English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I have an online friend (here on StackExchange) and I happen to know that he is significantly "more experienced", he's a professor while I'm a student, and his contribution here is larger than mine. Still, we surely consider each other friends, we treat each other equally, make jokes on each other etc. Is it ok to call such a person "pal" in the chat, like:

Thanks a lot, pal!

Or is this word too impolite in this case? And would there be a good substitute for this situation?

share|improve this question

closed as not constructive by Kristina Lopez, tchrist, FumbleFingers, RegDwigнt Mar 5 '13 at 12:09

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

I suspect that the answer will depend on your friend and on your friendship, and the circumstances of your exchange. Some people always prefer to maintain their distance, and would be uncomfortable being called pal, buddy, mate, dude, bro, or other terms of familiarity by one who is a friend, but professionally very junior or senior. Others will be uncomfortable if you do not use those terms of familiarity when you do with others, especially in informal settings. But I also suspect this question will be deemed off-topic for this site. – choster Mar 4 '13 at 18:44
Though likely off-topic (pls review FAQs - english.stackexchange.com/faq) I'd suggest avoiding casual titles in written form (such as in a chat) for a couple of reasons. The presumption of too much familiarity might be off-putting, though as @choster suggested, that is up to the people involved to decide, but the other reason is that certain titles could have a connotation that can be unintentionally offensive or misconstrued. Your example, "Thanks a lot, Pal!" is actually used sarcastically - hopefully humorously but you never know how it will be taken. – Kristina Lopez Mar 4 '13 at 19:00
@KristinaLopez I have read the FAQ. The first point of "welcomed" reads: Word choice and usage, and one of the "don't ask" mentioned there fits to this question. So it might be off-topic, but not because of the topics listed in the FAQ. Or have I missed something? – yo' Mar 4 '13 at 19:07
I'm going by whether or not the question can be answered definitively or authoritatively or would result in ensuing differences of opinion. Though you're right - that is not spelled out word-for-word in the FAQs. The good news about this site is that even when a question is off-topic, there are many community members that will take a moment to make a comment that will hopefully help the OP, as @choster and I have done here. – Kristina Lopez Mar 4 '13 at 19:14
@tohecz: The FAQ isn't crystal clear about everything; it's not unusual for a newcomer to ask a question that seems within boudaries, but the community doesn't view it quite the same way. I think your question is interesting and well-written, so, even if it does get closed, take heart in the helpful responses you are getting. – J.R. Mar 4 '13 at 19:16
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Whenever I call a certain friend of mine on the phone, I usually say, "Hey, Chuck, this is Don," and he says, "Hey, good buddy!" To me, his use of the word good with buddy--not to mention the pleasant tone of his voice-- makes all the difference to me, as it may with your online friend. I cannot say the same, however, about "good pal," "good bro'," "good mate," or "good dude." I don't know, they just don't sound right!

By the way, the nonverbal aspects of spoken communication, such as tone of voice, do not "translate" so well in written communication. This may sound patently obvious, but it's still worth considering when that little voice inside of you gives you pause, and you ask yourself, "Should I use this expression or not?" It sounds to me as if you might have some doubts about using the expression "Thanks a lot, pal!" with your online friend. In spoken communication I've heard that locution used in an ironic, even sarcastic, tone too many times for it to sound--to me, anyway--perfectly innocent or friendly in written communication.

share|improve this answer

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.