Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Roll up your sleeve for me, sweetie

Over the past few weeks, my circumstances have been such that I have had to become acquainted with a number of NHS nurses. This has not been an unpleasant experience, for most of them are kind, friendly and competent, but there is one thing that many of them have been doing to me (apart from the nasty things they sometimes have to do) which irritated me.

Why have they never realised, or been told, that not everyone likes being addressed as 'my darling', 'my poppet' or 'my sweetheart'? Of course they mean well, but you don't have to be excessively standoffish or snooty to find this patronising and offensive. On a couple of occasions I suggested diffidently that I would prefer them to use my (first) name but I don't think they really understood why.

A nurse suggested to me that they use these mock-affectionate terms because they cannot remember every patient's name and don't like to keep asking, but this seems a feeble excuse; in that case, what's wrong with m'dear, which somehow doesn't sound patronising and has a cuddly, West Country ring to it?

I wouldn't mind a male nurse calling me mate; this strikes me as a friendly way of addressing an equal.


Froog said...

The problem with sir, as I'm sure you realise, you old troublemaker, is that to request its use does sound snooty and stand-offish. And if the nurses were to comply with such a request, their delivery of the title would probably convey sarcasm rather than the hoped-for respect.

You should count yourself lucky you weren't in the West Country, where people habitually address each other as "my lover".

Froog said...

On a scarcely related and mildly profane note, a teaching colleague of mine here in China some years ago went down with a nasty allergy and was despatched to the Sino-Japanese Friendship Hospital (somewhat of an oxymoron, it seems to me), supposedly one of the best hospitals in Beijing, to get some treatment.

After he'd received a cursory examination from a doctor, a nurse was sent in to give him an injection of some kind (in fact, it turned out to be a massive dose of steroids, which made his condition much worse), and she told him brusquely to "bare his arse".

"My arm?" queried my friend, assuming he must have misheard her.

"No, your arse!" she replied, even more brusquely.

That is probably the best English any of us has heard from a Chinese person in several years of attempting to teach the language in this country. That nurse may well be the only Chinese person ever to learn - or to acquire the confidence to utter - the word 'arse'. I wonder where she picked that up.

Tony said...

Well, I'd never actually suggest sir, Froog old man, not when they're holding a syringe.

I always thought the West Country was more m'dear territory; I wouldn't mind that, it's sort of mumsy and comforting.

Tony said...

I like your arse story very much; I bet she would have spelt it the American way.

But you bear some responsibility for the word's lack of currency in China: with how many of your students have you made a real effort to get the word (and others cognate with it) across?