A few months ago I was browsing the blogosphere and came upon a post that made me chuckle.
It was all about how children ought to address their elders — and I noticed in both the post and the comments that it mostly had to do how they address female elders — and whether you encourage your children to use Miss First Name, or if Mrs. Last Name is preferred.
The reason I was amused is because here in Hawaii, the answer is: neither. It’s always going to be Aunty or Uncle First Name, and often for brevity’s sake, simply Aunty or Uncle.
(And not to get off on a tangent, but it hasn’t escaped my notice that in most parts of the world, the diminutive of Aunt is spelled “Auntie.” We islanders just prefer to be different so we’re sticking with “Aunty” — deal with it.)
(Sorry, another tangent: The exception that proves the rule is: teachers. The protocol there is still going to be Mr. or Mrs. Last Name. Unless they’re your parents’ friends, or your friends’ parents, then we’re back to Aunty and Uncle. Or, in the case of my daughter, who had her father as one of her teachers in first grade: Mr. Dad.)
(I could probably do a whole post with just parenthetical thoughts. But that would get annoying, so I’ll stop now. You’re welcome.)
Where was I? Right, Aunty and Uncle. We call virtually everyone who’s even a little bit older than us that, whether they’re known to us or total strangers. Same ethnic background or socioeconomic status, or different. And it comes in handy when you can’t remember someone’s name: “Oh hi, Aunty, how are you?” See what a nice save that was?
The interesting thing is, though, that using Aunty and Uncle might seem like an intimate or familiar way to address people, but in fact the way it feels in island culture is that it’s the height of respect, every bit as much as Mr. or Mrs. Last Name, or even Sir or Ma’am.
So go ahead, call me Aunty Plum. I’ve earned it.
This is the twentieth post in my series, 31 Days of Life in my Hawaii. Click here to get the links to the other posts in the series.