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Chapter 9. Multicultural Etiquette > Using Names Correctly

Using Names Correctly

One of the areas where we have protocol problems is the names we use for people. We don’t usually mean to offend others by what we call them; we just don’t know any better. And sometimes even the group itself doesn’t agree on what they prefer to be called. As a rule, however, Asian has displaced Oriental, Native American has superseded American Indian, and African American has replaced Black. Rather than the all-inclusive Hispanic American, some Hispanics prefer the American suffix attached to their actual country of origin (Latin American, Mexican American, Chilean American, etc.), and some prefer simply Latino/Latina or Chicano/Chicana. Many Native Americans feel the same way; they would prefer to be known by their individual tribe’s name.

Personal names may also be confusing. Many countries have different rules for individuals’ names than America does, and Americans should honor the person’s wishes. Age also plays a part in what to call people, even in America. Many of the “older” generation still prefer the titles “Mr.” and “Mrs.” In some other cultures, younger people must show respect by using the titles “Aunt” and “Uncle” for older people, even if the younger person is 90! This tradition has been practiced in Africa for many generations, and many African Americans continue it in their homes. Whenever you are unsure how to address someone, the most polite thing to do is ask first!


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