Either all of Abby’s contributors are sitting at the window seat in their parents’ Martha’s Vineyard homes,writing with navy blue fountain pens, or Abby has a very awkward crew of editors, who are enforcing a very awkward means of creating consistency across her letters.
The vast majority of Abby letters, in their publicly printed state, make reference to the writer’s own parents as “Mother” and “Daddy.” Rarely “Mom,” and never simply “my mother.” This is a pretty old school thing, and my grandmother actually speaks about her parents this way–always Mother and Daddy. But it sounds strange in a newpaper–is it too familiar? or too pretentious? I can’t decide….can one be both?–and it sounds even stranger out of the mouths of babes, as in today’s column:
DEAR ABBY: I am 14 years old and the daughter of a successful businessman. Daddy recently announced that we have been invited to the bat mitzvah of the daughter of one of his co-workers. I don’t want to go.
The girl’s not anti-Semitic, it turns out, just a bit shy, a bit Catholic, and feeling uncomfortable and out of her element at a large Jewish celebration. Abby actually gives her some good advice about turning her discomfort into an advantage–seeking out someone friendly at the party to talk her through the traditions, etc.
But that intro. “Daddy?” “A successful businessman?” Yikes!
This kind of stuff makes me wonder if Abby’s editors are significantly shaping these letters–no matter the age or geographical location of the writer, they’re all in the same “voice”–or whether, instead, people write to Abby in a certain tone because of what they read. Are they adopting the speech conventions traditionally used in her column, hoping to make it into print?
Hmm…doubtful. Hey team Abby, back off, and let the people speak for themselves!