Excuse Me, Miss Dickie

Bank teller name sign with Miss Dickie on it.

At her first job, Percy’s daughter was known as Miss Dickie, a title she would retain until she married.

During the early 20th century lifetimes of Percy and Earl in Dickies from Gunton: Canadian Brothers in Two World Wars, how to address others was clear. There was a sense of formality that is often lost today. People were usually addressed by titles and last names.

As adults, most often the boys were Mr. Dickie. That would be at the bank or a medical appointment, for example, or in a letter of recommendation. In military service, Percy took the titles Trooper (Tpr) and Sapper (Spr), and Earl took the titles Corporal (Cpl) and Sergeant (Sgt). By their friends and fellow soldiers, they were often simply called by their last name.

While in their day, it was fine to address a child by first name, it was definitely too familiar for many adults. Strangers, acquaintances and even some friends used titles and last names to address each other.

For women, their title and last name depended on whether or not they were married. Any girl or woman of any age who was not married was Miss and kept her last name, like Percy’s adult daughter when she worked in the bank. When a woman married, she became Mrs. and took her husband’s last name. Even further, a couple was addressed as Mr. and Mrs. followed by his given and last names.

By the 1970s, options began to emerge. Whether or not a woman was married, and whether or not she kept her last name, she could choose to be Ms. When a woman married, she could choose not to take her husband’s last name. Soon only young girls were called Miss.

Today, we often address people by their first names at any age. We also tend to use a person’s full name, without the burden of a title before it and not just when we don’t know the gender or marital status of the person. We don’t assume a married couple has the same last name.

I am not sure what the boys would think about all of this, but I do wonder what you think. Do you prefer the old formalities or the new ways? How do you prefer to be addressed and does it really matter?

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