This is something that I’ve been pondering on lately, partially due to being in a new guild, and listening to interactions between some folks that I haven’t met before.
It’s something that, if recognized by a broader audience, would eliminate a lot of the “but this doesn’t offend me”, or “oh, so I can’t tell a girl she’s pretty”, or any of the Failure-to-Communicate sort of disagreements.
Words can have a majorly different impact depending on the relationship between the two (or more) people having the exchange.
For example: A guy that I have been gaming with for a few years calls me “baby girl”. It’s part of how he talks, and nothing special related to me, necessarily. But it probably took — oh, a year and a half before we had the sort of friendship that allowed for a term of endearment in any sense. Had he, right off the bat when we first ran a raid together, called me ‘baby girl’, I would have considered it creepy and condescending.
The key here being that while yes, this is a general mannerism for him, he doesn’t force it on every single person that he meets. We had developed a friendship before he included me in something that should only have a usage based in familiarity. As such, it doesn’t bother me in the slightest. He’s one of the people I’ll call ” Darlin’ ” sometimes. Or jackass, depending. 😉
I tend to equate it to swearing. When you are meeting people that you don’t know, in any setting, really (except, I suppose, watching sports at a pub), you probably have a tendency to watch what you say. You could have the mouth of a sailor around your friends, but you don’t go spouting cuss words immediately upon meeting someone new. Why? Probably because you understand that swearing can be abrasive.
Terms of endearment, or compliments, are much the same way. You don’t walk up to someone and call them Babe or Hunk right off the bat. You don’t use “Hey, you’re damn hot” as your introductory statement. Does that mean that you can never tell a girl that she’s pretty, or a guy that he’s handsome? Of course not. But that’s not how you meet someone.
Relationship context is important. How you know a person directs the way that you can and should interact with them. Think about your own personal relationships. You interact differently with your boss, with strangers, and with your friends. If more people kept that in mind, there would be a lot less confusion. And probably a lot more communication.