DEAR ABBY: Regarding the letter from "In a Quandary in Georgia" (6/3), whose fiance wants her children to continue calling him "Mr. Earl" after the wedding, this could be a red-flag warning for problems in the future. Child experts and studies state that successful parenting relies on the biological parent setting and enforcing the rules and discipline for his or her kids. "Mr. Earl" is asking for control, not respect. They need to get some stepfamily counseling before attempting to unite. I know! -- BEEN THERE, LOS ALTOS, CALIF.
DEAR BEEN THERE: I also thought it was a matter of the fiance having control issues. But you know what? I may have been wrong, and you may be wrong, too. For families who live south of the Mason-Dixon line, addressing an older person as "Mister" or "Miss" is considered plain old-fashioned good manners. So drag out the old wet noodle and read on:
DEAR MISS ABBY: I address you this way as, to me, it is an endearment and out of respect. Down here in New Orleans, should someone address an older person by his or her first name without a Ms. or Mr. in front of it, it's considered disrespectful.
This is most certainly a Southern thing, as one would address Dolly Parton as "Miss Dolly," and "Miss Scarlett," bless her heart, were the poor girl alive today, would still be addressed in this manner.
I do not like being addressed by a younger person by my first name. It is terribly harsh, and I'd cringe at hearing a younger person disrespect me in that fashion.
This custom is not an anachronism. Address a physician by his or her first name and see what the reaction is. You will be informed that the title of doctor was earned, and it is expected that you will use it. And as an older, middle-aged person, I have also earned the title of ... "MISS MAGNOLIA," KENNER, LA.
DEAR ABBY: This custom is not unique to the southern U.S. In Spain and in Latin America, adults are called Don (insert first name) or Dona (insert first name), and in France, one seldom hears a child say "oui," or "non" without it being followed by a "madame" (ma'am) or "monsieur" (sir). I would suggest those kids come up with a nickname for Earl as a compromise. -- SOUTHERN BOY IN ARIZONA
DEAR ABBY: Growing up in Hawaii, we always referred to adults as "Uncle" or "Aunty." They are not only used as terms of endearment, but also as a way to show our respect.
My mother passed away recently. Kids who grew up in our neighborhood attended her services and left cards for her addressed "Aunty Carol." -- PUA, HONOLULU
DEAR ABBY: As a new stepfather, Mr. Earl has the right to be called by whichever name he feels comfortable with. I was married for nine years with two wonderful stepchildren. When the younger one asked me once if he could call me "Mom," I was flattered, but explained to him that he already had a "Mom," and I am "Ms. Amber." I was raised not to call adults by their first names, but to use Mr. or Mrs. in front of their name instead. It may seem like an old-fashioned custom, but in my opinion, it is a good one. -- MS. AMBER IN NORMAN, OKLA.