In today’s New York Times, there’s a lengthy article about the humiliation routinely visited on elderly people who are called “dear” or “sweetie.” The message conveyed by those terms is demeaning, implying that the person on the receiving end is incompetent, and definitely placing the person in the “one down” position. The psychic hurt is so great it can create physical health problems.
All of which made me wonder: What is the health status of that female reporter whom Obama called “Sweetie”? There he is, the luminous man of hope and change, demeaning and belittling a professional woman. Funnily enough, that little episode (for which Obama apologized) didn’t seem to rile the Times at all.
On a marginally related topic, which is how people address other people, I found peculiar the fact that Obama’s campaign strategist, David Axelrod, refers to him as “Obama.” Not “Barack,” which is a friendship name, or “Sen. Obama,” which is a deference name, but just that lonely last name — “Obama.” Do any of you refer to an employer with whom you have a very close relationship simply by his last name? I don’t think so. It implies a weird deference or distance or even coldness. I wonder if Obama ever calls Axelrod “sweetie.”