How children refer to adults


When I was growing up, I never used first names with adults. The adults in my life were "Mr. Knabe", "Mrs. Stanley", or "Dr. Woods".

Adults reinforced this norm as well. When I met my parents friends, they introduced themselves — in a friendly way — as "Mr. Brinker" rather than Chris. The same with teachers — I had "Mrs. Bryson", not "Deborah".

My parents would’ve corrected me had I tried something else. I’m sure they probably did at some point, but I don’t remember it happening. It wasn’t notable, it’s how the world was. In lots of cases, I'm not even sure I knew the first names of my parents friends until I graduated from college and then someone like Mr. Hehn would say, "please, call me Gunther" in a way that communicated I was now an adult too. This made me feel proud. The only exceptions I can think of here are my Pastors (Jerry) and family (Aunt Julie and Uncle Bert).

As far as I can tell, this has completely gone out of fashion.

With my kids, 2 and 4, no adult uses their last name. My friends introduce themselves as Mr. Jon and Ms. Veronica, not Mr. and Mrs. Flash. I do this too — I introduce my friends to them as Mr. Graham and Mr. Ted not Mr. Rowe and Mr. Strong. Even my daughter’s teacher is Ms. Heather not Ms. Jones. I assume this will change as they enter the formal school system… but who knows!

This new behavior is so consistent that if an adult that I knew well introduced themselves to my child as Mr. Banna instead of Mr. Rami, it would seem overly formal, like wearing a tuxedo to an office.

This doesn’t bother me on a moral level but I am intensely curious about it. When did it change? Why? I assume it’s related to the broader decline of formality in our culture, the way that the hoodie has replaced the sports coat for menswear.

But what is driving this? Is it a desire to be youthful? Relatable? A way of communicating that adults and children are on the same level? As we’ve made this switch, what have we given up? Anything? Nothing? Does this change how children perceive adults? Does it change how children perceive themselves?

I’d love to hear a theory of the case here.

What makes a political office non-partisan?


The state of Georgia has certain offices that are designated as non-partisan. How does this get decided? Where is the line drawn and why? Are there any restrictions placed on the candidates when running for a non partisan office, or does it just mean that the party isn’t listed on the ballot?

If you feel like you understand how this works, let me know: jdilla.xyz @ gmail dot com.

Things I wish I knew


For a couple of years now, I’ve been posting things I learned as a way of cultivating curiosity.[0]

But this year I’ve stumbled upon a different sort of thing I want to train myself to notice: things I wish I knew.

I find myself somewhat embarrassed to post these. But why? Probably because I feel like if I were truly motivated, I would be able to figure them out.

I think this is the wrong instinct. Someone out there almost definitely knows the answer to them and there’s a chance they just swing along and tell me. In that case, I’m better off. And some of the most impactful projects I’ve seen first hand have begun with someone wondering, “why is this the way that it is?”

Since sifting my thoughts for these, I’ve found them to be way harder to capture. I’ve had 2-3 hit me and then disappear, only for me to be unable to locate them again. This almost never happens to me with “things I learned.” I wonder why that is?

Now, for my first one:

I wish I understood how individual trust is converted into group/institutional trust and how group/institutional trust converts into societal trust. I feel like I have a good idea on how an individual creates or destroys trust, but don’t think I understand how it converts for a team the size of a small company (say ~25-40 people), let alone a large company (thousands of people) or a society. Say you’re the mayor of a small city and you think a high trust society is important. Is it possible to do anything to foster this? How does it work?

My hypothesis: I assume it’s some combination of credibility, reliability, and lack of self interest. So when people see society work (e.g., civic institutions function well, utilizing judgment, being able to be counted on) and that individuals aren’t profiting at the expense of the group, civic trust goes up. But… I could be wrong. If you feel like you definitively understand this, reach out: jdilla.xyz at gmail dot com.

[0]: I’ll probably keep doing that, because why not? It’s super fun.