Excuse Me Sir, But You’re A Sir Too

I was going for the whole Ben Harper thing but I’m not sure it worked. At any rate, allow me to share a story of an awkward greeting that happens to me quite frequently. I understand that in the military it is quite common to address many people you don’t know as sir. I’m down with that. What makes me feel uncomfortable is when I pass older gentlemen in Petworth and they say “Good morning sir” or “How are you, sir” to me. I just don’t feel a “young” kid like me is deserving of the honorific. I always think to myself, why are they addressing me as sir? If anyone should be addressed as sir it is they! So what is going on here, is this a generational thing? Should I respond back using sir as well?

15 Comment

  • Yep. In the black community, especially among the older generation, sir, ma’am, miss…. titles, are the way to go. Once you get to know each other, less formal address will come.


  • hmm.. that’s really interesting. But I have to say, it makes me feel even more uncomfortable being a younger white person addressed as “sir” by an older black person–and sometimes responding in kind just seems weird, like when someone says “excuse me, sir” you don’t want to reply back “that’s okay, sir”–that seems weird…

  • lol. y’all are clearly from the North. Its a respect/polite thing. You don’t know them, they don’t know you; its just polite. Don’t feel bad that someone is being polite to you. As the first commenter said, once you get to know them the less formal address will come. Unless they’re elderly, in which case they can address you commonly but you should stay formal. Then again, I didn’t make the rules, I just attempt to live by them.

  • i am with ‘anonymous’ number 2–as a white person, i feel uncomfortable when an older black gentleman calls me ‘sir’.

  • I’m with emoemu. I grew up mostly in Kentucky, where even college students address each other as “sir” and “ma’am” when they don’t know each other. I just see it as having some manners. Being polite is not weird.

  • but being southern is

  • Being in the military, I am so used to referring to everyone as Sir or Ma’am that I don’t even notice it anymore. I’d guess that southerners do the same thing.

  • Or as senior non-commissioned officers like to say when they get called “sir”, “Don’t call me ‘sir’, I work for a living.”

  • Damn weird yankees.

  • I think that’s charming. Very old school.

  • I grew up in the south and I’ve always thought of ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’ as terms of respect to use when referring to people more senior to you, either in age or social standing. As someone in my twenties, its definitely a little off-putting when my elderly neighbors refer to me as ‘sir’. Frankly, I’d rather be called ‘son’.

  • You guys are really stupid.

  • It’s definetely a southern thing. And many cultural behaviors associated with African Americans found throughout the US are actually southern behaviors or customs. I’m from here but my parents are New Yorkers, the most opposite from southern that there is. As a kid, I sometimes herad kids call their parents sir and m’am, which I found strange. But hey, respect is good.

  • in a world where civility is rare as tofu in a steakhouse -be thaNKful. be thankful there is still some.

  • Everyone is a “sir” or “ma’am” to me. It’s called manners PoP, you damn yankee!

Comments are closed.