An ode to Tannie Emsie

emsieThere has been much dinner table conversation in our house about manners lately (oh, who am I kidding, we are ALWAYS on about manners).  I got sick of whining about elbows off the table/don’t wipe your hands on your clothes/eat with your mouth closed/don’t talk with your mouth full of food/sit up straight, so we made it into a game.

The game is called: what would a Princess/Prince do.  It wasn’t on purpose, but it’s been fun.  Although it does get a little out of hand with helpful suggestions like “Princesses don’t fart at the table” and “Princesses never burp out loud, especially not in front of strangers” and “Princesses don’t scratch in their noses AND eat their snot”.

All this talk of manners reminded me of Emsie Schoeman, that old stalwart of Good Afrikaans Manners.  Who remembers her?  My Mother used to terrorise us with Tannie Emsie.  We had her book, it was required reading in our house and heaven help you if you stepped out of line and broke the Rules of Life According to Tannie Emsie.

Tannie Emsie is the Afrikaans equivalent of Emily Post (thank you Vanessa!) and if you don’t know who Emily Post is, well, you’re on your own.

At this point in my life I’m not complaining about Tannie Emsie as hopefully some of it stuck, but I came across this gem from Sarie magazine that was published in 2009.  I apologise, it is in Afrikaans, I’m not even going to attempt to translate it (that’s what Google Translate is for), but it is truly special and truly Afrikaans. I see she is even on twitter!

In a nutshell, a lady doesn’t put lipstick on in public, always ALWAYS take something for your hostess if you are going to her house and always remember to thank her afterwards (something I often forget to do, especially with really good friends).  And here I thought it was part of my OCD, not ever wanting to arrive empty-handed at someone’s house.

Right at the bottom of the Sarie link there’s a question about “Oom” (Uncle) and “Tannie” (Aunty) and the varying opinions on whether you make your kids say “Oom” and “Tannie”.  I know many people hate it when other people’s children call them this and prefer to be called by their first names, but man, it goes against my grain to make my kids call an adult by their first name.  I’m getting over it, but it’s really awkward and I find myself avoiding the use of that adult’s name when there’s an interaction between them and one of our kids.  It’s almost a “Er, sê dankie mumblemumble vir die roomys” and I would usher the child away quickly lest I embarrass someone and the dreaded Oom/Tannie slips out.

On the topic of Tannie/Oom, I found this little gem too.  I may or may not have done some ill-mannered snorting at the You-Tube clip.

What do make your kids call other adults that aren’t related to you or really good friends of yours?

What were the things that your parents were really hectic about when it came to manners? 

Ps: I also seem to spending an inordinate amount of time discussing things that don’t belong in pants.  For example:

“Daniel, take the Bushbaby out of your pants”

“But Mom! I like the bush down there”

and another one of my favourites:

“Daniel, take the Angry Birds (soft toy) out of your pants!”

“But Mom!  I like having a bird down there!”

I couldn’t make this stuff up, not even if I tried.

PPS: Tannie Emsie is apparently very much alive and well and living in Wilderness and entertaining Nataniël on a regular basis.

7 thoughts on “An ode to Tannie Emsie”

  1. We have this problem with “oom” and “tannie”… I believe older people must be called “oom” or “tannie”, but now no one wants to be called “oom” and “tannie” anymore. My kids are also as confused as can be about this. Like my brother and his wife are called by their nicknames same for my cousins. Now that have to call their friends moms and dads “oom” and “tannie” the same with my aunts and uncles. It’s confusing and can cause for very strange situations. Like Lee-Anne’s teacher and Shaun’s teacher was the moms of 2 of my class mates. Always they were “tannie” and now they want to be called by their name since they are my kids’ teachers. Weird, confusing and very unomfortable at times. Same with our aerobics trainer and neighbors (we are the youngest in our neighbourhood) which were our neighbours when I grew up (living 5houses from my childhood home). They were “oom” and “tannie” and now they want to be called by their names. It’s uncomfotable.

  2. My kids call every adult “aunty” and “uncle.” They call cashiers, petrol attendants, and the man who works in our garden “uncle” and “aunty” for the females. They call our helper Gogo because well she looks like a Gogo even though she is only 51! I’ve explained that we do this as a sign of respect and they aren’t reaaalllly our family, so they understand. I haven’t been meet with any irritation from the older folk and everyone thinks its most polite of my kids 🙂 We grew up like this and I’ll continue this trend whether it is cool or not.

  3. Ja, ne, dit was nou lekker! Tannie Emsie inderdaad.
    I don’t mind being called Margot or Auntie Margot with a slight preference for just Margot. Or just Auntie. I don’t know why. Some little kids call me “Margot” so sweetly, others are insolent. So I think it depends on the child and my relationship to them – maybe I would forgive the unruly ones a bit faster if they called me Auntie or Tannie.
    En as dit ‘n Afrikaanse kind is, is ek gewoonlik Tannie, en ek verstaan dit en aanvaar dit so, ek geniet dit selfs ‘n bietjie. I get that it’s a thing. Other cultures obviously also have strict rules but in the multiracial playschool I see the kids get confused – why is this one just X here at school when at home she would be Auntie X.
    Err on the side of caution and conservatism, I reckon.
    Funny story: We had visitors, two male partners, and Sean accidentally told Felix to “say hallo to Uncle and Auntie . Completely out of habit. Facepalm.

  4. I thought I didn’t mind being called by my name by small children,until a few did and I cringed….so it’s Aunty.
    My kids call most adults Aunty or Uncle or Mr and Mrs…depending on if they know them well.
    Love manners and having grownup with my maternal grandmother living with us,manners were enforced,especially table manners.
    We hopefully have managed to teach our kids good manners.
    Think your kiddies have lovely manners for their ages

  5. Dankie vir die lekker onthou. By die sendingstasie wat ons 15 jaar terug begin het is ek en my man Oom en Tannie vir almal…maak nie saak of hulle ouers as ons is nie. Dit het my gepla 15 jaar terug toe ek nog nie 40 was nie en ou mense van 70 het my tannie genoem. Nou is ek regtig nie gepla nie, ek aanvaar maar dat dit deel van hul toon van respek is. My kinders en kleinkinders oom en tannie lustig voort soos die meeste Afrikaanse kinders.

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