In a comment to He must be asleep for there is no light in his room. What does “for” mean here?, tchrist writes to me:

Calling a stranger dear is at best horribly patronizing with condescending paternalism -- and at worst super-creepy like an internet stalker someone should report to the authorities. Never do this again, honey, for it's far too liable to be taken for micro-aggressions bordering on sexual harrassment.

to which I replied:

I was using 'dear' like billions use it in Asia, including India, Bangladesh, Iran, etc. Its use is ubiquitous, friendly, natural, normal, and does not include any sort of the things you mention. I find your objection to be provincial (maybe you can learn an English not restricted to 10 miles from your house) and bordering on harrassment.

Notice it was tchrist who used the word honey when talking with me, which in some places and among some people (although not all people in the southern USA) may find offense and replete with the sort of stuff he mentions.

As for dear, I make no apologies and expect that asker of the OP received the word in the way it was intended by me. If that is not the case, then yes let's delete my comment.

On dear, let us look at this answer dated October 30, 2015 to the question What is being translated as "hello dear", and why from SE: Linguistics, and note the following about "dear". My list contains direct quotes from this answer.

1 such an expression is common in many languages of Europe, Central Asia and South Asia

2 In Turkey, Arabia, the Caucasus, Iran and Central Asia and South Asia, words like habibi, aziz, can (Turkish spelling) that can all be translated as dear are very common.

3 It is fine between men, even those who don't know each other, a bit like brother.


This is backed up by my personal experience actually talking and chatting with people (including "men who don't know each other") from areas such as, again, Iran, India, Bangladesh.

Rather than be taken to task for my choice of word to the asker, I think I should be congratulated and even--in this case at least--emulated, for


and welcoming.


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  • 1
    Without the mention of tchrist on the title (edited out), this question is off-topic for meta. It would be very on-topic for main (with the self-congratulation removed). If this is a complaint about moderation then I'm not sure how to address it other than to flag for moderation.
    – Mitch
    Jan 5, 2020 at 17:53
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it should be on the main site, with certain elements of the question removed.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 8, 2020 at 15:35
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    I'm voting to reopen this ELU.Meta question because the topic is the appropriate use (or otherwise) of terms of affection in comments on ELU.Main.
    – Lawrence
    Jan 15, 2020 at 13:48
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    Love, guv, dear, sweetie, etc are terms of affection that can work in some contexts in-person, taking into account the age and gender of both parties. On the internet, it can come across as condescending and dismissive, and almost certainly lacks the age/gender/culture/etc context needed for it to be acceptable.
    – Lawrence
    Jan 15, 2020 at 13:55
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    I agree that the negativity expressed toward the word exhibits cultural bias that is quite subjective. I find nothing wrong with using it in a comment—so long as there is sensitivity to the fact that the OP might object to it. (There are many other words where that is the case.) Speaking as somebody who is very much a part of North American culture, there are many contexts where its use is acceptable, even in the kind of discourse you had. It's not at all clear that the OP would have found its use offensive. Its criticism is an overreaction. Jan 17, 2020 at 17:41
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    I have added my reopen vote to this question. Jan 17, 2020 at 17:42
  • @JasonBassford Thanks for your input, dear. Nov 8, 2020 at 9:32

2 Answers 2


What you do on your own street-corner in your own native language is of no concern to us, but never again do this here. It doesn’t work in our culture.

When people feel like they're being hit on, it makes them extremely uncomfortable — and that’s exactly how it comes across as when you call strangers by intimate pet names like dear, darling, honey, sugar, doll, babe, sweetie, and all the rest of them.

I was hoping you would take the hint by my calling you honey so you would see how creepy what you're doing is, but since you have not, let me be perfectly clear: the Stack Exchange network has a network-wide zero-tolerance policy towards sexual harassment of any kind whatsoever, even perceived not intended, and this language falls under that umbrella. It has no place here.

  • 3
    Despite the inconveniences you cite, “dear” is curiously always used in business or other formal letters: Dear Gentlemen,Dear Sirs, etc.
    – user 66974
    Jan 5, 2020 at 10:28
  • @user067531 I have noticed that being dropped, more and more.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 8, 2020 at 15:33
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    @user067531 Different sense of the word and irrelevant to this discussion. Jan 9, 2020 at 4:45
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    @curiousdannii - I didn’t say it is, please read my comment again, but we are here to discuss language and its different senses and nuances. If we miss that, we might well just go home.
    – user 66974
    Jan 9, 2020 at 7:22
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  • @user121863 That's the adjective dear and not the noun, which when used vocatively with strangers either in writing or in a formal setting, is basically an agressive put down. Nov 8, 2020 at 2:04
  • @user121863 But this is the meta-site where we discuss what is acceptable behaviour, but not tangential tidbits of English, however interesting they might be :) Nov 8, 2020 at 2:06

I agree with @tchrist . I'm a Brit and English is my first language and I would have found such a comment to be condescending, overly familiar and possibly an attempt at intimacy. I think it is important on the internet to be even more careful (not less careful) than in daily conversation as there is no body language, facial expression and tone of voice to assist in interpreting ambiguous remarks.

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    I come from a European country where “dear” is very commonly used everyday among friends and acquaintances without the faintest shade of a second, more “intimate” sense. On the other hand we would never use “dear” to start a business letter.Having said that, do as Romans do, so NNSs must be aware of such cultural differences and use terms appropriately to avoid possible misunderstandings.
    – user 66974
    Jan 9, 2020 at 7:40
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    British English has a host of such words, dear, love, duck, chuck, as well as less-dear terms like mate, pal, bro, guv. None are appropriate in written discourse, and even conversation has unwritten rules. Far best avoided.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Jan 20, 2020 at 17:38

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