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June 19, 2009

Just Call Them Both, "Johnson"....

What is the deal lately with these uppity females?

If you want to score a meeting with Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), know this: His scheduler/office manager, Elizabeth Becton, is to be addressed by her full name — not Liz or any other variant.

An executive assistant at McBee Strategic recently learned this the hard way. A few weeks ago, the assistant e-mailed Becton seeking a meeting with McDermott and a client, JPMorgan Chase. Days later, the assistant checked back in and unfortunately began the e-mail with “Hi Liz.”

Becton curtly replied, “Who is Liz?”

When the assistant wrote back with an apology, Becton turned up the heat. “I do not go by Liz. Where did you get your information?” she asked.

The back-and-forth went on for 19 e-mails, with the assistant apologizing six times if she had “offended” Becton, while Becton lectured about name-calling.

Becton told the assistant that if someone said using “Liz” was acceptable, then “they are not your friend”, and “If I wanted you to call me by any other name, I would have offered that to you.” Plus, it’s “rude when people don’t even ask permission and take all sorts of liberties with your name,” she said, adding: “Please do not ever call me by a nickname again.”

But the tirade didn’t end there.

Jeez, lady. Get a grip:

What are the odds that a guy who’s spent decades addressing his superiors as “sir” would address a woman senator as “ma’am”? I actually went back and skipped around in the video of the rest of the hearing to see how he interacted with male senators and caught him answering Vitter’s questions with “yes, sir” a number of times. Is Boxer’s ego so fragile and her method so imperious that she’d publicly humiliate a guy whom she has no reason to believe is being anything less than respectful?

Initially, my take was pretty much the same as John's, but there is no reason to be rude about it. This is exactly the kind of thing that discourages people from being polite, and in particular discourages men from showing courtesy to women in the way most men were raised to do.

And the notion that being called "Ma'am" means you are old is just plain silly. Ever since my husband was a boot 2nd Lieutenant, Marines (both enlisted and younger officers) have almost invariably called me "Ma'am". I never took offense - if you want to be called something else, the correct response is, "I appreciate the courtesy, but if it doesn't make you uncomfortable, please call me Cass". That thanks them for being polite and lets them know you are willing to dispense with the formalities if they are. And you may have to accept that they may not feel comfortable doing so. That is perfectly fine. But at least you've made the offer.

Someone needs a spanking.

Update: Just call her "Czarina". Hysterical.

I want to be the Czar of Snark.

Posted by Cassandra at June 19, 2009 07:18 AM

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Comments

Is Boxer’s ego so fragile and her method so imperious that she’d publicly humiliate a guy whom she has no reason to believe is being anything less than respectful?

You nailed it, Ma'am.

Posted by: BillT at June 19, 2009 08:15 AM

As one of my girlfriends put it . . . the 'ahem' Senator's Spanx must've gotten into a bunch! And, the end result?? She looks like a whiny spoiled brat next to Brig. Gen. Walsh! We seriously DO NOT need people like her . . . making decisions that impact our country!

Posted by: Nina at June 19, 2009 08:38 AM

Weeeellll....I get annoyed when people take liberties with my name. Especially my married surname. I keep telling these dingbat telemarketers that the FO of the Enterprise is still somewhere...out there...going places where no one has gone before.

It also didn't help when we lived on a street of that name...

When someone abbreviates my first name, that just raises the hackles on the back of my neck. Would I go 19 rounds of email over it? No. One telling, for 99.9% of the intelligent people I associate with, is enough.

Dimunitive forms of names or nicknames derived from the given name is a form of intimacy that does not need to be presumed upon first meeting.

Handles on the web are another subject entirely.

heh.

Posted by: La Femme C. at June 19, 2009 10:52 AM

What I think is so hysterical about the whole thing is she demanded he not address her by the respectful term "ma'am", insisting on the title widely regarded with contempt and derision "senator".

Posted by: Pogue at June 19, 2009 10:57 AM

I noticed the Czarina of Beer was wearing a crown that said 'Princess'. Do you need one a' them, Miss Cass?

I like living in the south where I am ma'am.
Politeness NEVER goes out of style. If Babsy wants to get her boxers in a twist over someone trying to humanize her, it is a free country. But I think the offender will find himself in Gitmo shortly.

Posted by: Cricket at June 19, 2009 10:59 AM

"I want to be the Czar of Snark.

My friend, you already are.

And I can't believe that one got left hanging by the door.....especially given my time zone.
0>;~}

Posted by: DL Sly at June 19, 2009 11:01 AM

What I wish one of her colleagues had said was, "Senator, while we're on the topic of respectful address, please call the General by HIS rank, as he worked MUCH harder and in worse conditions to earn that than you have any concept of."

Because it did NOT escape my attention that she gave him no address at all, even "sir". She also should be required to study Military Customs and Courtesies before daring to lecture ANYONE as to what is or is not the proper form of address for here (non-existant) "rank".

Posted by: MikeD at June 19, 2009 11:24 AM

I think the first time some young whippersnapper called me "ma'am," I was startled to realize I was getting old. Otherwise, no problem.

I'm trying to imagine being offended by a nickname. If I were offended with someone for some other reason, I might, conceivably, retaliate with a nickname of my own, a silly one like "Bobbykins."

If I were a senator or some other august personage guarding the dignity of my office, maybe I'd have an assistant drop a hint. If the person didn't take the hint, maybe I'd let him know that offending me wasn't the best way to establish a mutually satisfying professional relationship. But good grief -- I hope I wouldn't commit a silly tantrum to writing. Don't people know that humiliating emails inevitably get circulated?

Posted by: Texan99 at June 19, 2009 11:31 AM

I'm from a part of the country where everything that moves and has two legs gets called "sir" or "ma'am." Add coming from a military family and yup, it's sir or ma'am. Especially when the person is older or of higher rank than I am. And although I do not care for people to shorten my name, I just ask politely that they not call me that. End of story.
What is it about DC that rots the civility of humans? And how do the military people stationed there manage to avoid getting infected? Sheesh!

Posted by: LittleRed1 at June 19, 2009 12:16 PM

If I were a senator or some other august personage guarding the dignity of my office...

An oxymoron. First, you'd have to establish that a senator was an august personage possessing some genuine dignity. Ninety-five percent of the current titleholders are indistinguishable from a "Biggest Loser" show hosted by Barnum and Bailey.

If *you* were a senator, though, you would definitely qualify as a lady of genuine dignity -- despite trying to foist additional GAs on me.

*sweeping bow*

Ma'am.

Posted by: BillT at June 19, 2009 12:27 PM

I think the first time some young whippersnapper called me "ma'am," I was startled to realize I was getting old. Otherwise, no problem.

I called my niece "ma'am" from the time she was 5 (i.e. "No ma'am... put that cookie down, you're having lunch soon"). It has nothing at all to do with age. And Senator Boxer showed her qualifications (or lack thereof) to be respected with that condescending little tone of hers. ESPECIALLY after she showed him NO courtesy by not even addressing him as "sir" or "General" or "Brigadier". Nothing.

As for "Liz" there. She clearly has issues that should be worked out with a professional counselor. The level of aggravation there speaks of severe anger management and control issues.

Posted by: MikeD at June 19, 2009 01:00 PM

I'm a military brat raised by good, old-fashioned Mountain Williams from the Black Hills of Kentucky, *sir* and *ma'am* are as natural to my vernacular as George Carlin's seven words. Granted, the 20-something's working the cash registers are usually surprised by someone as young as me addressing them as *sir* or *ma'am*, but they aren't insulted by it.

Posted by: DL Sly at June 19, 2009 01:02 PM

Senator, you know a skunkette by any other name would smell as sweet?

Had an ex sister-in-law surprise me by correcting me for calling her husband "Dave", over her preferred "David". Hmmmm. Often wondered why she felt the need to speak for him, especially since I knew Dave way before I knew her. It could explain why she is an "ex". :)

I was raised in Southern California to speak respectfully of all elders as "Sir" or "Ma'am". Wifey said when she lived in "Naw-lins", she would be addressed as "Ma'am" or "Miss Mary". I imagine there are still some places in the USA where respectful name-asddressing etiquette is still expected.

Posted by: ziobuck at June 19, 2009 01:04 PM

Dimunitive forms of names or nicknames derived from the given name is a form of intimacy that does not need to be presumed upon first meeting.

I agree. I have only once taken issue with someone doing that to me, and I did it politely. A doctor I was seeing for the first time decided to call me by my first name. For some reason (and I'm pretty hard to offend) it really annoyed me, so I took a look at the diploma on his wall and the next time he inserted my first name into a sentence, I replied,

"Well, Frank..."

He hauled up short like he'd been slapped across the face - didn't appreciate my using his first at *all*. The next time he addressed me, it was "Mrs. ...." and the next time I addressed him it was "Dr..." :p

Point taken.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 19, 2009 01:07 PM

I'm inordinately pleased when someone addresses me as anything other than "Idiot" -- but then, I'm kinda Low Maintenance...

Posted by: BillT at June 19, 2009 01:26 PM

I will be the first to admit that this doctor just annoyed me. I think more than anything else it was his tone of voice and demeanor that I objected to. The first name thing was just a symptom.

I wasn't nasty about it at all. I just wanted to make a point - it's often weird enough to be in a doctor's office half nekkid in front of a guy you barely know and when they get overly familiar, it's sort of off putting.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 19, 2009 01:32 PM

"Czarina of Beer" loves her tiara sister the "Czarina of Snark!"

Posted by: Greta at June 19, 2009 01:34 PM

"I will be the first to admit that this doctor just annoyed me. I think more than anything else it was his tone of voice and demeanor that I objected to. The first name thing was just a symptom."

Cass:
You brought up a good point. I've called out subordinates before who used "Yeesss, sirrrr" in a not-so-respectful way. Tone and body language can nullify respectful terminology.
BTW, good slam on the doc.


Posted by: ziobuck at June 19, 2009 01:52 PM

You look darned good in that tiara too!

Posted by: Cassandra at June 19, 2009 02:08 PM

Dear Sirs and Ma'ams,
An opinion based upon observation follows, so its worth is debatable, or not....

I find it interesting that traditional ideas on decorum and manners seem to be fairly consistent across the military and certain segments of our society, regardless of region. *Says he, while convinced that the South, when taken as a whole, edges out other regions with regard to consistency of both the observation and usage of courtesy, aka manners.*

And another impression I have from my years spent living around and working in various megalopoli, is that civility in crowded places is lacking relative to the more sparsely populated areas. Who'da thunk?

I too have a problem with the immediate assumption of familiarity so prevalent today. Twasn't acceptable during my yout' and I don't see what's changed to make it acceptable now. But I'm in the one orthopedic shoe on the precipice and the other on a Soylent Green wrapper demographic anywho.

Finally, Johnson when used in the vernacular of an anatomical feature is certainly appropriate for both of the featured antagonists in this story. One, a Californian who reminds me of a SDS throwback from the 60's. And the other, a left-coast office management widget for Rep. Jim Wiretap, Iraq is lost, one nation !under G-d, funny money! what funny money?, McDermott?

Yup, Johnson is just about right.

Posted by: bt-the resident-curmudgeon_hun at June 19, 2009 02:37 PM

I, too, was raised in SoCal but by a Southern transplant. EVERYONE was called "Sir" or "Ma'am". And that's only when I was allowed to speak.

Bill ~ as a Senator, my first order of duty would be to rescind GO#1 - just for you.

Posted by: Sly's Wardrobe Mistress at June 19, 2009 03:09 PM

Awwww -- thank you, HF6. Buuuuuut, considering the mischief I get into when I'm *sober*...

Posted by: BillT at June 19, 2009 04:06 PM

If she wants to be spoken to as a Senator rather than as a lady, she might be reminded that Senators are meant to serve the people they represent -- not lecture to them.

Somehow the military doesn't forget that. I am forever telling sergents and specialists not to call me "sir." I prefer they save their deference to those who have earned it.

In return, I always address servicemen of any rank by that rank, and their name if we've been introduced. It's on their nametape, but if we haven't been introduced so that they also know my name, it's an imposition of familiarity.

The exception is commanding officers; I call them "Sir." Just like everyone else. I don't have to do so, but... they've earned it.

Posted by: Grim at June 19, 2009 04:06 PM

"it's an imposition of familiarity."
Grim,

If I were in a mood to quibble on this fine, albeit smokin' hot, Friday afternoon, I'd say that it is a cordial offer extended by you during the introduction. An offer that you deem to be appropriate, rather than an assumption by the other person that they may call you by your first name without your offer or consent.

That assumption is what I mean by an assumption of familiarity, which seems to be the default, if not accepted, behavior these days.

Posted by: bt-the resident-curmudgeon_hun at June 19, 2009 04:45 PM

Cass, it was perceptive of you to recognize that sometimes people are very uncomfortable stepping away from "ma'am" or "sir" to their superiors or elders.

I've been married a long time now. My wife's parents were Mr. Nelson and Mrs. Nelson. After
I married their daughter, they asked me to call them "Al" and "Wilma". I literally could not do it. I headed off to law school 500 miles away immediately after the marriage. When the in-laws came up to visit their daughter and me, they'd take us out to dinner. I still remember the circumlocutions I used to avoid mentioning their first names while, at the same time, not offending them by referring to them as Mr. and Mrs. Nelson. It ultimately worked out, and I got over my mental block. They were genuinely nice people trying to make me feel comfortable. But if you've gone up to "Mr. Nelson" to ask permission to marry his daughter, he's going to be "Mr. Nelson" for a very long time. "Sir" might do as a substitute in a pinch.

But it's important to realize that some folks need to address you as "sir" or "ma'am". The real problem around is telemarketers who've got your first name, or a diminutive of your first name, and call you up presuming to be your long lost buddy. They don't sell much to me.

And as for my Senator, Baghdad Barbara Boxer? She's a small airhead with an inflated ego, and might well deserve being addressed as simply "Wicked Witch of the West"--except that Pelosi already owns that title. I'll go with "Johnson" for Senator Boxer.

Posted by: Mike Myers at June 19, 2009 05:54 PM

Yet another take on the relative merits of puckered Boxer's demands for specific honorifics in deference to silly-arsed, delusions of grandiose, senatorial, decorum by her worshipness, imagined place of a higher station than that of a mere Ma'am.

*realizes that Norm Crosby and Professor Irwin Corey just pulled off an impromptu channeling through the hun*

Ah! It's beer thirty!

Posted by: bt-the resident-curmudgeon_hun at June 19, 2009 06:43 PM

I believe that the correct nominative for her would be "царицаь пива".

Posted by: Pivo-Lovin'-Boquisucio at June 19, 2009 08:53 PM

Didn't someone already claimed that office/title?

I'll settle for инспектор пива...

Dreyfus and Clouseau can have the badges, I'll take the beer.

Posted by: bt-the resident-curmudgeon_hun at June 19, 2009 09:19 PM

You may now refer to me as "Maximum Leader"!

Posted by: a former european at June 20, 2009 04:43 AM

Yo, wazzup, Max?

Posted by: BillT at June 20, 2009 05:30 AM

Max Headroom is back?

Cassandra, the way you handled the doctor was perfect.

Posted by: Cricket at June 20, 2009 09:01 AM

BillT: I've spoken to your GAs about your preferences, but they have their own view of things, and they outrank me.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 20, 2009 09:49 AM

Don't let them kid you -- they're only doing it for the entertainment. Watching my antics is a lot more interesting than anything on TV, and cheaper than renting Indiana Jones DVDs.

Plus they've got a pool going on how close the next rocket will hit...

Posted by: BillT at June 20, 2009 10:48 AM

Reminds me of a list someone compiled from comments in personnel records: "His men would follow him anywhere, if only out of morbid curiosity."

Posted by: Texan99 at June 20, 2009 02:54 PM

"Tactically sound; socially hopeless."

"This officer is at the bottom of his rating group and recently has begun to dig."

Love the Brits.

My favorite comment on one of my RVN OERs was, "The only reason I have rated him at 99 is to allow him room for improvement."

Posted by: BillT at June 20, 2009 03:08 PM

I'm not a fan of Barbara Boxer and it's difficult for me to come to her defense, but I think the criticism of her on this particular issue is hypersensitive. Boxer did come across as a bit pompous, as it was obvious the general meant no hint of disrespect. But she didn't humiliate or berate him. She simply asked that she be addressed by her proper title and explained why. She even said thank you. She has earned the right to the title, and while I wouldn't have done so, if she has a preference as to how she's addressed, it seems proper that she say so. Her tone didn't strict me as being particularly venomous or disrespectful, but then maybe I'm just not looking hard enough for things to be offended about.

Posted by: Freeven at June 20, 2009 07:18 PM

Hey, I've worked hard to obtain the title of "Maximum Leader", and its my prerogative that I be addressed as such! (stamps foot in hissy snit).

And some women wonder why they are not taken seriously, either.

Posted by: a former european at June 20, 2009 09:58 PM

But she didn't humiliate or berate him. She simply asked that she be addressed by her proper title and explained why.

Using the tone of voice and body language that you'd use correcting a wayward child, rather than making a request of an adult.

Her tone didn't strict me as being particularly venomous or disrespectful...

How's "snippy" work?

Posted by: BillT at June 21, 2009 12:58 AM

'Thank you,' as in 'sarcastic.' She has issues.
I cannot for a moment imagine that she would still have a farkin' chip on her shoulder about being the genderless Senator.

If it is about respect, then she can send him a private note. Not get into a snit. How he addressed her should not be the issue. What he was addressing her about IS.

Posted by: Cricket at June 21, 2009 01:38 AM

"How he addressed her should not be the issue. What he was addressing her about IS."
I find you lack of fealty... disturbing.

If you are destined to wield power you must first FEEL YOUR OWN IMPORTANCE, YOUR MAGNIFICENCE, FEEL THE POWER of the Senatorial Dark Side.

Phew, all that feeling, *gasp* *wheeze* exhausting work, hard work... It takes a lot of hard work to feel that special.

*draws deep breath* Now where was I? Oh yeah, besides, the General should thank my Imperiousness that I did not accompany my admonishment with an accusation of sexism or military/industrial war mongerism or some equally unsettling ism *turns towards camera and winks at adoring left-coast, neither-creature constituents* while using the pFORCE* to suck the life out of everything the General holds dear.
*adjusts rarefied oxygen generator for the Drain-Bramaged™*

In other words and as a matter of fact, I was, and continue to be, the issue.

*PROGRESSIVE FORCE goals seek to attack, belittle, defund, undermine or otherwise destroy any value system whose tenets uphold G-d, Family, Country, the Constitution, Fidelity to oaths, Loyalty, etc.

Posted by: Dark Sith Lord Boxelder- dread bug of the West Coast at June 21, 2009 09:14 AM

*passing large, pink, cherry-scented, Krystal™ brand breath mint to Dark Sith Lowered*

Posted by: BillT at June 21, 2009 10:04 AM

I think Senator Boxer has the right to be addressed with whatever honorific she prefers. My problem is with the reason she gave. Instead of just saying, "I prefer Senator to ma'am" she pretty clearly implied the General was somehow being disrespectful by using "ma'am". Not only does she not understand military protocol but she has apparently never watched an episode of Star Trek Voyager or of Battlestar Galactica. (A clear sign, incidentally, that our Senators are terribly out of touch with the rest of the country.)

Elizabeth-Don't-Call-Me-Liz is a lot more interesting because she is simply insane. I understand wanting to be addressed as you desire but sheesh. Just correct those who don't do so and move on. EDCML has managed to construct a whole conspiracy theory out of a guy who got too breezy. The Politico article about the incident says that McDermott's office is issuing an apology presumably to the poor guy who called her "Liz". I think they should be issuing either a termination letter to Elizabeth or, more compassionately, medical leave to seek psychiatric help.

Posted by: Elise at June 21, 2009 02:06 PM

Elise, that is why I said 'Once is enough.' To carry on further is insane. However, it is a symptom of something that I think is pervading some career women: That they think people are still belittling them and are just looking for a fight.

I think you called it: she needs a nap, a time out and medical leave.

Posted by: Cricket at June 21, 2009 09:27 PM

I prefer to be called "Your Highness," or perhaps "The Nutmeg of Consolation."

Posted by: Texan99 at June 22, 2009 09:39 AM

Using the tone of voice and body language that you'd use correcting a wayward child, rather than making a request of an adult.

That seems to be the crux of the argument: her tone. After watching the clip numerous times, it still seems to me that people are going out of their way to be offended.

How's "snippy" work?

No, her tone didn't strike me as particularly snippy either. I guess it's a matter of impression. In any case, I find enough about Mrs. Boxer to criticize without bothering to read motivations into her tone.

Posted by: Freeven at June 22, 2009 04:48 PM

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