DEAR MISS MANNERS: My parents started their family about 20 years after their siblings did, so our first cousins have several years on us.
At family gatherings as a young adult, I remember my cousins calling their aunts and uncles by their first names. My sister and I were expected to address our relatives using their titles, so for us to say “Mary, would you pass the salt?” rather than “Aunt Mary” never even crossed our minds.
My family could be very outspoken if they did not approve of something, and my elders never said anything about my cousins’ not using the titles. Still, I continued to address relatives by title through my 50s (I am now 60) and when reminiscing with my first and second cousins now.
Some of my second cousins have now stopped using the “aunt” and “uncle” titles. While it does bother me a bit in reference to my own parents, it didn’t bother them, so I shake it off as my being overly sensitive.
Does there come a point at which adult children are free to drop the titles when speaking to or about their aunts and uncles?
GENTLE READER: There came a point at which many aunts and uncles decided that being shown respect made them “feel old” -- as if they could otherwise disguise their ages -- and asked to have these titles dropped. Or parents who felt that way stopped teaching them.
Miss Manners finds those forms as charming as you do, and joins you in regretting that they are now infrequently used.