, , ,

Michael R. Strain, in a 2015 column < http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/02/18/please-address-me-as-mister-i-insist/ >, chided the President for referring to the Chancellor of Germany by her first name. Strain wrote: “Our society is suffering from a tyranny of informality. It is rude. It is false intimacy. It is a product of the utopian, egalitarian fiction that society is one big happy village.”

I appreciate Strain’s concern for the diminishing of boundaries between formal and chummy.

That leads to my own rant concerning the tyranny of informality.

I object to the use of two words substituted for mother and father: mom and dad. I see these informal words used in clauses and phrases such as “we were going to the funeral of my husband’s mom,” “80% of dads wear after-shave,” and “all moms go to heaven.” I understand headline writers who use these words for the sake of brevity, but the informality sets my teeth on edge and causes me to hear fingernails scraping on chalkboards.

I object because I think of “mom” and “dad” as intimate titles of our particular parents. Not parents in general. Not the category of all men who happen to have fathered children. Not the category of all women who exercised maternal responsibilities.

I also think this informality erases the boundaries and borders that actually make for healthy relationships.

I may have called my parents Mom and Dad or Mayr yev Hayr, but I do not address your mother and father in that familiar way. Call me a Tory or a traditionalist or a formalist or an irrelevant antiquarian, but I’ll stick with my old ways and respect the boundaries set up by proper titles and collective nouns.