Ok mate, what makes ‘darl’ a suitable term?

IF YOU'RE my friend, you are likely to be called "mate", "honey" or another term of endearment. This is how you know you're my friend. But when a stranger calls me this, it seems to take on a whole new meaning.

Being called a pet name by a complete stranger is one of my pet peeves. What is it about this that makes it so irritating? I know I'm not the only one who thinks like this either.

As a cop, there were moments when being called a pet name was a sign that the person - particularly if they're a victim - were comfortable around me. But then there are other times that it was used disrespectfully. Calling a woman 'sweetie' when she's wearing a fully loaded weapon on her hip probably isn't the most ideal choice of words.

The other day I found myself on the receiving end of being called "darl" by a person who I had never met in my entire life. What I think bothered me the most was that the person is much younger than me, so it came across as quite condescending.

I know there is a fine line between the two and eventually there's a point where you can safely call your mate, "mate".

Do we throw these words around carelessly, or has it become acceptable?

I'm sure the person calling me "darl" meant no malice, and I don't think they even realise they do it because it was used at the end of almost every sentence. In fact, a character I wrote about in one of my novels over-used the word "darling", but she wasn't a very nice person. So maybe it comes with the territory after all?

I find the most common type of people who use these terms with strangers are sales people who want to make you feel comfortable, when in actual fact they come across more impolite and off-putting. I often wonder if they're using it because they've forgotten my name. I know I've been caught out before, so I've had to use "mate" as my replacement. But that's my own fault for not remembering someone's name.

So when is it acceptable to be called a name normally reserved for people you care about, and when is it insulting?

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