Thursday, 4 September 2008

The Peter Pan syndrome

A recent article in a UK newspaper reported that Japanese society was getting more and more infantilised, as evidenced by the increasingly trivial calls received by the emergency service hotlines – dumb things like, ‘Help! Police! Quick, I can’t stop my ice-cream melting.’ Or – more surrealistically, ‘I think there may be something on my head.’

The UK emergency services get silly calls like that too, although perhaps not in such huge numbers, yet there is another sign here that we are getting just as infantilised as the Japanese: it’s the way everyone has started referring to their parents as ‘mum’ and ‘dad’, in formal situations – regardless of how old they are. It’s bad enough when it comes up in conversation, but when a reporter says it on the radio or the television it sounds inane. I’ve even heard a journalist talk about some murdered child’s ‘nan’! Is it supposed to make us feel closer to the family? Are we not capable of feeling compassion towards people we don’t know unless they are called by those familiar, childish names?

Everyone gets the treatment – a serious actress is described thus in the current issue of the Radio Times: ‘Mum-of-three Geraldine Somerville....’ Ugh!

Very soon, we too will be calling 999 and saying, like those Japanese, ‘I need you to give me a morning wake-up call tomorrow!’



  1. I think it's a class thing, and in the BBC is demagogy (and therefore patronising).

    My father came to visit me at work once. I was 26 and head of a department of four. I introduced him to my power-suited, Oxford-educated female boss. 'This is my father,' I said. He hit me on the arm and, grinning at my boss conspiratorially and shaking his head at me, said in mock outrage, 'Stop showing off. I'm not your 'father', I'm your DAD.'

  2. I'm so sorry for this very late answer.

    I looks like no one else is bothered by this, doesn't it? Oh well...


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