Can husbands from the South get away with calling other women sweetheart?

There is an advice column on Slate.com known as “Dear Prudence” where people can obviously write in for advice. Well, a newly married woman has written in wanting to know if it’s OK that her Southern-born husband frequently calls other women sweetheart or sweetie – whether it be friends, co-workers or waitresses.

The wife if bothered by the use of this term of endearment used on other women, especially because he hasn’t even come up with a different pet name for her.

The man claims that term is ingrained in him and he just can’t break the habit.

I do think that it is very hard to stop saying things that are part of your culture’s vernacular. I say a heck of a lot of sweeties and babies myself. I also say a lot of “might coulds” and “might woulds.”  When I help at the elementary school, every child is sweetie, honey or baby.

When my brother was in the ICU at Emory several years ago, all the nurses used the same Southern honey and sweetie. We wondered what Yankee nurses would say to patients.

I would be bothered if in a workplace a man called me sweetie or honey. That’s very “9 to 5” Dabney Coleman-style.

Teaching at the university I do see colloquialisms in the students’ writing. If I see some odd phrasing that I think it a regional term, I always make a point to ask the student about it and make sure they know they are using it.

So what do you think Dear Prudence advised the wife about her husband using the term sweetie for other women? What would you advise the wife? Does your husband call other women sweetie or sweetheart? Does it bother you? Does anyone call you that at work?

Click here to see Dear Prudence’s advice.

59 comments Add your comment

jarvis

February 27th, 2013
11:01 am

My wife is OK with the sweeties and honeys.
She does however frown when I grab the occasional fanny.

Mayhem

February 27th, 2013
11:01 am

Women are so freaking jealous. A man MARRIES you, but you get upset when he calls another woman sweetie…..insecure if you ask me.

My husband calls our female friends all kinds of terms of endearments. I in turn call many male friends “baby”, “honey” “idiot” “ass” etc…..LOL

My kids friends are all called “honey” in my home.

I have a 20 year old co-worker, he is so cute, I call him “pumpkin” and “baby” all the time. He loves it!!!

jarvis

February 27th, 2013
11:01 am

By the way, where the hell is shaggy? I miss that guy.

My wife is just like....

February 27th, 2013
11:01 am

…Jarvis’s…

Shaggy probably....

February 27th, 2013
11:03 am

…fell off a mountain patting himself on the back or “being too sweet” to his wife…(and I am just kidding – he is a funny dude)…

FCM

February 27th, 2013
11:09 am

ROFL @ jarvis

MomsRule

February 27th, 2013
11:10 am

If the husband did this before marriage the wife needs to get over it.

(the other) Rodney

February 27th, 2013
11:31 am

In a professional setting it’s probably not a good idea (although it seems perfectly OK for women to do it to men – see the “pumpkin” comment above!) but in general, outside-of-work life I don’t see an issue. For the record, it doesn’t bother me at all to be called sugar/honey/etc, and I certainly don’t mean it in a demeaning way when and if I were to say it.

Frankly, I would think the woman being called Sweetie/Sugar/whatever would have more of a right to not like it than the wife would. Evidently, this poor guy is in for a wedded life filled with constantly convincing his wife of his intentions.

Jessica

February 27th, 2013
11:41 am

I actually think it’s LESS acceptable in the South for a married man to address other women that way. It would be considered disprespectful to his wife, and to those other women. Instead of a friendly southern gentleman, this will make the guy seem like an overly friendly (and possibly sleazy) buffoon.

The part about the nurses calling everyone in their care ‘honey’ or ’sweetie’ is completely different. They are trying to put their patients at ease, and it usually works.

GTT

February 27th, 2013
12:01 pm

It’s okay, but the wife shouldn’t have to console him when his mistress dies. Yeah, I read Prudence too.

non committal mind reader

February 27th, 2013
12:11 pm

Can husbands from the South get away with calling other women sweetheart?

No.

When my brother was in the ICU at Emory several years ago, all the nurses used the same Southern honey and sweetie.

This is one of those double standards. Women can do it and get away with it. Men , in a professional setting, can’t. In a professional setting, men can’t comment on looks, clothes, weight, say anything patronizing, etc, for fear of a lawsuit. Women can do any of these things without fear of reprisal.

mystery poster

February 27th, 2013
12:20 pm

@Teresa
I think what’s missing from your question is, “Can Southern husbands get away with calling women ’sweetie’ OUTSIDE of the south?”

Yankee Nurse

February 27th, 2013
12:23 pm

I’m a Yankee nurse, educated in the north, though I have been in the south for nearly 30 years. Both in the north and south, nurses are taught to use “ma’am” or “sir” or Mr./Ms. Jones. I feel uncomfortable when I hear a nurse call a patient “honey” or “sweetie”. It is very demeaning. I don’t like it when health care workers refer to me that way, especially if they are younger than me. (And I wouldn’t say that I’m old-fashioned.)

As for the husband, if he was being totally honest and if he was truly southern, I bet he grew up learning to say “ma’am” rather than “sweetie”, wouldn’t you think?!

HB

February 27th, 2013
12:24 pm

I think the reason for the double standard is women who use “sweetheart” and “hon” often call both men and women that. Men usually only call women by these names, and while I don’t think it’s really something for wives to be jealous of, it does feel demeaning in the workplace if men are calling other men by their names but addressing women with cutesy nicknames.

Mayhem

February 27th, 2013
12:37 pm

I don’t care what you call me, as long as you call me.

justmy2cents

February 27th, 2013
12:42 pm

My husband is Southern, and he never calls another female sweetie/sweetheart/honey. It is always Miss or Ma’am. My neighbor, from Cali, slips and occasionally calls me honey or sweetie, then immediately apologizes. He isn’t apologizing to me though, but to my husband, and it is not needed, since neither of us take offense to it. I guess this guy’s wife has never been in a waffle house before, she’d be horribly offended!!! LOL

Bikerchick

February 27th, 2013
12:46 pm

Born and raised in the south and no, my husband better not call another woman honey or sweetie, especially when he’s with me! Yes, there is a double standard here, in that, women often do call everyone honey or sweetie. It is not meant to be demeaning, it is meant to show some caring about the other person and put them at ease. It’s also just a habit at times (because our mother’s did it) and if it bothers you, please understand that it’s just a southern thing and shouldn’t be taken personally (like m’aam, sugar, darlin’, etc.).

In the workplace, in no way shape or form is it acceptable for men OR WOMEN to use those terms with each other (see Pumpkin comment above).

beth

February 27th, 2013
12:50 pm

It never even occurred to me that it would be a jealousy thing. I have always considered it a disrespectful thing to do… and not disrespectful to me, but for the other woman. I can’t stand it when men call me sweety or honey. I’m not “offended” per say, I just think it’s rude and creepy to call a complete stranger by an endearing term usually reserved for family or spouses.

Daily lurker

February 27th, 2013
1:07 pm

If this is something that is “ingrained” in him, why is it just now an issue? I’m assuming he did this while they were dating and engaged. Why the sudden outrage?

jmb

February 27th, 2013
1:15 pm

Heck, I don’t have a problem with it at all but then again, I’m not a jealous wife. My husband calls all the young girls hon at the store he goes to quite often and he does it front of me. I’ve never thought twice about it and I guess you can say I’m use to it. I do it too, I just think it’s a southern thing. Don’t think I’ve ever heard it in the workplace although we go to one my coworkers house for drinks sometimes and he’s called me hon plenty of times. Never thought twice about it being an issue and his wife doesn’t seem to either.

xxx

February 27th, 2013
1:16 pm

Don’t concern yourself with what he calls other women in public. Be concerned about what he calls YOU in private.

cgatlanta

February 27th, 2013
1:24 pm

I grew up in Miami. I call you doll or doll face.

catlady

February 27th, 2013
1:37 pm

Only if he does it for ALL women, even the 55 year olds and the less beautiful!

K's Mom

February 27th, 2013
1:51 pm

I have a southern husband, father, brother, grandfather and so on. None of them have ever called a woman, other than their wife or daughter, these terms. Southern gentlemen generally treat ladies with respect and these terms are not respectful when used with the general public. I am offended when called these terms by men other than my husband or dad because they are generally used in a demeaning manor.

oneofeach4me

February 27th, 2013
2:05 pm

If he was born and raised southern, and he was doing this before they got married, then she has no gripe to write to Prudence about.

I also agree with others here that he was probably raised to say ma’am and not sweetie/honey.

It’s not acceptable in the work place by anyone, and as far as nurses, I think it’s appropriate when working in pediatrics to make the kids more at ease, but not every adult will be okay with it.

A reader

February 27th, 2013
2:21 pm

I cannot stand it when a man calls me “sweetie”, “hon”, or any other cute little name. Especially a stranger. I am not their “sweetie” and I will never be, so they just need to stop.

So all you men who think you are clever when you do this, let me tell you that you are NOT. So just don’t do it.

Tina

February 27th, 2013
2:32 pm

I really don’t understand why so many have issues with this. My husband always says it but its typically to the younger girls working retail or waitress jobs etc. And he’s every bit a gentleman. He always opens doors for females and uses ma’am when addressing an older women. I have never thought of him as anything other than a southern gentleman and I hope he never changes.

Mark Stephens

February 27th, 2013
2:42 pm

Why do people from the south care so much about what is southern and what isn’t? I don’t get this idea of fitting into some stereotypical mold, especially when there is less chivalry in the south than other places in the country.

jarvis

February 27th, 2013
2:53 pm

Exactly. You don’t get it.

jarvis

February 27th, 2013
2:54 pm

@A Reader, Speak for yourself. I’m pretty effing clever.

Mayhem

February 27th, 2013
2:57 pm

@A Reader – would you prefer to be called beyotch?

Becky

February 27th, 2013
3:14 pm

No, it wouldn’t bother me if my husband called a female sweetie..As jmb said, I’m actually the one that calls others sweetie..Have done it for years..

As for work, I have called several of my coworkers sweetie, hon or whatever..One of my coworkers (female) always says, you’re welcome sweetie..Not one person here thinks anything about it..

@Mayhem..I have been called that many times..That is what some at work call me..Becky the “B” Beyotch… No big deal to me…

Mayhem

February 27th, 2013
3:31 pm

Not to many people up in here with a sense of humor.

I have a group of girlfriends I have known since we were teenagers. We ALWAYS refer to ourselves as “Bitches”, and the guys within this group do too. I have no problem with it, as it’s all done with love….

A reader

February 27th, 2013
4:08 pm

Yes, I would prefer to be called beyotch. At least when someone calls me that they are upfront with their disrespect. Calling me “hon” is very disrepectful but is cleverly disguised as being a southern gentleman. You might as well just pat me on the head too.

Stacey

February 27th, 2013
4:42 pm

My husband rarely uses pet names with others but I don’t think it would bother me. He might say “Thank you, Dear” to ladies at church if they do something for him. He says it’s mainly because he feels bad that he can’t remember names but wants to show familiarity. I’ve had male and female coworker, church members and even strangers call me sweetie, hon, baby, etc but rarely does it bother me. I can usually detect in their tone when they are being lewd or snarky and it is rare in my experience. I sometimes call children sweetheart if I don’t know their name. For instance, if a child is blocking the aisle and I need to pass I might say “Excuse me, Sweetheart” and then “Thank you, Sir/Ma’am” when they allow me to pass. This usually causes giggles in pre school aged kids for some reason.

Native Atlantan

February 27th, 2013
4:48 pm

Raised right here in Atlanta and never used “sweetie or hon” to refer to women. I do have to admit though, when I was in the hospital hooked up to a dialysis machine, it was nice having the nurses call me “honey” or “sweetie”.

This reminds me...

February 27th, 2013
8:36 pm

…of the story about the elderly woman who went to the doctor for check-u[p. The doctor kept referring to her by her first name, even though she was over 80 years old. Finally, the MD asked her if she had questions; all she said was “no, Steve” (the doctor’s first name was on his white coat).

He looked at her and said, “please call me Doctor since I spent a lot of time in school to earn that title”. She replied, “I am over 80 years of age and I have earned this age, too, and I will call you doctor when you call me Mrs. Smith”…..

iRun

February 27th, 2013
8:39 pm

I was born and raised in south Louisiana and various terms like that were common – mostly cher, boo, bay (short for baby), sugar. Personally, I have always felt that men who use them on women they aren’t very close with are creepy. As a reasonably attractive middle-aged woman (and yes, I am confident enough to state I am reasonably attractive for my age) receiving this sort of reference is the quickest way to get you my colder side. I’m just going to assume you’re on the make.

My husband, also born and raised in south Louisiana (we’ve been in ATL for 10 years now), does not refer to anyone this way. If he did, it would be a giant red flag. That he’d been brain damaged.

iRun

February 27th, 2013
8:41 pm

@This reminds me…

I always call my doctors by their first names. Anyone who gets to see me with all or some of my clothes off BETTER be on first name basis with me.

Denise

February 27th, 2013
10:22 pm

iRun – coming from Louisiana, too, it is common for me to call someone “bay” by habit with no disrespect intended. I end up laughing at myself when I call someone “cher”, especially in ATL when folks look at me like I’m nuts. :-)

motherjanegoose

February 27th, 2013
10:33 pm

Not much of that going on at our house. I do wonder why my husband calls his female co workers “the girls in our office” . Do woman say ” the boys in our office.” I think not. I am around girls and boys most days of the week but I never call their teachers girls or boys. Seems silly to me.

I had a GYN male Doctor come in for my exam and I had not yet met him. He popped my on the leg like we were best friends. UM NOT. I complained and never went back to him again.

Bisnono

February 28th, 2013
2:38 am

No, it’s not ok for a man to call any woman other than a family member “sweetie”. And in a work setting, either a man or woman calling a co-worker of the opposite sex by such a name is setting themselves up to be called into the HR office. And to the other poster, NO, it’s not ok to call a young male subordinate in your office “pumpkin”. What are you, his mother??

Orlando

February 28th, 2013
6:45 am

I call other women sweetie all the time, my wife has no problem with it. See, my wife is very secure with herself and also she is an attractive woman and knows I am hers. Get over yourselves ladies, there is no harm in this…..

Alecia

February 28th, 2013
7:06 am

I get irritated when it is in a professional setting. For the heck of it I respond with another term of endearment and it is usually a little more endearing than “honey” or “sweetie”.

Bisnono

February 28th, 2013
7:21 am

Then Orlando, sir, you’re degrading women down to a very unflattering and highly sexualized stereotype, circa 1960. You can be darn sure that the women you call honey or sweetie probably don’t like it much. What is this, the era of June Cleaver? Women deserve more respect than this. Shame on you for not comprehending that. I hope you’ll reconsider who you use that term with. And how nice that when talking about your wife, the first thing you say is how attractive she is, rather than how smart, funny, or kind. She must be very tolerant as well…

Jeff

February 28th, 2013
7:36 am

She needs to save her limited number of battles for a more important issue.

Orlando

February 28th, 2013
7:53 am

@Bisnono, thanks for the reply, But I first said my wife was secure, not attractive….

Mayhem

February 28th, 2013
8:09 am

@Orlando – THANK YOU!!!!!

REALLY

February 28th, 2013
8:10 am

NOW — I have read the dumbest blog ever written by – how to raise kids. This is so relevant and degrading on what level? Bless your heart – no wonder your comments and kool-aid drinkers are slowly coming to the reality that you need to move on out west with your blog.

ME

February 28th, 2013
8:33 am

Sweetie, Honey, Dear, Sweetheart – I’ve used them all both in and out of the workplace; granted, however, that within the workplace it’s only used with co-workers I know very well. I have always reserved “Baby” for my wife and this is only used for her. Does she have any issues with it? None at all and she is Detroit born and bred which isn’t exactly the “South”.