‘Sir’ – a much-abused word

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October 8th, 2009 Joydeep Ghosh

While growing up, the word ‘sir’ meant respect for elders, mostly teachers. Of course, it did not mean that we did not make fun of them in their absence… well, sometimes in their presence as well :)

But coming from a smaller town (Patna) and a family of school and college teachers, I almost grew up with the words ‘sir’ and ‘madam’. Student would come to our house every evening to, either study or learn music.

In fact, some people even called us ‘Ghosh madam ka beta’ or ‘Biplab sir ka bhanja’ (nephew).

But nowadays, the usage of the S word irks me quite often. And it is mainly due to telecallers from mobile, credit card, bank and ‘god-knows-what-else’ companies. Some of these callers have almost perfected the art of calling you ‘Sir’, even if they mean ‘Jerk’.

For instance, I want to settle a credit card bill for months now. So every time someone calls from this bank, I request them to send me a bill (which incidentally has not been send to me for over a year). Instead, they keep on tell me to pay a small amount (referred as ‘bucket amount’) and promise me to settle the bill next month.

The conversation goes something like this.

Me: “Kindly send me a complete bill. I am tired of paying these small interest amounts.”

He/she/ (from the call centre): “Definitely sir, but kindly pay Rs … and I promise that next month we will call you and settle this.

Me: “But you have been saying this for the last one year.”

He/she/ (from the call centre): “Sir, this time we will definitely do it.”

Me: “Sorry, I refuse to pay this small ‘bucket amounts’ every month.”

He/she/ (from the call centre): “Sir, your decision. But the interest will keep on mounting. Next month someone else will be on this case and I won’t be able to help you.

Technically speaking, while the call centre person is ‘Sir-ing’ me all this time, he/she/… is almost threatening me.

Some others use this word just to sell a product. Like, “Sir, we have this great offer or product.” And it is rather frustrating when the callers do not realise that a person may know more about some insurance or mutual fund product.

Typically, they try to sell a unit-linked insurance plan as a mutual fund. And conversations are like this… “No sir, you are not getting it. This is not an insurance plan, but a mutual fund.” – Yeah, and I am Salman Khan,

But the best ones are these. Recently, I got a missed call from a cell phone number. On returning the call, the person said, “Sir, I am from ****phone. We are offering you a free number.”

Me: “I never applied.” He/she/ (from the call centre): “Sir, it was a lucky draw.”

Me: “I don’t want it.” He/she/ (from the call centre): “Sir, it comes with a free gift.”

Me: “No, I don’t want it.” He/she/ (from the call centre): “Sir, our call charges are lowest, we will give you X plan. You will save Y money every month.

Me: “Ok, I will take it. He/she/ (from the call centre): Sir, what’s your name? …

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3 Responses to “‘Sir’ – a much-abused word”

  1. divya kinni Says:

    i like the last bit of ur blog….. wats ur name it seems…u must have had a nice laugh….

  2. Santosh Sadasivan Says:

    Joydeep Ghosh has illustrated well, the apathy of Sir, now Sirjee with a quotient of respect. The connotation has observed sanctity before but today its just a way of pushing your communication ahead. While going into the backyards of Sir syndrome, in most of the businesses and corporates around the world today, you will find this masterpiece “Sir” sitting in his well cushioned wheel chair armoured with a high back. And across the table sometime a wannabe, with a long “V” at front and back hardly encompassing in low-waist, alongwith some men like figures, who after every word chorus out equivocally - Yes Sir, Sir, Right Sir, You are correct Sir, Very correct Sir etc.. While some arrogant one take a quick sneek to preview the magnimous through a sudden left eye movement, the rest, sychopantically hum at the tune…without a sign of defence..

    Though the word “Sir” is just a illusion by the visionary, it creates a false inferiority as soon it airs. This false modesty is often appreciated by the peers while the real project and work get undue privileges and the real objective get overrided by ego and sometimes giving way to the one sided motives of the beneficiary. The word “Sir” has always left a dent on the relations especially in office environment. Many feel offended when they are not called Sir. I remember in Army training school, we were asked to call Sir and to say it loud when commandments were dictated.

    In a balanced environment of workplace, why don’t we practise commonhood leading to brotherhood instead and why we want to stick to Sir - is a question? Definetly the Sir syndrome would pose as a major stumbling block in the development and progress of the human race, if not evaluated and corrected. In an government institution where I was working before, they had encourage to address all by the first names and people have the freedom to adopt Surnames as a matter of convenience. It definetly displayed a rich governence and harbored a feeling of equality. If Obama can be called Obama, why not others… and in our soil, Gandhi too require no Sir. Since we are not attuned to it, it rings… it will be acceptable if we start addressing everyone and anyone by his first name, though it will be difficult to tame the old bulls.

    To Sir with Love, but with no respect….

  3. akash Says:

    I wud like to share my experience here…many people might hav had the similar exp. One day i went to sharekhan to open Demat accnt so after 10days i got my accnt opened and the “Mr.Sir” frm sharekhan who opened my accnt requested for a visit to their office and told me that he wil show the trading site n terminal….So after spending a little time not more than 5mins i realized tht he has no idea of stock market(even i’n not an expert bt i felt i’m a little better than him) bt i listened to his stupid comparison n other non-sense he kept saying…….n a few mins later he shifted to talking abt mutual funds….I said i’m interested in Reliance infra fund so he took some docs, presentations n email out n started talking abt how gud it is n other stuff tht he is reading out for many customers before me frm those docs. He doesn’t even realize after much talk tht i went tru those docs at-least 5-7times already. Okay still i listened….at the end he said if i hav any doubts i can meet his supervisor who is very experienced. Ok…i wished to talk to him..n i said a rule(Direct investment) in mutual funds bcoz of which i dont’ want to go by sharekhan. Mr. Experienced dailed some no. n started asking the person at the other end……..So to my surprise Mr.Exp doesnt even know the rule introduced a year ago….thts funny……………

    Later i came to know tht these people r jst marketing people who goes by wat they were presented with. Mr.Sir’ sold me demat accnt n now trying to sell this mutual fund by which they get commission/brokerage…..and i came to know tht these people have some goals to reach in a month…………….

    then i realized these people r jst like me doing their job of marketing……bt like apprisal i hav these people hav these goals to reach so they r jst trying to push things anyhow……..

    But these days i’m trying to learn these people art n skills of marketing….by countering them. These people r with limited knowledge. So countering them is not tht difficult bt i’m surprised at these peoples ability to fool others even with tht limited knowledge….. The peoples r fools they don’t chk the product before taking it n blindly trust these marketing guys…. n these marketing guys rule as long as they can foool others….

    So Lets change…………………


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