Aunt Mei or Auntie Mei

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NewAmerica

Banned
Mandarin
If you native speakers hear a middle-aged woman named Mei being called Aunt Mei or Auntie Mei by the youth in a respectful or loving manner, do you think it sounds respectful?

Theresa May, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is often named as Aunt Mei or Auntie Mei, if translated directly from Chinese, by media in China. That is a repectful way in China to call an elder woman who belongs to the rank of parenthood.

The question of this thread is whether Aunt Mei or Auntie Mei sounds equally respectful in English.
 
  • NewAmerica

    Banned
    Mandarin
    Okay. Thank you. :)

    That means Direct Translation from one language to another is risky.

    But what do you native speakers call, respectfully, a middle-aged intelligent woman who is a stranger to you?
     

    NewAmerica

    Banned
    Mandarin
    By the way, do you refer to the president of China as "Uncle Xi?"
    Yeah, much close.

    The youth in China call him as Xi Da Da, which, if translated directly into English, would mean Dady Xi or Uncle Xi. (Da Da is a dialect used in Shaanxi Province, where Xi spent his youthhood, to respectfully call those male people who are as old as their father.)
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    We don't necessarily respect our political leaders, especially if we oppose their policies or dislike them. We might call them disrespectful nicknames; in the UK Prime Minister's case, with plays on her name such as Theresa Maybe/Maynot/Won't/the Maybot (May+robot).
     
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    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    But what do you native speakers call, respectfully, a middle-aged intelligent woman who is a stranger to you?
    We say "ma'am". That is a contraction of "madam", but "madam" is formal (in AE). A middle-aged or older male is "sir".

    I've read about the Mandarin use of "auntie" and seen example in Chinese study texts. I guess it is used in some other countries, but I do not know any.
     

    Barque

    Senior Member
    Tamil
    I think it's used in many parts of South, East and South-East Asia to refer to a woman older than you, especially if she is old enough to be your mother or older. But in India you'd only hear it in informal settings, not in the media.
     

    You little ripper!

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    We sometimes use ‘Aunt’ or ‘Auntie’ for females we know who are older than us even if we’re not related to them, but certainly not for a Prime Minister. As for the difference between the two, ‘Auntie’ is considered more of an endearment than ‘Aunt’.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    I would add that "Uncle" (and by extension, "aunt") has been used in English to convey a political message full of very heavy irony: Joseph Stalin was known in the West as "Uncle Joe" - the irony (if you have missed it) is that "Uncle" brings up an image of a jolly, kindly relative who indulges his nephews and nieces in gifts and kindness, whereas Stalin was known to be an absolute dictator and a brutal psychopath.

    Claiming a leader as some sort of relative sounds truly weird (and somewhat frightening) in Western culture.
     
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    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    There is a real East-West divi
    We say "ma'am". That is a contraction of "madam", but "madam" is formal (in AE). A middle-aged or older male is "sir".

    I've read about the Mandarin use of "auntie" and seen example in Chinese study texts. I guess it is used in some other countries, but I do not know any.
    Yes, but ma’am is not as widely used in the UK. Plus, even where it IS USED, it’s used instead of the name, not added to it.
     

    NewAmerica

    Banned
    Mandarin
    I would add that "Uncle" (and by extension, "aunt") has been used in English to convey a political message full of very heavy irony: Joseph Stalin was known in the West as "Uncle Joe" - the irony (if you have missed it) is that "Uncle" brings up an image of a jolly, kindly relative who indulges his nephews and nieces in gifts and kindness, whereas Stalin was known to be an absolute dictator and a brutal psychopath.

    Claiming a leader as some sort of relative sounds truly weird (and somewhat frightening) in Western culture.
    An informative message to avoid unnecessary culture shock possibly inflicted by improper translation.

    Thank you. :)
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    I would add that, at a more personal level, and for children, their parents' female friends are often (but not always) called "Aunt"/"Aunty".

    When I was young I had several of those "aunts", e.g. my 'aunt' Elizabeth was, in fact, the wife of one of my father's friends and no relation at all. When I grew up, I ceased to call her "aunt". On the other hand, my mother's sister is still, to me my Aunt Alice.

    But, when I was a child, I always called the woman who lived next door "Mrs Jackson" and never "aunt/auntie" (I don't think I ever knew her first name...)
     
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    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    One of the nicknames for Mrs May is "Mother Theresa". Mother Theresa is the name of a nun who devoted her life to caring for the destitute and dying in India. 'Mother' in this case being a title given to nuns. Some people would say that giving that title to Mrs May is as ironic as calling Joseph Stalin "Uncle Joe".
     

    AnythingGoes

    Senior Member
    English - USA (Midwest/Appalachia)
    Stalin was called Uncle Joe in American propaganda films when the US was allied with the USSR during WWII. This ceased almost immediately after the end of the war in Europe.
     

    Xamayca

    Senior Member
    Jamaican English
    We sometimes use ‘Aunt’ or ‘Auntie’ for females we know who are older than us even if we’re not related to them, but certainly not for a Prime Minister. As for the difference between the two, ‘Auntie’ is considered more of an endearment than ‘Aunt’.
    We do that here as well. We sometimes say 'Uncle' to address older males as well. But, generally we say miss, sir etc to adress strangers. The Prime Minister is always addressed by his/ her name. E.g. Mrs. Portia Simpson Miller.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Joseph Stalin was known in the West as "Uncle Joe" - the irony (if you have missed it) is that "Uncle" brings up an image of a jolly, kindly relative who indulges his nephews and nieces in gifts and kindness, whereas Stalin was known to be an absolute dictator and a brutal psychopath.
    Wasn't that before we knew about the purges? In any case, he had a lovely moustache. :)

    I had an Auntie May (actually a great aunt, but we never used the "great"; I don't think anyone does except in fiction). She was an "auntie", as were most of my aunts, the only exception I can think of being Aunt Lou (another great aunt), who was a rather staid old lady (something you could never accuse Auntie May of being). The only non-relative I ever called "auntie" was my Godfather's wife (he was "uncle"), but friends of mine used "auntie" (but never as I recall "aunt") for close family friends or neighbours, of their parents' generation (but I don't recall their husbands being called "uncle").
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    Only the Queen gets called ma'am these days and then only after you've been formally introduced to her.
    How can you say that?
    I accept it’s not common but it is still used sometimes.
    Maybe no-one calls you ma’am but I’ve certainly had it used to address me.

    For information: I’m not the queen.
     
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