"I talk about the gods, I am an atheist. But I am an artist too, and therefore a liar. Distrust everything I say. I am telling the truth."

--Ursula K. Leguin

November 2009



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Aug. 15th, 2017


Titles of parents in Syria

I have a slightly futuristic (set in 2065) story I'm working on with a first-generation British-Syrian character in lead. The whole family is bilingual, but the character and his siblings always address their parents in Arabic and still use a lot of Syrian terminology.

I'm looking for Syrian-used monikers for his parents that are less formal than "mother" and "father" but not as childish as "mummy and daddy". Basically, the equivalent of calling them "mum" and "dad" if they are available. (And if possible, confirmation whether Tette and/or Sitto are the correct word for grandmother for that part of the world)

Various dictionaries and language sites have provided the standard formal words for both parents in Arabic, but it's also very generic and I know it can vary slightly from country to country. During my searching I've seen father as Abu/Appi/Baba and mum as Omme/Umma/Ummi/Oma across multiple countries but never a specific one for someone from Syria.

Standard search terms include: "syrian words for family members" "arabic family titles" "syrian words for mother and father" "how to address parents in syria"

Thanks in advance :)

Aug. 8th, 2017


Proper form of address?

So I'm reading a lot of Harry Potter fanfiction, and have recently come across something (again) that's been bothering me for a while.

In a lot of fics, mostly those where Harry is more independent/escapes the Dursleys/is raised by someone else etc., he gets to interact with "new" adults, either canon or non-canon characters. Very often, he is initially addressed as "Mr. Potter" by them and he then immediately asks to be called simply "Harry", which is perfectly fine as far as it goes. After all, a lot of the time he's still quite young in those fics; I get that a child -- especially one not yet exposed to the customary form of address at Hogwarts -- might be more comfortable with the use of his first name.

However, the thing that bothers me is that almost invariably, the adults in question immediately reply with "Very well. Please call me Jack/Jill". No matter who and what those characters are, other parent/guardian, Ministry official, hired professional, it's always the same reaction.

My question now is -- would an adult British person, especially in a professional situation and/or position of authority, someone who most often is a virtual stranger to Harry, respond like this to a child/young teenager who asks them to use his first name? On a first encounter? (Also bearing in mind that we're talking about a period of close to thirty years ago when the plot is set pre-Hogwarts?)

I understand that offering to use one's first name is supposed to put people at ease, but ... would an elderly lady like Augusta Longbottom, someone like Amelia Bones (the head of Magical Law Enforcement), or any other person Harry either hires (most often a lawyer of sorts) or meets socially, really do that? After all, in the books Harry still thinks of Arthur and Molly, people he's come to consider his surrogate family, as Mr./Mrs. Weasley even after seven years of knowing and interacting with them.

Sorry, I'm not buying it. It seems ... well, inappropriate, I guess. Other words that come to mind are "unprofessional" and/or "disrespectful".

Now, it might simply be a cultural thing; I'm German, and we just aren't as free with such easy familiarity. I mean, I'm still calling (mainly older) neighbors Mr./Mrs. X even though we've lived just three houses apart for close to forty years because we're just not that close. In fact, it strikes me as a rather American thing to do to offer the use of one's first name so quickly. (Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against Americans and love the general openness and friendliness I've encountered in the country!)

My gut feeling is that this scenario seems a bit off. Am I on the right track or simply out of tune, if you will, because of cultural differences? Or because I'm just too old and stodgy? ;-)

Any help/comments would be appreciated.

Crossposted to fanficrants