I think I might start a new American reality show. Maybe I call it “America’s Next Worst Habit”. Or how about, “So You Think You Have Good Manners?” But I’m not convinced anyone (present readers excluded, of course) would watch it.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Traveling my favorite state refreshed me with its breathtaking beauty (Highway 1 between San Luis Obispo and Monterey) and quaint oases (i.e. Balboa Island). And for the most part, we were greeted by helpful and friendly residents of gorgeous Orange County. But between eating out and easy access to cable TV (I admit to some HGTV indulgence) I could finance another vacation for every time someone addressed two or more people with, “You guys”.

I don’t always have a problem with this. When my husband and sons are with me and we’re driving through In-n-Out Burger the term does not make me cringe. And in a language and culture that has few words and less protocol to support the gender differences, I can intellectualize why the phrase has risen to prominence. But as lazy language and an unconscious message I can. not. stand. it.

It spilled over into one of my tea experiences last week. A server younger than the two women attending (myself included) called us and the two children attending (my daughter included) “You Guys” through the entire tea, as in “Would you guys like some more tea?” “Are you guys all finished?” “Can I get you guys anything else?”

When addressing my daughter and her cousin (ages 7 and 3) I wish she had said, “Would you GIRLS like some more tea?” And I’m wondering if my generation thinks the word “ladies” is akin to “ma’am” and only for women the generation beyond them? I don’t mind being called a lady. If you are serving women only, why not communicate respect and say, “Are you ladies finished?” And if you’re unsure, consider dropping the labels altogether. Say, “Can I get YOU anything else?” or “How did YOU like the chocolate cake?” You is perfectly acceptable use for addressing more than one person. Even a dear friend at a bridal shower of all women addressed them as “you guys” throughout the event. It’s our new bad habit and we no longer hear it. But it sounds as grating as inserting “like” into every other sentence used to be.

So now it’s your turn. Does it bother you? How do you like to be addressed? What do you like to be called? Do you find ‘girl’ derogatory and ‘lady’ old-fashioned? Are you a server? How do you address your customers? Do you think I’m being nit-picky?

Please leave a comment and tell us what you think.

* jk left a comment pointing out my gross grammar error in the title. Yes, I needed to use “me” as the direct object. Duh! In all fairness though, the post’s purpose was to discuss etiquette, not grammar, so I’m not convinced they can be directly compared.