The Scottish Police has issued a guide setting out how police should interact with the public. Apparently in addressing a woman they should not use “love”, “pet”, “dear” etc, which is all well and good however it does not seem to apply to female officers. However as us men know when we go about our daily activities it is not uncommon to be called “love”, “pet”, “dear” by women serving in say bakers or pubs and I have been called “love” by a female officer who I had asked for directions. The term “mi duck” is used regularly in the East Midlands and is a regional quirk that it is harmless and should not be regulated out of existence. You would have to be spectacularly po-faced or humourless to take offence at being called “dear” by a woman.

The problem with these guides is threefold, firstly sometimes a situation calls for familiarity as the use of a term like “love” or “dear” can defuse tense situations and having a prescriptive guide could potentially override common sense and judgment. Secondly the guide will always be two or three steps behind colloquial language which is always changing. Thirdly those in power (as Foucault identified) always want to control how people use language, as by controlling language and discourse you control the people.