A couple of days ago, Barack Obama went on a textile factory tour in Allentown, Pennsylvania (where, more than 200 years after the Industrial Revolution, most of the low-level employees are still women). The Democratic presidential candidate shook hands and, by many accounts, nearly charmed the pants off of half the employees. One thing he also did: he called one of those female employees "sweetie."
Pretty much everyone ignored that, until Bonnie Erbe at U.S. News & World Report pointed out that using the word "sweetie" is just ever-so-slightly offensive. As an Northeastern girl now living on the border of the South, I cringe when people call me "sweetie" — but I know women who don't mind at all. Is it a regional thing? Or is it just always an obnoxious diminutive? And why did it take two days for anyone to notice?