Learning the fine art of addressing strangers.
STAFF at Gatwick airport were told to call customers only madam or sir, rather than "love" or "darling," after a customer complained.
Staff said the move was smallminded.
But is it? In business encounters with strangers, should there be a line that must not be crossed? Is it acceptable for a bus driver to call you love or mate but should a sales assistant always call you sir or madam? Many years ago, a wealthy female relative from America was shocked to be approached on a railway station by a porter who said: "Take your suitcase, love?" To which she replied haughtily: "I am not your love."
Mind you, she always was a bit stuck up. And she had to carry her own suitcase.
My wife Maria uses "darling" a lot when shopping and no-one has complained.
But, while I don't mind being addressed as "mate" in the street, if someone bumps into me or asks for directions, I would not appreciate it from a sales person or in more formal circumstances.
There is a fine line to be walked in the inoffensive use of nicknames.
I once called an opposition player "sunshine" in a heated game of Sunday League soccer and he wanted to knock my block off.
Appellations used vary across the country. We have darling, sweetie, sweetheart, the rather patronising dear, our kid, chuck, ducks, duckie, the Geordie "man" that relates to both sexes, and hen.
Doll and babes I cannot abide and I abhor the Americanism of "you guys" because it's an Americanism.
At the risk of being labelled a snob, I admit I prefer formality, particularly at airports.
Having said that, the nicest experience I had as a recipient of an unexpected nickname, was when a mature lady served me in a store in Somerset and said: "There you go, my lovely," in a delightful West Country accent.
That gave me a warm glow.