Let me call you “sweetheart”

Two of my favorite writing-related blogs had very interesting discussions this week about whether it’s reasonable to get annoyed when a client (or source) calls you by a name like “sweetheart.”

Tamara first raised the topic at Freelance Parent. Then Allena at Garden Wall Publications continued the discussion.

Is it okay with you if a favorite client or source–someone you have a good professional relationship with–calls you a nickname? Or do you feel patronized? Does it matter if you are a man or a woman, and it’s the opposite gender calling you by a term of affection? Is it okay with you if the person is roughly your age but not if he or she is older than you are?

My personal take is this: it doesn’t bother me. Do some people mean to be patronizing when they use such nicknames? I’m sure they do. And I don’t endorse that at all. But if a favorite client or a reliable source affectionately referred to me as “sweetheart” during the course of a conversation, I wouldn’t blink an eye. As I posted in the other writers’ forums, I’m Southern. That’s how we talk down here. We call people things like “Sugar” and “Darling.” We just do. Just like I still often refer to people who are older than I am with a “ma’am” or a “sir.” It’s just habit.

I try not to let a “Sugar” slip out during interviews or other professional interactions, I promise. But just the other day, I interviewed a woman about a chronic medical condition that she has, and she told me about a problem she had been having. And without even hesitating, I said, “Bless your heart. I hope that heals up quickly.”

But I guess I feel that there are more important things to worry about than someone I have a good working relationship with calling me “sweetheart.” Now, if the person lied to me or knowing gave me fraudelent information or used a slur, that would be different. Very different. And unacceptable. And believe me, I would speak up. And if a fellow writer genuinely didn’t like being called “sweetheart,” regardless of the implication, I’d support her in speaking up and saying so.


About jenniferlarsonwrites

I'm a freelance writer and editor based in Nashville, Tennessee. I have a master's degree in journalism from the University of Maryland and a bachelor's degree in English from Rhodes College. I'm a born-and-bred Southerner who spent a few years in Southern California, a rabid baseball fan and a would-be grower of tomatoes. You can also visit me at LinkedIn or on Twitter at @JenniferLarson.
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