Enough Already with the First Name Treatment!
A few years ago author Ralph Keyes addressed this issue in the Christian Science Monitor. I agree with what he wrote and I encourage anyone reading this to link to Keyes' short commentary. I'd add the following: the notion that more extensive use of first names is somehow a practice that promotes equality and lessens class distinctions is a chimera. To the contrary, individuals who do not have wealth or social rank stand to lose out because they are deprived of one of the few mechanisms available to them for having their dignity publicly recognized. Dignity is (or should be) important to all of us; it's especially important for those individuals who may lack other kinds of capital. I'm sure Amanda (the ubiquitous name tag) meant no disrespect when she addressed me by first name, but even if she had, I have "protection": age, being a white male, and the real currency Amanda just handed over to me. But when a recent immigrant needs some assistance at the customer service desk and the kid behind the counter (condescendingly?) refers to her as "María" as he explains that she's out of luck, she really is, because María is not yet confident enough in her English to respond, "Please, it's Ms García." To all of you, all of us, it's Ms García.