What We Call One Another Matters

I find appalling the verbal raw sewage I hear thrown about in the public sector, but that’s another topic.  When I was in grad school at Iowa, I was fascinated by what others called me.  I told everyone to call me Win.  I try to avoid Winnie because, though I can claim other positive attributes, neither “little” or “cute” have been apropos since I was six.  Some fellow grads and my students did call me Win.  A few always called me “Sister.”   A few others called me “Winifred.”   I figured their choices reflected the degree of formality they felt toward me.  You can hear their ingrained Southern training in the voices of people whose grandmothers never let them address ANY adult by anything other than “mam” or “sir.”  Mom, Dad, Momma or Daddy, are usually terms of endearment carrying lifetimes of love.  I’m a bit embarrassed when my ESL student addresses me almost reverentially as “Teacher.” I know at least a couple Sisters who consistently address other Sisters as “dear” or “darling.”  I think the usage reflects a conscious choice to cherish other Sisters, regardless of whether the speaker invariably harbors warm and cozy feelings.  I was struck by our last prioress reminding us that “Sister” is a relationship rather than a title.  I generally like to call others by their first names because I think that acknowledges the uniqueness of the individual.  All what we call one another does matter; however, any form of address works as long as we are consciously present and attentive to one another.

Winifred Morgan, OP
Madison, WI


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