Honey Baby Sweetie, or One of Many Reasons I Love the South


The contest continues! Win a vacation on Topsail Island and help me celebrate my 20 years as an author by clicking here to learn more. You may enter once a day.  

This morning I wrote a scene in which a man and woman, just getting to know each other, are out to dinner in a North Carolina restaurant. The waitress takes their order and calls the woman “sweetie”. Once the waitress leaves, the man asks the woman, who happens to be a doctor, if she minds being called sweetie by a total stranger. The woman replies that, when she first moved to North Carolina, she was taken aback by the easy familiarity but now she rather likes it.

Fast forward to lunch today, when I went through the drive-thru at my local Taco Bell (cheese quesadilla; hold the jalapeno sauce). When the woman on the other side of the drive-thru window (a stunning thirtiesh Queen Latifah look-alike) handed me my food, she said “Here you go, baby.” I drove away laughing, thinking about the scene I’d written and my character’s response.

Unlike my character, I’ve never minded that sort of familiarity. Maybe living in Virginia for two decades eased me into southern hospitality — although Northern Virginia is hardly southern. I think it’s just that I don’t mind being called anything kind. There are much bigger things in life to get upset about. How about you? Would a waitress in your part of the world ever call you “baby”? How would you feel about it?


  1. Julie on April 30, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    I had a male waiter call me Honey over and over at dinner with my husband Saturday night. That was a little awkward, though we laughed about it. (And to feed a stereotype, he did NOT seem gay, which would have made it seem more normal, somehow.) Course, he also did the thing where he took my plate when my fork was still hovering over it. I’ve heard about that, but never had it happen before. Then, when he asked,”Is everything to our liking?” I had to hold my tongue, or I would have replied, “I don’t know, do you want a bite?” 🙂
    BUT … women, especially, do not bother me a bit when they call me stuff like that in public places, unless they do it over and over and it becomes annoying and cloying.
    My born and raised Texas teen (girl) calls everyone “hon” and I’ve never called anyone that in my life. 🙂
    Heck, our Whoopie lookalike hairdresser tells us she loves us when we leave. LOL

  2. Margo on May 1, 2009 at 8:58 am

    I’ve never had a waitress call me ‘baby’ but many times have been called ‘sweetie’ or ‘honey’…I don’t mind it a bit because it’s done in such a nice way and is a friendly gesture. Waiters have called me the same in front of my husband and after he takes our order and leaves, Gary and I smile. (-O:

  3. Diane Chamberlain on May 1, 2009 at 9:57 am

    I’ve nearly stabbed a waiter for trying to steal my plate before I was ready, Julie. Just a reflex. Don’t mess with my food!
    I love that your teenaged daughter calls people ‘hon.’ And I think I’d like your hairdresser very much.
    I wasn’t thinking about male waiters when I wrote that post. It wouldn’t bother me, but for me, there’s greater charm in the gesture when it comes from a woman.

  4. brenda on May 1, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    I call almost everyone sweetie, hon, etc…that’s the way I talk-esp. to students…just do it…as to waiters, waitresses…I see a huge difference as I get older-it is almost as if we are invisible…but go with my young, handsome son-that is a different story…
    Another topic: I have found an unbelievable book-I will never forget this book…THE GIRLS WHO WENT AWAY by Ann Fessler…anyone read it? It is nonfiction and the sad, horrible stories of young girls forced to give up their babies…during the time period when I grew up. I thought I was the only ignorant girl, but after reading this, I was not–we were just innocent. I always wondered what it would be like–now I know and am so sad…I took fertility drugs to have children…just the opposite problem-don’t miss this book.

  5. Denise on May 2, 2009 at 9:14 am

    It doesn’t bother me a bit if waitresses or others call me ‘hon,’ ‘sweetie,’ ‘babe,’ or ‘baby,’ and it is something done quite frequently in my neck of the midwest (mostly by females). My mother has always called others ‘hon,’ now that I think about it, as does her hairdresser (my older cousin).
    Yesterday a waitress at Olive Garden told us to have a ‘blessed day’ which I thought was nice.

  6. Jo Lawson on May 2, 2009 at 10:14 am

    Hi Dianne – I am reading The Courage Tree and I love it! I often call people sweetie, and it is a very natural response to me. Honey doesn’t roll off as easily for me. I am originally from Buffalo, then moved to S. Fla., which is New York South. I moved here 20 yrs. ago, (Raleigh), and was at first taken back at the friendly nature of strangers here. I remember the first time I took a walk and people waved at me from their cars, it was weird, but a warm feeling came over me – this is how it should be, people acknowledging each other! I work in a domestic violence agency, work with the sweetest staff I have ever met!
    Jo Lawson

  7. Ron on May 2, 2009 at 10:16 am

    I inspect restaurants for a living and while inspecting a Vietnamese restaurant in Northern Virginia the manager/owner, a Vietnamese lady more than once referred to me as “Sweetie” As a public official on duty I could not return the gesture.

  8. Diane Chamberlain on May 2, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    Jo and Ron, Welcome to the blog! Ron, I think you’re my old Mosaic Harmony buddy, right? I miss singing with that choir sooo much.
    Jo, sounds like you’re a fellow “Raleighian” (that’s what John and I call Raleigh folks; pronounced “Raleeshuns”). I know what you mean about people being friendly here. Even when they come from elsewhere, they suddenly start waving and smiling at others once they’re in Raleigh. I’m so glad you’re enjoying The Courage Tree!
    From these responses, I’m guessing the honey/baby/sweetie thing is more universal than I thought.

  9. Doreen on May 3, 2009 at 1:53 am

    The older I get, the more I appreciate a sincere honey/baby/sweetie from EITHER gender! I don’t much like ‘mam, although I am getting used to it at work from all the ex-military people (especially younger men) I am working with.

  10. ronnie on May 3, 2009 at 9:12 am

    This is a funny thing for me. I am a born and raised New Yorker, now living in South Florida and I love it when “southern people” call me honey, sweetie, baby etc. I don’t like when all the former New Yorkers who live where I am living do it. when they call people honey, sweetie, baby etc, it seems very artificial to me.
    Diane, speaking of Southern, I just finished the most wonderful book, this is the book of the year (until Secrets She left Behind comes out). It is called The Help by Katherine Stockett. I have to recommend it to everyone. It takes place in Jackson Mississippi during the Civil Rights Movement and the relationships of the black domestics and the white families they work for. To sum it up in one sentence, the white families trust the black domestics to raise their children but not with their silverware. Really everyone must check this out!

  11. Margo on May 3, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    Ronnie, I’m glad to hear that THE HELP is a good book…I’ve looked at it at Border’s for several weeks and thought of buying it but always put it back on the shelf. Knowing you recommend it will make be consider buying it next Wed when I make my weekly trip to Border’s.
    Speaking of new books, Diane’s SECRETS SHE LEFT BEHIND will be out in a few weeks and I’m on pins and needles…can hardly wait for the phone call from Border’s that it’s in!
    I’ve also reserved Dan Brown’s new one coming out in September THE LOST SYMBOL…(I think that’s the name of it)…we’ve waited a long time for another Robert Langdon book!
    I’m reading a wonderful book by Katharine Davis called EAST HOPE…she’s a new author for me and the story takes place in Maine…it’s so descriptive that I want to go there right now!

  12. Margo on May 3, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    Brenda, someone else I know said THE GIRLS WHO WENT AWAY was excellent…I’ll look for it at Border’s next week.

  13. brenda on May 3, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    Have any of you read Cassandra King? Conroy’s wife…we don’t mention her, but her book about the group of friends who meet twice a year…loved it…her stories are often surprising.

  14. Diane Chamberlain on May 3, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    I’m loving these new book recommendations! I just ordered the GIRLS one (blanking on the title) Brenda mentioned, and now I’ll check into THE HELP. Brenda, what’s the name of King’s latest? I just read Marisa de los Santos’ LOVE WALKED IN, which frequent commenter Denise mentioned quite a while ago. Loved it!
    Then I read a couple I wasn’t crazy about, so I won’t mention them here. 🙁 Also read Michael J Fox’s ALWAYS LOOKING UP. I always like reading about how other people cope with chronic illness, being such a person myself. Now I’m reading THE GREAT GATSBY for my book club and re-enjoying it after all these years.

  15. brenda on May 3, 2009 at 6:21 pm

    Queen of Broken Hearts-King, but I LOVE LOVE SAME SWEET GIRLS-just reread it…she has a way with her stories…
    The girls book is The Girls Who Went Away-You won’t be sorry and as a writer and former counselor, you will read what you already know-but might be reminded…will help you in future books also. I, like you Diane, do not like to put books on the website that I could not get through-even though others like them…I have read a few lately that were total disappointments…

  16. Pam Davison on May 4, 2009 at 11:42 am

    Being from the south myself (yes, Florida is in the south) I use terms of endearments such as honey or sweetie all the time, and it doesn’t matter one whit if I know the person or not. Unfortunately, not everyone appreciates it. For example, I once worked for a woman who was from Long Island. Since I was properly raised by a southern family, I always addressed her with ma’am. “Yes, ma’am, I’ll get that done right away.” My boss found it insulting which was strange to me as it was meant to be a sign of respect. Go figure. For a while, I tried to curb my words so as not to offend others but I’ve given up that notion as I’d rather be myself than someone else.
    Side note: I’ve just finished reading The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes and absolutely loved it. I found it at Books A Million and was so excited because I’d read Keeper Of The Light several times and really enjoyed your writing style. It was so good that I wasn’t disappointed with CeeCee. And now that I know you’ve got so many other titles out there I can hardly wait to get my hands on them.

  17. Diane Chamberlain on May 4, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    Thanks for the title, Brenda. Wish I could be a fly on the wall of the Conroy/King household as they brainstorm together!
    Welcome, Pam. I love hearing the teens here say “ma’am” and “sir”. It IS sometimes a little disconcerting when a youngish adult calls me ma’am, because in my mind I still see myself as his or her age and it’s a reminder than I most certainly am not! I’m so glad you enjoyed CeeCee! Thanks for letting me know.

  18. MJ on January 13, 2016 at 9:47 pm

    I grew up in the north and don’t like to be called Sweetie or honey, esp by a someone who is younger than me. It seems disrespectful in a way. Almost belittling. Seems to be a Virginia thing

    • Ann Nonymous on June 27, 2017 at 9:21 pm

      I feel the same way. Especially if the person is about 1/3 my age. It grates on me.

  19. Nancy Funk on December 3, 2018 at 9:47 am

    I absolutely hate it. It should never come from people you have just met. It is condescending and inappropriate.

    • Jessica Johnson on September 9, 2019 at 10:20 am

      Agreed. It’s not appropriate at all. It makes me very uncomfortable. Those words should be saved for someone you are in a romantic relationship with, not the general public.

      • Delores J on January 16, 2021 at 2:19 pm

        I agree with you. My husband and I went to eat breakfast and the waitress was calling him bane and me sweetie. I did d a head spin when she said it. She asked me are you ok and if something was wrong with the food. I said nothing was wrong with the food, then told my husband that I didn’t like her calling us sweetie and babe. He said well tell her how you feel. So when she came back and asked us was everything ok. I pulled her to the side and told her politely that I thought it was inappropriate to call my husband babe and me sweetie. She looked shocked and said” Oh I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you.” She then left and seem to have an attitude. We paid for our food then left. I started to write a bad review about the service at the restaurant but I didn’t.

  20. Jessica Johnson on September 9, 2019 at 10:19 am

    Just moved to Flordia, from Wisconsin. Female to female it’s ok, but when a man calls me baby infront of my husband or a woman calls him honey or sweetie in front of me, it makes me extremely uncomfortable. I save those terms of endearment for him and do not think it’s appropriate to say to others. I prefer to be addressed as ma’am, which is a formal way to show respect to someone you do not know or know well.

    • Delores on January 16, 2021 at 2:22 pm

      You’re definitely right.

  21. Jack on August 24, 2021 at 1:11 pm

    By sheer coicidence I stumbled upon this website. In 2018 the wife & I (both in our 70’s) did a 4100 mile 30-day cross-country road trip that included Virginia, NorthCarolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, and Maryland. The waitresses down south called us everything from darlin’, sugar, honey, hon, sweetie, babe, & love. We found it warm and charming.

  22. Eugene on May 24, 2024 at 6:31 pm

    Yes, it is absolutely charming. Love those Southern ways. Lived in Virginia all my life.

Leave a Comment