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Saying sugar and yelling your full name: southern or not?
June 2, 2011 9:09 PM   Subscribe

Two questions about vocabulary in the American South and elsewhere: did your parents call you sugar and did they, when you were in trouble, use both your first and middle names to summon you for the reckoning?

In my family, sugar is an all purpose term of endearment, mostly used for children but also for lovers and friends and, well, generally. I always thought this was universal but my daughter says that it is not at all and in fact marks you as southern. Hmm. I am not sure that I agree.

Piggybacking on that conversation, we found another oddity. In my family (and I assumed universally) children are called to order by, first, their first name (if they're not really in trouble) and then their first and middle name (if they're in trouble and need to know it) and then, their first, middle and last name (the shit has hit the fan, all is discovered, you had better be right there right now, no excuses.) I have always assumed this was just all parents everywhere but maybe I was wrong.

We turn to the hive mind. Is sugar a uniquely southern endearment? And is an escalating level of trouble indicated by the use of your various names uniquely southern, or not?
posted by mygothlaundry to Grab Bag (81 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Escalation of trouble by name-increase is definitely not Southern - or if it is, my parents, both of whom grew up in Philadelphia and were raised by European-born parents acted like Southerners.

On the other hand, yeah, I definitely associate "sugar" with the South. I actually can't even think about being called "sugar" without imagining a Southern accent.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:14 PM on June 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


Born in Virginia and lived in Florida since I was two. My parents never called me Sugar because that's just not how they are. They aren't snuggly, pet name type people. They did, however, call us by both names when we were in trouble.

I have picked up the habit of calling people I'm close to "Shug"-kids, nephews, friends, whomever. And I do call my kids by their 1st and 2nd names when they're busted.

FWIW-my mother is old cracker Florida southern, my father is upper Midwest and neither of them were syrupy sweet affectionate people.
posted by hollygoheavy at 9:14 PM on June 2, 2011


Growing up in northwest PA, sugar was not in use as an endearment.

I was, however - and still am - subject to the use of full names as a means of indicating escalating levels of "you are in TROUBLE young lady." And I use it on my children, too. As a result, pretty much our entire world is aware of my children's middle names.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 9:17 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Grew up in Illinois and parents are both midwesterners too. We were never called sugar but my dad does call me by First and Middle Name but only as a term of endearment.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 9:18 PM on June 2, 2011


I grew up in Georgia (though with Midwestern-raised parents). I don't recall ever hearing my friends' families ever call each other sugar, though it's not uncommon to have Southern women call you "shug". The firstname-middlename escalation also wasn't universal where I grew up--I've heard it just as much elsewhere in the country as I did down there. My family never used it (though my grandma often calls me by my first and middle names, since my middle name was her mother's first name).

Something that does happen that always weirded me out was using the word "ma'am" when talking to family members. One particular time I remember was overheard at the mall: a mom and a 10-ish year old daughter were shopping, and the mom said something like, "see if you can find this in a medium." The daughter, apparently not hearing her, said "what?" The mom responded, totally pissed off, "you do NOT say "WHAT" to me young lady!" and the daughter corrected herself to "ma'am?" in the same bored tone of voice in which she had said "what?" Very strange (and not just a singular case--that one has just always stuck in my memory for some reason).
posted by phunniemee at 9:24 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm from New England and my parents called me by my full name (f/m/l) only when they were jokingly parodying "parent angry at kid". They were certainly aware of that usage, but they didn't use it when they were actually upset with me.
posted by moxiedoll at 9:25 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


childhood in michigan... when my middle name was used, the shit had hit the fan!
posted by tomswift at 9:29 PM on June 2, 2011


Wasn't called "sugar" or "shug", though I certainly hear it a lot.

And I wasn't summoned by $FIRSTNAME $MIDDLENAME when I was in deep shit, but I DEFINITELY heard "Damn it, $FIRSTNAME $LASTNAME!" more than once. I think Mom and Dad would've used my middle name except it just doesn't sound good at high volume.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:37 PM on June 2, 2011


Family from Tennessee. My folks never called me Sugar, but it was very common to hear relatives asking the women and children kin to "give me some sugar" which usually meant a hug and a kiss.

First middle last meant big trouble.
posted by mochapickle at 9:37 PM on June 2, 2011


Yes, and yes. Grew up in Houston, TX. My dad was from Texas and my mom was from Louisiana and grew up in other parts of the south.
posted by Nattie at 9:38 PM on June 2, 2011


That sequence of increasingly complete names might be unique to the South. Here in the upper Midwest, it's usually something like first name, then first and last, and finally first-middle-mother's maiden name-last in cases where shit has well and truly hit the fan.
posted by marakesh at 9:40 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Canada. Honey, yes, sweetie, yes, sweetheart, yes. Sugar, no.

Three names = big, big trouble.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:40 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


I grew up in South Carolina. I can't recall anyone referring to other people as sugar in real life. I've heard it in movies and TV shows by people with horribly fake southern accents, though.

My family used to jokingly call me by the first and middle name, like moxiedoll said.
posted by plaintiff6r at 9:41 PM on June 2, 2011


Lived in the south and in the north

"give me some sugar" is not southern, but "Sugar" is.

Full name usage when in trouble is not exclusive to the south by any means, hell I think Cosby used it in his stand-up during the 70s
posted by edgeways at 9:42 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I knew a lot of people ( grew up in VA) who had the whole first middle thing happen when they were in trouble, but I think I was too far north in VA for "sugar," plus not from my parents definitely, since they grew up in India. I got a lot of "honey" from adults though, and "hon," from Long Island New York raised friends' parents.

My father would combine my brother's and my first names when he was especially angry with one of us, (first half of one and the second half of the other) kind of like he was too angry to even remember which one he was mad at, which would just make us roll around with laughter and not pay attention to the rest of the rant.
posted by sweetkid at 9:42 PM on June 2, 2011


did your parents call you sugar

I am from the northeast, and my parents, when speaking English, learned New York-ese. They never used "sugar."

did they, when you were in trouble, use both your first and middle names to summon you for the reckoning?

No. I heard that some parents did this, though. In any case, we had way too many syllables for that.
posted by deanc at 9:47 PM on June 2, 2011


Grew up in the Bay Area and Florida. Got called sugar (still do) by my mom. And yep, first and middle names were used to indicate a summoning for the reckoning. (My mother will still do this in mock outrage.)
posted by Specklet at 9:55 PM on June 2, 2011


sweetie, maybe, never sugar. (as in, fell over and am really upset: "oh, sweetie!" *gather in arms*)

2 names = you've been bad an I'm annoyed
first-last = same
3 names = trouble!
1 name in *that* tone = same thing.

2-3 names not in public, usually.

My sister didn't seem to get the first-middle as much as I did - but her combo sounds better as first-last, mine is better as first-middle, not so good as first-last

Melbourne VIC Australia. :) So I guess that's "southern"...
posted by titanium_geek at 10:00 PM on June 2, 2011


Vancouver, Canada, here. My parents are immigrants from Vietnam and neither of these habits show up in my family.

But having grown up in Canada, in school when my Western teachers called me by my first and last name, I knew I had crossed a line!

Also, if anybody I'm not intimate with called me 'sugar', I'd be a little thrown off if it wasn't accompanied with a Southern accent.
posted by thisisnotbruce at 10:07 PM on June 2, 2011


Grew up and still live in the Chicago suburbs, both parents born and raised in the city of Chicago. My parents never used "sugar" - I always associated that with the South.

However, they did do the first name - first name last name - first name middle name last name escalation. First name-last name = trouble. First-middle-last name = big, big trouble.
posted by SisterHavana at 10:11 PM on June 2, 2011


Texas-raised mom uses "sugar" as an endearment. I do it, too.

Yes on the whole name thing.
posted by batmonkey at 10:16 PM on June 2, 2011


Upper Midwest, grandparents from eastern europe and Massachusetts.

Only people who called kids 'sugar' was "Aunt" Helen & her husband -- from Alabama.

UseNameFirst-FullFirst-FirstMiddle-FirstMiddleLast escalation, oh yes; but the tone of voice was a much better clue to how bad it was than how many names were used, as FL and FML were also for formal use.
posted by jlkr at 10:22 PM on June 2, 2011


Australian english (well, me really, no one else who's Aussie). "sugar", no never, wouldn't call it southern US because I don't know much about southern US apart from clichés, but not Aus english.

Calling a child in an escalating number of names? If not universal, at the very least perfectly common in Aus. Not middle name though, more like full first name (Michael! rather than mike) and then adding the surname.

We do in fact add the middle name but we're odd and it's somewhat of an affectation, no idea where we picked it up from, not from the southern USA though.
posted by wilful at 10:24 PM on June 2, 2011


Grew up in MA. Never called sugar, and yes, the first and middle name followed by something like "you get down here this instant!" was a sure sign one was in deep doo-doo.
posted by emd3737 at 10:25 PM on June 2, 2011


From Oklahoma here. Parents never used "sugar" for anyone, but I recall at least one aunt who would call everyone "sugar" "hon" or even "sweetie" all the time. Nobody thought it particularly unusual, although she was a bit on the eccentric side.

The name escalation was definitely in use and clearly not just a Southern thing.
posted by Saydur at 10:27 PM on June 2, 2011


Canadian, spent my childhood in Québec with a French dad and an anglo mom.

We got the full name treatment when we were in trouble (often mixed up with siblings' names, but the intention was good.) However, while we got called "honey" occasionally, we were never called "sugar". The latter was my mother's strongest swear word in English, as she simply would not say shit, though her favourite insult directed at us kids was "Mange la marde!" Yes, she knew what it meant, and she said it anyway.
posted by maudlin at 10:30 PM on June 2, 2011


Southern boy from way back here. My parents never called me sugar, but I've heard it from thousands of other women, especially waitresses. "Hon" is also quite common in the south. My sense is that this is indeed a regional thing.

I think the use of all three names is ubiquitous, but this southern boy has heard it more than most.
posted by Lame_username at 10:35 PM on June 2, 2011


Arkansas here. Sugar and honey were both and still are terms of endearment. My daughter is 'sugarbear' to me.
posted by geekhorde at 10:51 PM on June 2, 2011


I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, as did my mother (Cincinnati is on the border of the south in traditions). My dad grew up in Cleveland (northern) OH and New York City. I was called "honey" and "pumpkin", in fact Dad still uses Honey with me.

I don't remember the name thing when I was growing up but since I do that with my children, my folks must have done it with me. (firstname middlename is trouble, all three names is BIG trouble)
posted by metahawk at 10:56 PM on June 2, 2011


Mississippi here. I've heard hon or darlin' more often than sugar, but it depends on who is saying it.
posted by cp311 at 10:57 PM on June 2, 2011


Another vote for all three names being bad news or trouble.

However, no one in my family or peer group has ever called me (or anyone that I know of) "sugar". Ever. It doesn't happen in the Pacific Northwest or Southwest. Maybe by transplants from the South, but it's something I never hear in casual usage unless someone's trying to imitate someone from the South, and as I recall it's usually used dripping with irony and/or sarcasm and not a term of endearment. It's usually used as a threat like "Don't cross me, sugar, or I'll wear you like a hat."

I'm pretty sure the only time I've ever heard it used un-ironically while I was growing up in CA was when I watched Mel's Diner or Designing Women or something. It's as foreign to me as okra, moonshine, swamps, kudzu, NASCAR and grits. It's as foreign to me as the Ozarks, which might as well be the moon if it wasn't for the fact there's air to breath.

I have heard "honey" a lot, but that's fairly strictly reserved for one's established partner/SO. Calling someone "honey" on a first (or third) date would be weird. It would be even weirder from a mom to a child or something like that.
posted by loquacious at 10:57 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


4th generation Californian here. Never heard anybody called "sugar" by their parent(s). Honey or sweetie, definitely.

The only time I recall hearing the first /first + middle / first + middle + last name thing was my babysitter's family when I was very small - they were transplants from Boston and not southern at all. And their kids were in trouble *all the time* so I heard this often.
posted by chez shoes at 11:03 PM on June 2, 2011


Grew up barely South of the Mason-Dixon line in Maryland, with a parent from the Catskills (NY) with no Southern heritage.

I was called sugar (and sugar pie) as endearment and was also called by increasingly full versions of my name based on the seriousness of what was going on. I don't think my mother would call any (other) adult sugar, though. Not sure about other people's children, but none of my mother's siblings call me sugar.
posted by needs more cowbell at 11:24 PM on June 2, 2011


Another Californian here.

Definitely no sugar.

I don't remember being called by an increasingly full name, but I knew it was something that happened. Whether that was from TV or friends families I'm not sure.
posted by grapesaresour at 11:28 PM on June 2, 2011


Family is from north Georgia.

My folks never called me Sugar, but it was very common to hear relatives asking the women and children kin to "give me some sugar" which usually meant a hug and a kiss.

Same here.

First and middle name = big trouble. Never got the three name treatment perhaps because I was a (mostly) well-behaved child, but definitely heard it from other parents in my neighborhood.
posted by elerina at 11:37 PM on June 2, 2011


My DC born grandmother called me doll baby sometimes.

My SoCal born mother would roar my entire first name when she had snapped.
posted by brujita at 12:11 AM on June 3, 2011


Grew up in the Pacific Northwest and pretty much never heard anyone called sugar, ever.

The one and only time I remember being In Serious Trouble, all Dad said was "What do you have to say for yourself?" I don't recall ever being called by multiple names as an in-trouble sort of thing.
posted by Neofelis at 12:28 AM on June 3, 2011


Grew up in Boston suburbs. No one said "sugar" (not even for their coffee..!)
And that whole first and middle name thing wasn't used in my family but not sure about others.
Now living in Tennessee, I hear both of these things a lot along with "bless your heart", "reckon", etc.
posted by KogeLiz at 12:44 AM on June 3, 2011


Raised by a kick-ass southern mom.

No to the "sugar" bit.

Big YES to the first name + middle name spelling TROUBLE.
posted by artemisia at 12:47 AM on June 3, 2011


My Kansas/Missouri grandma (and to a lesser extent her children) calls us "sugar" all the time (or more often "shug"). My Texas Italian relatives do not ever say it, preferring sweetie and baby.

I never got the f/m/l treatment, but I find myself doing it sometimes to my dog, who has earned a middle name for just such occasions.
posted by katemonster at 1:06 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm a native Texan, and my mother's family was from Mississippi. Neither parent called us sugar, but honey, sweetie, and darling were common. The times "sugar" was used, it was in the sentence "Give me some sugar!" which meant "Give me some kisses!"

They never did the full name thing.
posted by Houstonian at 1:07 AM on June 3, 2011


Born in SC, raised in SC/VA/NC by parents from TN and KY.

I was never called sugar (had all sorts of other pet names and endearments, but not sugar) and my parent weren't really the "holler three names" type when they were upset - they weren't much for raising their voices, period. My mom would sometimes jokingly use it, as someone mentioned upthread, but never seriously.

One totally Southern tell about my upbringing is definitely the "yes, ma'am/sir" thing that phunniemee mentioned - I got all sorts of odd looks for that in Seattle, but I was not allowed to respond to someone addressing me with anything other than "yes, ma'am/sir". I can shorten it to "yes?" when it's someone my age or younger in a casual situation, but older or formally, I always reflexively add the ma'am/sir.
posted by clerestory at 1:27 AM on June 3, 2011


It's as foreign to me as okra, moonshine, swamps, kudzu, NASCAR and grits.

None of these are foreign to me. Now that I've established my Southern cred: the number of times I've heard someone use "sugar" as a form of address in a non-caricaturish fashion is greater than zero, but vanishingly small compared to "hon," "darlin," and "sweetie."

First+middle at my house meant my parents were frustrated, but I probably wasn't in trouble yet. F+M+L ... well, yeah, FML.

And to add to phunniemee and clerestory, when I'm visiting my old stamping grounds I still sir and ma'am all over the place.
posted by solotoro at 2:30 AM on June 3, 2011


Missouri born & Kansas bred; currently living in DC.

Another vote for 'Sugar' (or, as I hear it in my head, 'Sugah') being more of a Southern thing -- only really heard it from my maternal grandmother, who was from Southeastern Missouri and was full of Southern-isms ('pack' instead of 'carry' being one that stands out).

Also in agreement on the F/M/L name escalation thing -- although First-Middle in our house is more of a "hey now, pay attention" than actual trouble brewing.

The name escalation thing is so ingrained that I made sure with each of the kids names that the syllable counts made it possible to get a good rolling cadence, because I knew sooner or later I was going to be yelling the whole name at full volume, and I wanted to be sure that wouldn't be hard to do.
posted by genehack at 2:55 AM on June 3, 2011


There were seven kids in my southern house. When any one of us was in trouble, which if you would spend but a tiny bit of time doing the math, was nearly 100% of the time available, my confused mother would sing through nearly the entire list before coming to the one she wanted to berate. Some times we'd piss her off just to hear the liturgy.

We called her George sometimes. That got us in trouble with our father, who so seldom spoke that I continued chatting with him at his funeral, and it kind of felt like when he was alive. Sort of.

My father seemed to be of the mind (a la Bill Cosby) that me and my slightly older brother were named either Jesus H. Christ or Goddammit. Not sure which of us was Jesus Christ.
posted by FauxScot at 2:56 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Grew up in New England. Parents also New Englanders. I was never called sugar, and my full name was only used as an endearment, but that had more to do with my parents than the culture - other kids I know got called by their full names when in trouble.

Like some others, I really can't imagine anybody using "sugar" without a southern accent.
posted by Cygnet at 3:59 AM on June 3, 2011


Grew up in Richmond Virginia. Most women called children "sugar" at times, especially as endearments. i.e., never sarcastic.

If I was in trouble, my brother and got called by all 3 names, never just first and middle. And woe to us if we didn't answer "Yes, ma'am?" In fact, if we were called for whatever reason, by any number of names, and didn't respond with ma'am or sir, there was no answer on the other end until that was rectified.

Now I'm 41 and I find that whenever I step foot south of, say, Fredericksburg Virginia, my use of ma'am in conversation with women even 5 years older than me (because, you know, I'm still 21 in my mind) is completely instinctual.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 4:23 AM on June 3, 2011


I'm from Queensland, Australia. I definitely had the escalation of names in accordance to severity of offence when I was a kid, and I admit to doing it with my own.

Sugar sounds very USA Southern to my ferner ears. It was always lovey, sweety, darlin' in my family, as far as terms of endearment go.
posted by h00py at 4:37 AM on June 3, 2011


Yes on the "shug" and "sugar." NC here.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:00 AM on June 3, 2011


Family from WV. "Sugar" from Dad and the sometimes mom's mom; this term was often shortened to "sug" (pronounced "shug"). We got "honey" often as well. I abruptly stopped using "sugar" as anything but a culinary term after a bad experience as a young woman in which a northern-bred feminist chewed me a new one for using what I thought of as a term of affection.

Definitely addition of names denotes escalating levels of trouble. The exception is involves the short form of my middle name. First name only is no trouble, or minimal. First name + Lou = "I'm totally charmed and feeling a bit whimsical, you darling child!" First name + Louise (heavy accent on the LOU in Louise) means you may as well steel yourself, because pain is forthcoming.

Annnnnd... I find myself falling into the same escalation-naming pattern with plothatchling. I'm sure my mother pronounced "I hope you have one just like you," because I totally did.
posted by theplotchickens at 5:01 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Sugar" is southern.

"James" > "James Evan" > "James Evan Wilson," based on a sliding scale of whether and how much you're in trouble, is common in the northeast, and probably throughout the U.S.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:05 AM on June 3, 2011


Southerner. First-middle-last is when you're in trouble. Nobody I know was ever called just by the first-middle. Some people have double-first names (Bobby-Joe, Mary-Sue, etc.) but that's not first-middle. That's first-first.

And any parent calling their kids "sugar" where I grew up would get a visit from the Department of Child Welfare. Sugar is what you call your sweetheart.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:07 AM on June 3, 2011


I'm from Texas, and so is my mother. She definitely uses sugar with me and occasionally my brothers, but I don't think she would ever use it with a stranger or casual acquaintance unless it was a joke. For me at least, sugar is just one of a string of sweet nicknames my parents use for me interchangeably- sweetiepie, pumpkin, darling, babydoll. Honey, I think my parents only use between themselves. My grandmother is from Kentucky and she still regularly asks my 19 year old brother to "give her some sugar."

The name escalation thing never got used with me (too many syllables!) but I think my parents would use it with my brothers, particularly because they both went by nicknames usually. "Margaret" is already pretty formal without needing to add another multisyllable name onto it.
posted by MadamM at 5:39 AM on June 3, 2011


No/no/New England.
posted by troywestfield at 5:49 AM on June 3, 2011


Upstate NY; middle class WASP parents: No "sugar" endearment.

I do think the name-formality escalation is common around the U.S.; certainly my mother did this when my sisters and I were in trouble. (Nickname -> Formal version of first name -> Formal first name + Middle Name -> First, last, and middle names, in order of increasing irritation: "Ronnie!" "Ronald!" "Ronald George!" "Ronald George Henry!")
posted by aught at 6:04 AM on June 3, 2011


Raised by a southern mom (Mississippi, very rural) and a northern dad (Chicago suburbs) in various parts of the midwest.

My mother used my first and middle names to indicate displeasure but my dad never did. He just yelled. My mother called me "hon," my father called me "peanut," and my maternal grandparents called me "sugar pie" or my nickname plus the first syllable of my middle name (it's rather sing-songy) as endearments. I don't remember my paternal grandfather (he died when I was three) but my paternal grandmother never called me anything but my full first name.

I called my both of my own little kids "sweet pea" and still use "sweets," "pickle," and "bunny" (shortened from "Sophie-bunny") on my now-11-year-old daughter and I will continue to do so until she asks me to stop. Her 14-year-old brother requested the end to endearments when he was about 12.

I do the name escalation with both of them, but I mostly don't have to get to First-Middle-Last, usually just First-Middle. We've lived in Cincinnati their whole lives.
posted by cooker girl at 6:10 AM on June 3, 2011


Grew up in Northeast Florida: no on sugar (but older relatives certainly did), absolutely yes on middle name usage.
posted by saladin at 6:16 AM on June 3, 2011


My 45 year-old ex-boyfriend is still called "Honey" by his father, a Naval officer. I find this absolutely adorable. They are from a very poor rural Louisiana area originally.
posted by thebrokedown at 6:17 AM on June 3, 2011


Grew up in Louisiana and don't find "sugar" to be a common endearment. I mean, I associate it mostly with southerners and can't picture someone from Queens or Chicago or New Hampshire saying it. But I never really heard it used growing up.

On the other hand, I do remember "sugar" as a euphemism for "cuddles"/"hugs and kisses"/"love", when I was a kid in the south. As in, "Come over here and give your Aunt Susie some sugar, darlin'!" Meaning "Come here and give me a hug". Usually used as a form of greeting. I always thought it was extremely awkward, even at 4 or 5. This is probably why I'm such a Yankee now.

The full name thing - my parents never did it, and neither did most of my family. But my paternal grandmother, who is Cajun (and thus ultimately francophone back in the mists of time), LOVES middle names. She'll use it when you're in trouble, but then she'll use it just about anytime. "Sara Catherine, did you start the coffee yet?" I'm not sure why she does it, exactly, but it seems to be her own idiosyncrasy. I never heard, "Sara Catherine Cthulu, you get in here right now and clean up this mess!" or the like.
posted by Sara C. at 6:19 AM on June 3, 2011


I think 'Sugar' is a Southern thing. My ex's momma used to call all of us 'Sugar' and she was from Bucksnort, TN. Yeah, Bucksnort. Right down the road from Dick's Holler and around the corner from Fly, TN.

My folks are from MA and if they used all my names then I knew to go hide until they had time to cool off a bit. Just the middle name meant it was time to just take it on the chin, but all three? Best just to lay low.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 6:19 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, for phunnimee, above: the sir/ma'am thing is huge in the south. Even now. Some friends of mine from childhood are instilling it in their kids. Weird. Again, this is a way in which I'm aware I've become a total Yankee - I can't imagine ever in a million years expecting my children to call me ma'am.
posted by Sara C. at 6:22 AM on June 3, 2011


East Texas born and bred (by way of Houston, but both sides have deep east Texas roots).

My parents were not the endearment sort (my father was born in 1917 and was far too formal and my mother just wasn't), but that was personal to them. Sugar, to me, falls in the same general endearment turf as hon or darlin'.

First+Middle+Last from my parents was, yes, fml, but First+Middle is reasonably normal for family and/or friends from east Texas whether or not anybody is upset. This is an older usage and I think it's dying out. My relatives from that part of the world (and my husband's paternal family, which is coincidentally from the same area as my mother's), use first+middle en famille all the time. For instance, my great-aunt refers to my mother as F+M to me when we talk on the phone, and she addresses my mother that way even though none of my mother's other friends do. This is standard address in my husband's extended family, where a number of the men share a common family first name. He and his father share a first name, but my husband goes by his middle name where my father-in-law uses his first name. At home, FiL is F and my husband is M. My husband also has a cousin with the same first name, who is known at our house, and addressed when we see him, as "Cousin F+M".

One of the ways I knew my husband and I were alike in background was when I started getting email from him that had my first and middle names (but not my last) as the "name" from his email address book.

(And yes, we're all sir and ma'am even though we are ourselves old enough to be sir and ma'am to the younger generation now.)
posted by immlass at 6:45 AM on June 3, 2011


From the wife who was born and raised in Middle Tennessee:

"I regard the “sugar” thing as a Southern stereotype, perpetuated by “Designing Women,” “Steel Magnolias,” and the like. My mom prefers “angel” ;-)

But the “full name as reckoning” was definitely true for me. I just assumed all families did that!"

posted by Rewind at 6:54 AM on June 3, 2011


Hmmm, immlass, I wonder if that's where my grandmother gets it? She's not from East Texas specifically, but I'm wondering if it's an old-fashioned thing? Because you're describing exactly her way of using it. It's sort of like the opposite of a shortened pet name - like a lengthened pet name, almost.
posted by Sara C. at 7:08 AM on June 3, 2011


Grew up in GA in a family with TX roots, and while my immediate family does not use "sugar" very much, numerous other friends and relatives have over the years. When in trouble it was typically first, middle, and last name, a habit I now employ with my own daughter.
posted by TedW at 7:19 AM on June 3, 2011


Californian. No sugar but other endearments that spring from sweetness such as, honey.

The amount of trouble based on amount of full name used was from my father's side. My mother had tone and volume to indicate level of displeasure. But anger that was so huge to cause her to splutter and lapse amongst languages, well that was get out of the house homicidal rage.
posted by jadepearl at 7:35 AM on June 3, 2011


I am half-Southern, half-Yankee (Midwestern). The Southern side of my family called me sugar, and also used it to mean kisses ("give me some sugar"). The Yankee side never, ever did, not once.

My Southern mom called me by my first & middle when I was in trouble. My Midwestern father thought I was an angel and thus I never found out what he'd call me. My husband's Midwestern mother did (and still does) call him by his first & middle names when he was/is in trouble.
posted by desjardins at 8:05 AM on June 3, 2011


Growing up in Oklahoma (mom was from St. Louis and dad was a military brat who lived all over the world), I was aware of sugar as a term of endearment but it didn't happen in our family. "Sweetie" was the most common term my parents and grandparents used. I do not have any Southern culture cred at all, but I do sometimes call my kids "sugar," along with "sweetie," "honey," "sweetheart," "punkin," "baby," "shnookums," "muffin," and for some reason, "pumpernickel." I just like to mix it up and use every affectionate term I can think of, so I don't think it has anything to do with the part of the country I'm in (currently Dallas).

I think the full name for trouble is pretty universal (for English speakers, at least). The casual (non-angry) use of fname+mname may not be southern so much as a country/small town thing. I believe it to be most common in families where a family name is repeated frequently (Betty Jane, Betty Ann, Betty Jo may all be cousins named after Great Aunt Betty).

(I apparently like parentheses).
posted by Dojie at 8:25 AM on June 3, 2011


I grew up in the midwest. There was no "sugar," but lots of "punkin," "sweetie," and "honey." I knew I was in big trouble when my full name was used.
posted by moira at 9:42 AM on June 3, 2011


Alabama - definitely heard sugar (not from parents but from other relatives), as well as doll baby, precious, and several of the other suggestions mentioned above. I grew up with a double name (e.g. Betty Jane), but it wasn't first-first, it was first-middle, and I just used the whole thing all the time (my mama now says she wishes she had made it a hyphenated first name and given me another middle name, in part because it would have made it harder for me to drop the second half of my name - I've been just "firstname" at school and work since age 13 or so), but my siblings definitely got "first-middle" (this maybe more as a sign of exasperation than deep trouble) and sometimes "first-middle-last."
posted by naoko at 9:56 AM on June 3, 2011


From New Jersey, mom called me sugar, neither parent ever used my first and middle or first, middle, and last name when I was in trouble.
posted by srrh at 10:01 AM on June 3, 2011


Also, for phunnimee, above: the sir/ma'am thing is huge in the south. Even now. Some friends of mine from childhood are instilling it in their kids. Weird. Again, this is a way in which I'm aware I've become a total Yankee - I can't imagine ever in a million years expecting my children to call me ma'am.

Grew up in SC here, and I find living in NYC that an authentic "sir" and "ma'me" gets one just all kinds of stuff. Almost enough to ingrain it in my kids. Almost. Apologies to the OP for the slight derail!
posted by digitalprimate at 1:07 PM on June 3, 2011


Grew up in Texas, and being called "Shug" by an adult (but not "Sugar," oddly) was almost as common as being called by name. I only remember it coming from women -- church ladies, teachers, my mom's friends, etc. And, occasionally, from my own mom, but she's not really the term-of-endearment type.

First+middle name was for when I did something really bad. Or, rarer still, really good.
posted by mudpuppie at 2:21 PM on June 3, 2011


Oh, and regarding sir/ma'am: We were taught this in school. I think a lot of kids were taught it at home, though I never called my own parents sir or ma'am. (A lot of my peers did.)

I still slip into it if I'm trying to be extra polite to a stranger who's quite a bit older than I am. Here in California, people always seem to be taken aback, as if I were trying to be an asshole instead of the opposite. When I'm in Texas, though, it comes out almost automatically, and no one bats an eye.
posted by mudpuppie at 2:23 PM on June 3, 2011


Grew up in the Pacific Northwest, parents from the Midwest and the Mountain West.

Sugar: Nope, never.

First Middle Last meant big trouble. First Middle was not in use. (I have since heard First Middle used affectionately by a girl from Tennessee. Can't recall ever hearing it used in anger.)
posted by eritain at 4:15 PM on June 3, 2011


And another sir/ma'am data point: my mother attempted to raise us to say sir and ma'am to all adults - it pretty much never caught on when we were talking to her or my stepdad, and she sort of gave up on that part, but when we didn't use it with grandparents, aunts/uncles, etc., she would get REALLY mad.
posted by naoko at 5:23 PM on June 3, 2011


Grew up in Mass. with an Irish mother who never used our middle names to signify she was really mad. Then again she was really mad often so first names sufficed. I used First Middle with my son when I was mad at him when he was younger. Oddly enough I've always used First Middle with my daughter as a term of endearment.

Here's an anecdote that might help. Back when Murphy Brown was having a kid out of wedlock and pissing off Dan Quayle, she had this exchange with Elton, her painter:

Elton: "So what's the baby's middle name?"
Murphy: "He doesn't have one."
Elton: "So how is going to know that you are mad at him?"

So this pattern is well known enough to be on a sitcom in the 90's.
posted by JohntheContrarian at 7:52 PM on June 3, 2011


Idaho:
FIRST MIDDLE LAST--better duck!

No sugar here.
posted by BlueHorse at 11:10 PM on June 3, 2011


I find living in NYC that an authentic "sir" and "ma'me" gets one just all kinds of stuff.

Weird, everyone I've met here in New York (many of whom grew up in the midwest and New England, if not the NYC metro area) seems to think both are overly formal, and you really do not want to know most women's opinions of being called "ma'am" by anyone, ever.

My first week of my first retail job in New York, I learned that We Do Not Call Women Ma'am, Ever. Because here it's not taken as a formal speech register, it's taken as implying that the woman in question is elderly.
posted by Sara C. at 9:43 AM on June 4, 2011


I grew up in South Texas, and have spent most of my life there or here in Austin. I think the name-escalation thing is pretty much universal. (Isn't that why we have middle names?)

I didn't hear much "shug" or "sugar", but I've been known to use a lot of "hun," "sweetheart" "darlin'" or "dear", depending on intimacy levels. (Hun seems to be used with almost anyone whereas sweetheart would be used for people closest.)

I had a Canadian friend whose girlfriend freaked out because I kept calling him "hun". I hadn't even noticed, but finally got her to understand that it was mostly a regional thing.
posted by MuChao at 11:24 AM on June 4, 2011


Sugar is common from my aunts, uncles (sometimes), and grandparents, though my parents didn't really use that one. My whole family's Texan. I've never heard sugar from someone who wasn't Southern (or Appalachian).

We also do the thing where we use first-middle as a sign of endearment more than a sign of trouble, and first-middle-last was definitely trouble.
posted by wending my way at 10:39 AM on June 6, 2011


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