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This blog is about the fascinating, fun, and challenging things about the English language. I hope to entertain you and to help you with problems or just questions you might have with spelling and usage. I go beyond just stating what is right and what is wrong, and provide some history or some tips to help you remember. Is something puzzling you? Feel free to email me at wordlady.barber@gmail.com.
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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Dear oh dear

I was reading a magazine at the doctor's office this morning. Apparently a previous issue had had an article criticizing the tendency of people to address older women as "dear". This prompted a letter to the editor from someone who complained bitterly about this tendency, and proudly said that whenever someone called her "dear", she called them "moose" in response. She then said that a grocery store clerk had committed the outrage of calling her "sweetheart", and in retaliation she had left all her groceries sitting there and gone to buy them somewhere else. My question is, who is being rude, the person who addresses you with a term of endearment or a termagant who responds with "moose"? I spent four days in Manchester in June, and revelled in being called "love", "my love", "darling", and "sweetie" by all and sundry: taxi drivers, waitresses, hotel clerks, you name it. People should get a grip; there are many things to get angry about in this world, but being addressed by a term of endearment is not one of them.

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About Me

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Canada's Word Lady, Katherine Barber is an expert on the English language and a frequent guest on radio and television. She was Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Her witty and informative talks on the stories behind our words are very popular. Contact her at wordlady.barber@gmail.com to book her for speaking engagements; she can tailor her talks to almost any subject. She is also available as an expert witness for lawsuits.