Form of Address: Mother and Son Edition.
January 24, 2017 1:23 PM   Subscribe

A while back, I was dining out with my mother. She is a widow, I am her unmarried son. Our server (who spoke English as a second language), addressed us as "Mr. & Mrs. Renault". I was squicked out. An address of 'Mr. & Mrs.', while perhaps technically correct, has a suggestion that we are a Mr. and Mrs. of each other, which we are most definitely not. So how should he have addressed us?

Our server asked me, and I had to admit that I did not know. My guess would be "Mrs. & Mr. Renault", as that would give precedence to Mother Renault. What would have been the proper form of address for us in that situation? (Assume for this exercise that I am not a real captain.)
posted by Capt. Renault to Human Relations (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Mrs. Renault and Mr. Renault. Separating the names removes the implication of a relationship.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:26 PM on January 24, 2017 [60 favorites]

Renault Family.

Mrs. Renault and Capt.
posted by INFJ at 1:26 PM on January 24, 2017 [5 favorites]

I would honestly be weirded out that a restaurant server felt the need to address me like this at all? I have been to some very fancy/expensive places and never encountered this. But, if there really is a need, I would go with "Mrs. Renault and Mr. Renault" or "Jane Renault and Bobby Renault."

That said, I would cut someone speaking ESL some slack, they may have a different cultural context. Some of my international students, for example, have called me "Dr. FirstName" or "Professor FirstName" which would be quite odd from an American student, but they obviously mean it in a respectful way so it's fine with me. I'd also say -- you're probably unlikely to encounter this particular server again, so I would also let it go from that perspective -- it's odd, but, as a one-off thing, not the end of the world
posted by rainbowbrite at 1:29 PM on January 24, 2017 [3 favorites]

I read a lot of Jane Austen, and her characters would probably have done it something like, "Mrs. Firstname Renault and Mr. Firstname Renault." For what that's worth.
posted by Orlop at 1:33 PM on January 24, 2017

[One comment deleted; let's stick to the "What's the proper form of address for mother and son" question and skip the more expansive thoughts about the restaurant-server-specific situation.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 1:37 PM on January 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you want to be old-fashioned, Mrs. Firstname Renault means that she's divorced. As a widow, she would be Mrs. Husbandsfirstname Renault.
posted by FencingGal at 1:38 PM on January 24, 2017 [9 favorites]

jacquilynne is correct, Mrs. Renault and Mr. Reneault.

I understand the squicked out part. For reasons I won't go into, my father was on a property deed with me for about five minutes. The condo corp sent some documents to Dad'sFirstName & TORunner Lastname instead of listing us separately. It was just icky. They didn't know we were father and daughter, of course, and were quite apologetic when I asked them to correct it. But icky.
posted by TORunner at 1:45 PM on January 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Agreed with jacquilynne and FrencingGal for more details - the two of you are "Mrs. DadsName Renault [which ughs me out entirely, but is 'correct'] and Mr. Captain Renault", or just "Mrs. Renault and Mr. Renault" - the same as you would be if you were strangers who happened to share a last name.
posted by brainmouse at 1:48 PM on January 24, 2017

Thanks, everyone. jacquilynne got it right out of the gate. On reading her answer, it's obvious. Shows what I know.
posted by Capt. Renault at 2:00 PM on January 24, 2017

The rule here that your server didn't know is that the construction "Mr. & Mrs. Name" exclusively refers to married couples, rather than just a grouping of identical names. It's a special condition, rather than the general rule.

Like no one would have called you and your father "Mr. & Mr. Name".

I have been addressed as "Mr. A & Ms. B" in many scenarios where it was clear that my companion and I were not married, but required addressing us by name. That's the general rule and I think would be correct here, even though A & B are the same.
posted by danny the boy at 2:02 PM on January 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

A related point of etiquette, if your mother and father received a wedding invitation, would be addressed to:

Mr & Mrs John Reanault
123 Perfect Lane

But if your widowed mother and you receive an invitation, it is addressed to:

Mrs. John Reanault
Mr. John Reanault
123 Perfect Lane

So we do use this separation to distinguish between marital relationships and other family relationships.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:12 PM on January 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

If doing it without using names, "Madam and Sir". (If there are multiple women it'd be "Ladies and Sir" not "Ladies and Gentleman"; with multiple men it'd be "Gentlemen and Madam" not "Lady and Gentlemen".)
posted by Lexica at 3:43 PM on January 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

Or ma'am.

The honorific for boys under 12 has traditionally been Master X in the US.
posted by brujita at 6:26 PM on January 24, 2017

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