aspect of identity by which to indicate he is talking to you. Seems harmless enough until they get it wrong.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: babette feasts

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I have to agree, if one is going to be even a little gender-bendy it's hardly the time to be particular about gender-specifics in nomenclature.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    why I don't care much for the alphabet soup of LGBTA. etc...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    and really liked when a bunch of people in SF in the 90's rejected all that and took back the word 'queer' as in "Screw all those labels, they don't define us, we're just queer" I can admire an attitude like that.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: babette feasts

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      We probably don't need to use gender at all. But, people do things for reasons. Perhaps, the habit of refering to the gender in this off-hand way (adding ladies or gents to a question) is just a way of creating a bit more closeness between the speakers. I imagine that if any reference to anything particular to a person (such as gender, but it could be something else, too) were to be eliminated, communication might come off as a bit more distant and cool/cold.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Wawsanham

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Exactly, trying to make whatever connection possible to create warmth and a hospitable environment where people will relax and feel valued and spend lots of money.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Unfortunately seems to have the opposite effect on r&r1's friend.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. I find it sort of comical because apparently a lot of servers are nearsighted, exhausted, or something, and thus can't tell that my husband is male. I don't know why they feel obligated to say "Good morning, ladies" or "This way, ladies" or whatever. "Good morning" or "This way, please" is fine and doesn't introduce the possibility of making the server look stupid or making a guest feel upset. Simple.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: wintersweet

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        if I were your husband I'd play along, waiting just WAITING for the moment the server realized their mistake. the more the humor and chagrin, the better the tip.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. For years my personal preference has been, "Peops," as in "People." And now that Easter is nealy upon us, if someone misses the reference to multiple humans, well, may they tun into a big yellow mashmallow! '-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          well somebody has a sticky 'r' key.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          peeps in a casual setting works for me, so would: "CUSTOMERS! glorious customers, we adore customers! Please, this way!"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Marsh, mash? Mishmash works for me!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Sometimes the group grope for political correctness just gets to be too much. "Let'em eat cake!"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I'd rather be misidentified than be addressed as "Peops" or "peeps", however it may be spelled. I've always loathed that term, especially when used toward me by someone a generation younger.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: mcsheridan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I'm a visual person, so when I hear "peeps," I immediately see of a group of those brightly colored Easter marshmallow chicks. Kinda fun to envision a conga line of them sashaying into a restaurant.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          3. I just want to go on the record as saying, I do not take offense when someone in a restaurant, bar or just on the street refers to me like;

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            "Excuse me, but can I help you handsome hunk of man meat"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Nope no problem with that at all.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. When I am one of two elderly ladies having lunch or dinner in a restaurant, we seem most of them time to be addressed as "You guys". Not sure what kind of gender address that is.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Querencia

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                A casual, friendly one? One that is not patronizing you as an elderly woman? Like calling you " sweetie" or " dear"?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I'll take " you guys" anyday over ...that shit.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: sedimental

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I agree -- as bad as "you guys" is, there ARE worse alternatives.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. Oh geez, this thread just reminds me of the recent one that got rather long in the tooth and contentious because some didn't like being called Miss or Ma'am or whatever.....

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                When did it happen that service people could no longer use polite terms in addressing strangers?? I guess I never got that memo, because I find it so incredibly over the top....if you cannot figure out which gender you "identify" with, how the hell are perfect strangers supposed to???

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Seriously, the whole issue smacks of more PC culture run amok.... And everyone wants to find something that "offends" them. I for one refuse to play along..... I've said it before and I'll say it again: I am teaching my boys to be respectful of their elders and to address them as "Ma'am" or "Sir" and I hope it sticks so they continue to do it when they are poor starving students in college waiting tables for money to live on..... And I'm also teaching them if someone gets offended by being addressed that way, it is THEIR problem, and not my sons'.