News & Politics

R.I.P., the Word “Dear”


Dear Reader,

When was the last time you initiated a communicative missive using the word “dear”? Was it a parchment letter to your grandmother? Or was it a form letter to a possible employer you’ve never even met, one whom, given the chance to meet, you will probably never actually consider “dear”?

The Wall Street Journal today reports on the curious and rapidly depleting case of the “dear.” Once bandied about between presidents and generals, wives and husbands, now the word is used nearly exclusively for the cases above, lest the sender be considered creepy, overly formal, or a spammer. Dear is out. “Hey” is in.

Of course, as we strive to confine our sentiments to the space allotted to text messages and gchats and IMs and 140-character tweets, why use a “dear” or a “hey” or anything extraneous at all? It’s not that we’re becoming ruder, it’s that we’re becoming more efficient. Right?

Also, dear makes people feel funny. Especially dude-on-dude dear.

Via the Journal,

“I feel dear is a little intimate for someone I don’t know,” says Mr. Caron, a 50-year-old former trucker and auto-repair-shop worker. “Guys talking to guys–I’m sorry, that’s against the code.”

This freaks out etiquette experts, but so does much of what we do nowadays. “[Dear] sets the tone for that business relationship, and it shows respect,” said business-etiquette expert Lydia Ramsey. “Email is so impersonal it needs all the help it can get.”

But should email be personal, even? And if it is personal, why use a word that’s simply been the start of every form and cover letter you ever learned about in grade school? Personal — as we know and love it — would be individualizing each opening to the person to whom it’s intended, and that’s, actually, probably a good idea, or, in the parlance of an etiquette expert, “never going to go out of style.”



This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 6, 2011


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