While working as a cabbie how should I address you, and conversely when riding in the back of my cab by what name will you use to attract my attention? I’m sure cabbies from previous generations addressed their customers as “Guvn’r”, as the punters at the time were almost certainly male and middle class, and therefore in the manner of the day, would be regarded at a higher social standing.
But nowadays in a more egalitarian society much of the class structure of the last century seems to have been abandoned and also our customers are more likely to be women as much as men. Moreover many modern women will direct me as their male companion stands idly by.
[S]o how should my customers address me? “Taxi” is wrong on so many fronts, that I don’t know where to start; it is just that I don’t have 4 wheels.
“Cabbie” would seem an obvious choice, I’ve certainly earned that moniker, and it establishes our relationship; they the “customer” and I am for the duration of the journey their employee.
Or “Driver”, factually correct, but rather impolite to our native ears, and please not “Driv”, that just puts you at the bottom of the social class pecking order.
“Mate” or “Pal”, is a little, well, too intimate after all we’ve only known each other for a few minutes. Using “Guv” rather reverses the customer/servant relationship.
Our cousins from America seem to get it right, they nearly always address me as “Sir”, but curiously in a way that they retain their superiority, that is until the journey’s duration has exceeded 20 minutes, by which time Americans have usually introduced themselves and we address each other by our Christian names.
And more importantly, how should I address you – the customer?
“Sir”, “Guv’”, “Mate”, for the male of the species, possibly, but many of my customers would take offence.
And it is far from easy the ladies; “Madam”, “Dear” – both insulting or “Luv” – a bit personal or “Miss” a little demeaning?
Now all these are not just academic questions, because of our association with Europe, what becomes law in France will almost always drift across the Channel. For the French it would seem are taking their famous Liberté, égalité, fraternité to the Nth degree.
They apparently don’t like titles such as mademoiselle that set you apart from your other countrymen – or should that be countryperson? The French Prime Minister, François Fillon, has ordered that the term be removed from all official forms and registries. The decision, the report states, marks a victory for feminists who say the use of mademoiselle was demeaning to women. Insisting that their marital status need not be known every time they sign a form, or presumably hail a cab. Men in France are referred to as monsieur, or sir in English, regardless of their marital status. The campaigners wrote on their website that they “intended to end this inequality but also to inform women of their rights.”
So will the famously grumpy Parisian cabbies find a way that suits both sexes and a term that respects all ages when they address their customer, and for we in London what is it to be?