Hello luv, babe, sweets, darling!

By | Category: Travel rumblings

not a babe; and neither am I © Dan Sperrin

I have been called lots of things in my time but I won’t go into too much about that now. But being called “babe” during my advancing years (advancing rapidly towards old age) did make me wonder about the words used by shop workers, train staff and others who deal with the public. What happened to “sir” or “madam?”

In South Carolina, I was called “hon,” in an Australian outback town called Walgett I was called “dahl” and in Harrogate – “luv.” In Sydney’s Ultimo (surely one of the worst named places in the world) I was called mate – not too unusual there – and in Eugene in Oregon, “sweets” which I assume is short for sweetheart but why the plural and not just “sweet?” I have been called “pet” in Gateshead and Whatchaswant” in Dudley; “canIgetchassumit” in Derby and “what’llitbethen” in cockney tones in Inverness. “Darlin” (the dropping of the “g” seems to be mandatory”). is quite common everywhere now.

I’ve still to be called “petal,” “sunshine” or “flower” but “gov” and “squire” don’t get heard very often any more. At least by me.

Most, of course, are local pet names of endearment and are a way of making you feel comfortable in a homespun way. But “babe” doesn’t fit that pattern.  Can you imagine – for example – that locals in Little Hospitality-on-Sea calling anyone “babe?” Is it a belated sign that language from American gangster films or 1940’s and 1950’s teen singing idols has cropped up here? And why “babe” and not “baby?”

It’s mystifying to an elderly traveller and travel writer. Should I be flattered to be called a “babe” or be concerned for their eyesight? Should I even bore readers with these thoughts?

Yet these are the things visitors remember; how you were first treated by people. Friendliness and putting visitors at ease is important so long live these local forms of greeting. It’s so much better than the dreadful, “have a nice day” but if I never heard “babe” again, it would be too soon!

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