Am I alone in thinking that there's a good deal more public mating going on than was wont to be the case? Yesterday, for example, I was in the supermarket, and I saw a customer walk up to an assistant (both were men in their twenties) and say "Excuse me, mate," to which the reply was "Yes mate, can I help you?" Nothing very remarkable about that, but it seems to me that twenty years ago that exchange would likely have omitted the 'mate's. I may not be a good witness, mind, because being addressed as 'mate' was something that put my teeth on edge before I transitioned: perhaps I'm oversensitive to it.
Anyway, it's got me to thinking more about the ways that shoppers and shop assistants address each other. It's the kind of thing I'd like to be able to draw on a regional map, but it would need extra dimensions to show the age and sex of each speaker. 'Mate', for example, I think of it as basically a London (or south-eastern) form of address - though increasingly widespread - used almost exclusively between men. 'Love,' can be used by women to anyone, but by men only to women - as can its regional variants ("My lover" - south-west, "Pet" - north-east, etc.). In Bristol, older male shopkeepers are likely to address male customers (of any age) as 'young man'.
Madam/ma'am is an odd one, too. It seems to me that in the States (where I imagine its use to be greatest in the south and mid-West, the coasts being characterized more by a "Hi, what can I get you?" culture) this word is always pronounced without the middle 'd'. In this country, the 'd'-less version is only used (and then with a much longer 'a') when addressing the queen, or a superior officer in the police or armed forces. For ordinary shop use, it's always 'Madam'.
While I'm on the subject, has it been generally remarked that when men hug each other they seem to feel obliged to slap each other on the back simultaneously, as if engaged in a mutual burping? I first noticed this when watching Friends, where the male characters slapped each other's backs until their hands were raw, such was their terror of being thought gay, but I've seen it a good deal in recent years. Of course, when I was younger men did not hug each other at all. Those were happier times.
Anyway - if you have additional or corrective information from your own observation, do tell.
- Mate check