Saturday, 31 July 2010


This is a repost. I first posted this in October 2008 and when I reread it today, I felt it needed another outing! I changed the name of the American president though. So, here goes:

In most languages I know there is a distinctive difference between 'you' (when speaking to children and peers) and 'You' (when speaking to someone of higher rank, higher age or a stranger). In French it would be tu and vous, in German du and Sie, in Dutch jij and u. In English there is no such distinction, unless you count the (very) old fashioned thou. Anyway, this is about the Dutch versions.

When I was a little girl, I was taught by my parents to say 'You' (keeping it a bit simpler here) to anyone older or unknown. This meant saying it to my parents, grandparents, teachers and strangers. During my teens I was the last of the three of us (me, brother, sister) to start saying 'you' to my parents. It just didn't feel respectful. And even now I occasionally have problems saying 'you' to people that are older, even when told to do so.

The thing that really bugs me though, is children nowadays. Everyone and their aunt is treated to 'you' in a way that makes me feel really grumpy. What is the problem with teaching children a little respect for other people. Get them to say 'You' first and it can always change to 'you' later.

People who say that everyone is equal and should be treated that way are lying. Not everyone is equal. You don't call the Pope 'Benny', you don't call the President of the US 'Barry' or the Queen of England 'Betty'. So let's get back to basics: teach your children how to be polite and respectful and I promise you: the world will become a better place!


  1. In the south, it is supposed to be Mrs. So and So, then Miss (First Name). Unfortunately, in the north no such distinctions are made.
    I would love to see some graciousness return to society.

  2. I agree totally. I taught my children to have respect for their elders and I am very proud of them and the respect they have for others.

  3. Lose the Pope, and the world will be a better place! (Although I do agree with you on the 'You' thing, and I DO want them to respect you, don't get me wrong here, but I will NEVER, EVER teach my children to pay respect to any pope.)

  4. Our culture tends not respect others, especially elders enough. Others are different: for example, the younger South Korean man next door to me, always calls me sir. I must tell him not to.

  5. I blame it on classes like Mommy and Me-
    We (in the US) went through a period where we were told that for the good of our child's psyches, we should be their friends, and gently nudge their behavior with only positive words- it was during this time we dropped the signs of respect.
    When I was studying to teach preschool about 20 years ago- I was taught to say to a kid "the chair is not for standing on" rather than "get off the chair!". I was taught to ask them to do stuff- not tell them. Teachers often ended their sentences with the word "OK?" as did parents.
    wait! why the heck should I ever ask a kid OK? I ask them "you understand what I am telling you?" but never ok, as if I need their permission to scold them! we are the adults- they are the kids. period.
    It doesn't give adults the right to hurt or badger a kid unnecessarily- we can't mistreat them. but we sure as heck can lead them ,expect things from them, and scold them if they don't listen! I am parent or teacher first and foremost. I'll be friendly, but not your best friend!

    and I do agree about pepperfly's pope comment. I hate organized religion :)


Any weighty (and not so weighty) comments are welcome!