American Character

American society seems to be much more informal than the British and, insome ways, is characterized by less social distinction. Students do notstand up when a teacher enters the room. One does not always address a personby his title, such as “Major” or “General” or “Doctor” in the case of aholder of a Doctor of Philosophy degree.

The respectful “Sir” is not alwaysused in the northern and western parts of the country.

However, it is best to use a person’s title when first meeting him/her, andthen allow the person to tell you how he/she wishes to be called. They use first names when calling each other, slap on the back, joke andare much freer in their speech, which is more slangy than the conventionalBritish English. You will often hear the word “Hi” (a form of greetingamong friends) used instead of the usual “Hello,” and “Howdy” instead of”How do you do?”

Those who don’t easily show these signs of friendship are called “snooty”or “snobbish.” In contrast, people who show such simple signs offriendship, particularly to their own economic and social inferiors, arepraised as “regular guys,” or as “truly democratic.” As a description ofcharacter, democratic is generally used to signify that a person of highsocial or economic status acts in such a way that his or her inferiors arenot reminded of their inferiority.

Yet, in spite of all the informality, Americans, even in the way theyaddress each other, show consciousness of social distinction. For example, one is likely to use somewhat more formal language when talking tosuperiors. While the informal “Hello” is an acceptable greeting fromemployee to employer, the employee is more apt to say “Hello, Mr.

Ferguson,” while the employer may reply “Hello, Jim.” Southerners make apoint of saying “Yes, sir,” or “Yes, Ma’am,” or “No, sir,” or “No, Ma’am,”when talking to an older person or a person in a position of authority. While this is good form all over the United Stales, “Yes. Mr.

Weston” or”No, Mrs. Baker” is somewhat more common in a similar situation in theNorth or West.

Certain other forms of politeness are observed on social occasions. Womenmay wear hats in church. in restaurants, and often when attending luncheonsin public places and other public social functions except those that takeplace in the evening. Men who do wear hats ordinarily remove them inelevators, churches, restaurants, private homes, business offices – in fad, in most public situations when they wish to show respect.

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American Character