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the island of conclusions

Forms of masculine address in contemporary Britain (aka: a little problem I have writing Sherlock)

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Forms of masculine address in contemporary Britain (aka: a little problem I have writing Sherlock)

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So, let me ask you about a problem I have writing Sherlock!fic:

What casual epithets--non-name words--do contemporary British men use to address each other?

An American guy (depending on the situation) would say: "man," "dude," or "buddy"; or, given the right age difference, "son," "kid" or "kiddo"; or, more rarely, "chief," "sport," "tiger" or "bro'."

And an ACD-era British man might use endless permutations of: "old chap," "dear fellow," "old boy" (or even, as in the Ritchie movie, "old cock"); and, in certain situations, "my dear" or "my friend."

But what do British men say nowadays?

"Lad"? But people who are the same age don't really use this with each other, do they?

"Boyo"? This is too Irish, right?

"Sunshine"? I love this one, but it seems very regional (Northern) and old-fashioned to boot.


So, what do y'all (as even Yankees say in the South), what do y'all think:

Is having all these other forms of address just an American verbal tic (one that was more common in previous generations of British menfolk?)--A dialogue crutch from which I just happen to get unreasonable amounts of pleasure?

Or are there ways John and Sherlock (or Benedict and Martin) would address each other than "John" and "Sherlock"?

(and yes, I know the whole thing must be riddled with class connotations--enlighten me!)

Thanks in advance!
  • I always use 'mate' but I've heard British guys call each other 'man.' Beyond that, I defer to actual British people's far superior knowledge.
    • thank you! I need to wrap my head around using "mate"--it always sounds like something you'd use with someone you don't know very well--but judging by the comments, that's not true. And "man" isn't too American either--good to know!
  • I just asked my teenage British cousins and they mostly say "man," "mate," and "dude." Also, from stalking their facebooks just now I saw "maters" (ha!) and "bro," but only one of each. Haha hope that helps :)
    • that totally helps, thank you for doing the research (field work?). Sounds like dude and man have crossed the Atlantic *g*
      And I have to start using "mate"

      Many thanks!
  • Man, Mate, mostly. Dude fits too. I like to think that people say Bro more often, but I think that's in a more ironic sense if actually used ;) up here we get 'Pal' but that's a definite Edinburgh thing.

    I should say that there is a kind of difference in 'man' and 'mate', I guess it's more "hey man" and "what's up mate" - not that this really helps explain the difference, but those would be the most commonly used phrases

    Edited at 2010-09-15 09:22 pm (UTC)
    • Excellent--thank you so much! I love "pal"--maybe I'll be able to find Scottish character sometime--

      Expect to see many more "mates" and "mans" in my fic!

      much appreciated!
  • Well, Ron and Harry spend an awful lot of time calling each other 'mate' starting from the fifth book...
    • lol--the perfect research tool!

      "mate" it is then--tho' I guess there just isn't the endless proliferation of such terms you get in American English *ponders*
  • I direct you to Right Said Fred: You're My Mate
    • rofl! that's fabulous--thank you for the link! (though I'm going to think of the body-writing now every time I use the word *g*)
  • It's an interesting question, not that I can help you... But now that I think about it, I think in France they would just call each other by name, or not at all. One thing that strikes me now that I'm in the US is that people say my name more often: like to greet me "hey Elsa," when in France they would just say "bonjour" or "salut."
    • That's so interesting! I think it is an American tic to use a lot of epithets/endearments (I'm not sure what the right linguistic term is). We do use peoples' names (and nicknames) a lot-- it sometimes seems like I can barely get through a sentence without a "Dude" or a "sweetheart" (or a "y'all").

      The Inuit language has a hundred words for snow; American English has a hundred words for dude ;)
  • As an Englishwoman (and thus the right country, but the wrong sex), I'd say you have to allow for age and class here, as you always do in the UK. "Mate" is more working class or Australian or young. I think you might get away with it from John occasionally, because of the class-levelling effects of the army, but I can't imagine Sherlock calling anyone "mate". And you only call someone "dude" if you have given yourself over to rootless bastardised mid-Atlantic culture. (Though someone, at some point has to have Mycroft being called "dude", because it would be hilarious).

    I no longer have any suitably upper-class contacts to know what someone from Sherlock's background would actually say. I just stick to "John" on the grounds that Sherlock's vocabulary for addressing people in a friendly manner is surely going to be extremely stunted.

    PS: Mycroft wishes to point out that 'boyo' is Welsh and not Irish, and he can, if necessary, provide detailed explanations of the difference between Wales and Ireland for Americans, with maps included.
    • Thank you!

      Now I too am jonesing for a fic that has someone calling Sherlock "dude"--as in "Awesome coat, dude!"

      Or, Mycroft: as in "Dude, chill with the spy vs. spy shit--you're freaking me right the fuck out--"

      Or--Sherlock in bastardized mid-Atlantic disguise calling Mycroft dude--because he's that good at disguise.

      But seriously, I had a feeling that was the case with the class connotations of "mate." I can't imagine Sherlock calling anyone "mate," or John calling Sherlock "mate" (tho' between John and Lestrade, maybe).

      It's just interesting to me that in earlier generations there were lots of middle-class and upper-class equivalents between men (I'm sure ACD!Holmes uses "chap" and "fellow" etc.), but they seemed to have died out...I wonder when that happened...

      And is "boyo" Welsh? I had no idea I knew any Welsh idiom--thanks for the correction. Is there an Irish-ism for the same thing?

      Many thanks for helping me with this!
      • I'm afraid I can't help with Irish idioms - I'm not that well-informed about the Irish (as has been true of the English for 900+ years). And I can't write a fic that had 'dude' in it: the Americans I know don't sound like that, and I couldn't get the voice right. On the other hand, you do have the basis for a round of Consequences right there (do they play that in America)?

        A bastardized mid-Atlantic man met

        Mycroft Holmes

        Somewhere between London and New York

        He said to him: "Dude, chill with the spy vs. spy shit--you're freaking me right the fuck out--"

        He said to him: "Sherlock, when I asked you to infiltrate the CIA, I meant the Courtauld Institute of Art."

        And the consequence was: The first black president of the United States.
        • hey--you know us Yanks, all those supposedly former internal colonies look the same to us ;)

          We probably do have Consequences, but I don't know the rules...This made me lol and lol, tho':

          "Sherlock, when I asked you to infiltrate the CIA, I meant the Courtauld Institute of Art."

          Mycroft could always see through him!

          Just try injecting "Dude" randomly into your conversations--people will look at you funny, but it will soon grow more natural..Then you will be able to write the fic *g*


  • See I'm a bit late!
    China Plate, is used for cockney rhyming
    Also, instead of a name, people use fond insults. i.e Martin might say to Benidict "Hey, knob-head" Or "all right, you dick?" *Sorry for any offence*
    In my part of England (the midlands) we often just use "friend". So, "Hey, friend, wanna go out?" or "what's up my friend"
    "luv" is also a common thing for a man to call a woman, even some one they don't know. So "all right luv? Two tickets for Harry Potter, please"
    Then you have all these:
    "Derek used to be my number one ace until he tried to take my girl."
    If there's some one talking about two people who are inseparable "Those two are so Batman and Robin."
    Often they might just say "all righ'?" This can be used in greeting, instead of hello. Alternatively people may just swap the sentence around so that there is no need to include the noun.


    • Thank you! This comment is pure gold, and I'm sorry to be late in responding! I'm glad there's a part of England where people use diminuitives/epithets--I can hear all of these in my head, including the "all righ'?" as a greeting. And now I feel compelled to try and use "China Plate" in a fic somehow :)

      Again, much appreciated!
  • I don't know if I'm late to the party or what, but as an American girl in the south, I use dude all the time with my family and names or nothing with everyone else. It bothers me when people who aren't my family call me anything but my name. *shrugs*

    Trying to write dialogue for people who aren't American (or, are but not from the south) has proven difficult a few times because I want to throw in a y'all or dude and I know it's totally out of character.
    • Never late!

      You know, I'm an American girl in the south too (albeit a New Englander transplanted to the West and then here), and what strikes me about the south is how lots of people you don't know call you diminuitives all the time ("Sugar" from the lady at the parking garage, for instance) and your kids ("little man," "buddy") -- I do not remember that from my New England upbringing and in the Rocky Mountain west people are too taciturn to call you anything at all unless they absolutely have to.

      I kind of love it, though the accompanying thing where they delivery little life homilies to your kids unasked for still freaks me out some.

      (I think this must be why I've been enjoying writing Hawaii 5-0 fic -- all the regular Americanisms like dude and pal, and some special Hawaiian ones, like "Brah" and "Brudda")
      • I really dislike being called honey or sweetie which usually waiters and the like use. I also really dislike being called girl, such as, "Hey, girl, how you doin'?" Especially if whoever's talking knows my name. *shrugs* It makes me wince inside and I'm not sure why.

        • I can see that. It's an individual thing, though, isn't it? 'Cause I kind of love all that stuff, even the "girl." But then I didn't grow up with it. I grew up in Boston, and hearing my first name with a thick Boston accent makes me nostalgic, and also raises my hackles.

          Forms of address are fascinating!

          (and actually, I resolved this by having someone call Sherlock "mate" and him hating it)
          • He would totally hate that. *hee*

            Yeah, it is an individual thing. My family can call me pretty much anything they want, unless it's a variation of my name. And everyone in my family is dude, except my little sister and mom who get nicknames.

            But I grew up with people I don't know calling me random endearments and as far as I can remember it's always bothered me.

            Of course, I've never really liked strangers much. Maybe if I'd been more outgoing, it wouldn't be such a big deal.
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