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'Oh Waitperson, Could You Bring Me Some More Bread?'


In a recent Chicago Tribune newspaper column, Mary Schmich makes a provocative, politically correct point. She writes, "People are entitled to be called what they want to be called."

In other words, if you're a woman, and you prefer to be addressed as "Ms. Smith" rather than "Miss Smith" or "Mrs. Smith," that's your privilege. If you're a touch old-fashioned and still like the sound of "Mrs. Smith," that's OK, too.

Ms. Schmich -- or is it Miss or Mrs. Schmich? Let's just call her Schmich -- was specifically writing about the proper naming conventions in the restaurant business:

Is the person who's waiting on you a waiter? Waitress? Waitperson? Table attendant? Right now, "server" seems to be in fashion. "Busboys" used to clean up. Surely they're not "buspersons." That could be confused with the fine buspersons who drive those big, smelly vehicles that carry passengers.

No, some restaurants like you to refer to those who scrape your leftover spaghetti into tubs as "bussers." But Schmich admonished the person who wrote in to say that. "Dis is Chicaga," she wrote in a mock Chicago-ese, "and a lot of people remain attached to the word 'busboy.'"

She's right, of course. You should be called what you want to be called: flight attendant, not stewardess. Sales associate, not a lowly salesman. Firefighter, mail carrier, refuse collector, telephone attendant, and certainly "stay-at-home mom" rather than "housewife."

But here's the problem. How do we KNOW what a stranger likes to be called?

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