My folks—excuse me, my parents—have a few pet word peeves they’ve passed on to me. I’ve written of several already. Another class of them: the way we address each other collectively.
My father hates it when people in service roles, such as waiters or store clerks, call customers “you guys.” For example, “I’m Jason and I’ll be your server. How are you guys doing tonight?”
Similarly, my mother hates it when people refer to other people as “folks.”
Naturally, I’ve become attuned to this and, when I address groups at work, prefer “ladies and gentlemen.” My ears perk up and bristle when I hear “you guys” or “folks.”
Last Friday night, I was on a plane experiencing a delayed departure. After taking an snooze and finding the plane was still on the ground, I began my favorite game of sizing up my fellow passengers and imagining their stories. Seated across the aisle from me were two young gentlemen wearing shorts and flip-flops (an air travel pet peeve of mine), and speaking a language I couldn’t discern. I surmised it was a European language of some sort.
Just then the pilot came on the loudspeaker for his second delay announcement. And for the second time, he began his announcement with “Folks, …”
The gentlemen beside me responded to this in an amused and animated fashion. In their indeterminate language, the only word I could understand was “folks,” which they uttered several times as they seemingly pondered the meaning—or, more probably, the context—of this word.
It sounded to me something like:
Wat het proefgemiddelde door doet; mensen? Ik heb dit woord “folks” gehoord alvorens maar niet kan begrijpen waarom hij het gebruikt om de passagiers op dit vliegtuig te richten. Ik dacht ” folks” was een word dat wordt gebruikt om ouders te beschrijven. Wij zijn niet de kinderen van deze loods. Ik ben benieuwd waarom hij hij die ons richt deze manier is. “Folks?”
At that moment I decided to not look down on these young men for wearing beach togs on an airplane and instead admired them for questioning the flight captain’s language in addressing his paying passengers with such familiar informality.
To my mind, a flight captain’s calling us “folks” is the same as our saying to the pilot upon deplaning, “Later, dude.”
Ladies and gentlemen, are you with me?