Social Question

JLeslie's avatar

Have you ever called your dad sir?

Asked by JLeslie (65519points) July 9th, 2013

I know in the south (in America) this is pretty common. When you call him sir what does that feel like? Does it feel the same as Dad or Pop? Or, when you address him as sir do you have a little more fear, or maybe feel more respect, or more aware that he is in charge and not you.

If you used sir was your household run in a very strict manner? Did you feel the threat of punishment or worry about making a mistake constantly?

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35 Answers

bookish1's avatar

No. That level of respect, fear, and deference is just implicit in a father-child relationship in South Asian culture.

SuperMouse's avatar

Never. My cousins whose father retired from the Marine Corps called him sir and still do. Although he has softened over the years, he has always had a very commanding presence and sir seemed appropriate. Yes, he was very strict with his kids.

El_Cadejo's avatar

I call my Dad sir all the time but it’s always in jest.

Dutchess_III's avatar

When I was in trouble I did!

Sunny2's avatar

No. As a child, I don’t remember ever hearing he term. Later, It never occurred to me.

LornaLove's avatar

I think that is an American thing I used to find it quite bizarre in movies when I saw that! In a way I like it. Kids need someone to respect and look up to (even if forced!!).

Pachy's avatar

Growing up in Texas, I called mine dad, but my best friend always called his dad “sir,” which sounded to me a tad bit scary. I myself did not call his dad sir—only mister.

marinelife's avatar

Parents born and raised in Georgia. Said yes sir and no ma’am until middle school when classmates mocked it out of me. Still had trouble calling a supervisor by her first name even after college. She insisted and since I couldn’t say her name I just avoided calling her anything for six months.

muppetish's avatar

Never. My parents are still ‘daddy’ and ‘mommy’, honestly (unless I am speaking about them to someone else, in which case they are ‘mom’ and ‘dad’.) “Sir” and “ma’am” or “madam” sound so incredibly impersonal and my family is not structured on authoritative control or hierarchies of respect.

JLeslie's avatar

@marinelife Your parents were ok with the change? It wasn’t really something they insisted on, but rather just the custom where you lived?

keobooks's avatar

I always considered “sir” a polite way to address an adult who was a stranger. I don’t think I’ve called anyone who I could call by their first name or Mister “sir.”

gailcalled's avatar

No and not part of any of my family’s culture, ever, anywhere.

(Milo here: Gail calls me “sir” sometimes when she is feeling particularly minionish.)

marinelife's avatar

No, they (my father) insisted on it until I pointed out that it was not acceptable at school.

JLeslie's avatar

@marinelife A friend of mine in MD used it at home, but not when they were out in public. It was the first time I heard someone address their parents that way. It was actually calling her mom ma’am at her house when I was Jr. High age. Her mom was from the south, it was shocking to me when I was very young hearing it for the first time.

jordym84's avatar

Growing up we were taught that if an adult, regardless of their relation to you, ever called you, you should always reply with “Sir?” or “Ma’am?” (well, Senhor? or Senhora? in Portuguese, which, in a way, makes a little more sense). It never felt odd or forced or like they were trying to instill fear in us, it was just the respectful thing to do.

linguaphile's avatar

I was Southern raised—“sir” is just a word that slides off without a thought, but still contains respect in its usage.

I still find myself using “sir” and “ma’am” with my parents, when the situation warrants, and whenever I go back South.

dxs's avatar

No.
I’m from the North.

OneBadApple's avatar

Nah.

My brother and I were far from being Wally and the Beav. But that mean, abusive son of a bitch wasn’t Ward Cleaver, either….

YARNLADY's avatar

No. My Dad was very strict and the absolute boss of the house, but he never wanted or expected us to call him sir. Dad or Daddy was the only thing we ever called him.

tinyfaery's avatar

Never. I try to call him as little as possible.

cookieman's avatar

Same answer as @uberbatman.

I also call his father “sir”.

augustlan's avatar

Never. I was raised as a little adult in some ways, I think. That once got me in some hot water with one of my mother’s older friends. She was appalled that I addressed her by her first name when I was 4 or 5 years old. She said she thought it was horribly rude of me. (Which is ridiculous, since I was completely innocent.) She’d expected me to call Mrs. LastName, but I didn’t even know her last name! I guess she’d have been okay with ma’am, but I wasn’t raised to say that.

We also don’t call our aunts and uncles “Aunt/Uncle So-and-So”, just using their first names in direct address. My best friend is called “Aunt Sonia” by my kids, though. It’s more a sign of our special relationship than any particular amount of respect.

Dutchess_III's avatar

We use “aunt” and “uncle” at random, even to apply to people who aren’t even related to us, but happen to be close to the family. We have Uncle Alex, for example, who is one of my son’s, Chris’ childhood friends. I think it includes them in our family circle. Anyway, that’s what we do.

downtide's avatar

No. It’s just never done here. You only use “sir” if you’re addressing a man whose name you don’t know, or who has an actual knighthood.

OpryLeigh's avatar

No and I would be very surprised if I heard someone use “sir” or “ma’am” to address their parents here in the UK. Even Prince Charles calls the Queen mummy!

linguaphile's avatar

Come to think of it, my mother and step-mother (both Southern to the core) also add “Miss” to certain women’s first names—our hairdressers, babysitters, or anyone who provides regular service (Miss Carolyn, Miss Carrie, Miss Melissa, etc). Close female family friends get the “aunt” added.

I just thought about it, just now, and… isn’t that kinda derogatory to add “miss?”

Dutchess_III's avatar

I guess that depends on the attitude @linguaphile. I don’t find it derogatory.

bookish1's avatar

@linguaphile : I have lived on the peripheries of the South most of my life, and I’ve heard the courtesy “Miss” frequently. I do not think it is meant to be derogatory, or an indicator of one’s youth, etc., but rather a sign of respect to someone with whom one is on a first-name basis.

I was surprised along similar lines when I learned last year in Paris that in French, one can address someone whom one calls by their first name in the formal address (vous instead of tu). It’s the same deal—you have a business relationship, but also a cordial one based on service. You call them by their first name but still provide a sign of distance and respect.

linguaphile's avatar

@bookish1, @Dutchess_III Thanks!! I appreciate your perspectives! The thought just gave me pause… but good to know what others think.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I once went to a BB game with my boyfriend. I was in my 30’s and divorced. During half time there was a gymnast. She was doing several back flips across the floor and suddenly the audience could see that she was about to flip into a table. The black gal next to me started yelling “MISS! LOOK OUT MISS!!”

JLeslie's avatar

I asked the question because I had a stereotype of people who are required to use sir or ma’am being raised in strict households, and dare I say that use corporal punishment. It’s not that I assumed that is alway true, I never think that with stereotypes, but I was assuming it is more likely to be true. This was a prejudice I had when I was very young and first heard it. I only heard it a few times in my one friend’s house in Jr. High and High school, and didn’t hear it used again until I was in my 30’s. In fact, that friend moved after 10th grade. I found out a few years later her parents were pretty violent at times, not just a spanking with an open hand, so it reinforced the “feeling” the words gave me.

Having lived in the south as an adult, I see that it also is just custom to use sir or ma’am, and doesn’t necessarily imply anything else. I think? I wasn’t sure, so I thought I would ask a Q. One jelly brought up a parent being in the military, and that was funny because when I hear sir or ma’am used, even with strangers, I assume military or southern, but I think parts of the midwest use it also.

@Dutchess_III In some parts of the US people use Miss for all women. Ma’am is never said. In those same parts they almost never use Miss Firstname like the example @linguaphile gives. Miss Firstname to most New Yorkers sounds too much like the old south slave days. In my family we used Aunt or Uncle Firstname for our parents closest friends, or just their first name, or Mrs./Miss/Ms. Lastname with strangers or adults who preferred the more formal address. We were taught to use Mrs. or Miss Lastname, and let the adult tell us it was ok to use their first name if it was ok with them. That is what I would teach my kids if I had any, but probably it would be Ms. now. Although, I still have strangers refer to me as Mrs. Lastname until I tell them otherwise, it is still done. When a young person on an 800 line calls me Miss Firstname or in a doctor’s office, it is still odd to me even after years of hearing it, but a little less odd now.

@augustlan I had the same thing happen to me. I used to play with some kids in our building and I called their mom by her first name a couple times and she corrected me. I had no idea what her last name was either, I just knew what my mom called her. I was very young, maybe 6, but I remember her being pretty pissed off in her tone. They were from some part of the south. After that I knew to ask what an adult preferred, and I do think it is good to ask rather than assume.

TravisR's avatar

Yes, I say yes sir and no sir to my dad because he requires my brother and I to be respectful. I also say yes ma’am and no ma’am to my mom. My parents are strict about manners. My girlfriend thinks it is weird that my family has rules like that. I have a few friends who got mad at me because I use sir and ma’am when I am speaking to their parents. My friend Colton’s dad started making him say yes sir and no sir because of me. He told Colton that he is making him show respect the way I do, so now Colton is mad at me.

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