“Hello Miss Andersson” or “Hey Linda”?

“Hello Miss Andersson” or “Hey Linda”. Old-fashioned versus too modern. Too formal or too familiar. When I first came to Sweden I couldn’t understand how people came to address one another without the formal “you” and without any titles like Mr or Mrs or Miss. It was a mystery to me. Every time I met my older neighbours I had to fight the instinct to use the polite form of address, “Ni”, to them. Twenty years later I still have no clue why all these polite forms have disappeared from the Swedish language. Something to do with equality, I guess.

Personally, I like having the option of putting some distance between me and someone I just met by using a little word like “Usted” in Spanish. I like being able to show respect to an elderly lady by using the formal conjugation of the verb and I definitely think that more “Hello Miss Andersson” and less “Hey Linda” would be a good thing in Swedish classrooms, where the lack of respect for teachers is becoming a major problem. We discussed the power of words in this blog earlier, and power isn’t always a bad thing. To address a teacher as if they were your new best friend has its downside. I am perfectly aware that it is possible to use “Ni” and still get it wrong, and that an informal greeting can still be sweet and respectful, but why eliminate the choice? Isn’t this the way to impoverish a language?