Earlier this week I received a fundraising email whose salutation was “Look,” which seemed just a little … testy. But what do I know; I was schooled in the “Dear Sir or Madam” era. It made me wonder which forms of address are acceptable in 2021, which are a little edgy, and which are too quaint to be taken seriously.
“Dear ___,” it goes without saying, now falls into the third category—in correspondence, anyway. When traveling grammar advisor Ellen Jovin conducted a Twitter poll last year, the “Dear ___” salutation received zero votes.
What percentage of your work emails begin with the word "Dear"?— Ellen is at the Grammar Table (@GrammarTable) October 10, 2020
Click through to see additional polls.
In the titles of books, movies, and plays, though, “Dear” practically de rigueur. Maybe it’s ironic. Maybe it’s nostalgic. But there’s no denying it’s popular.
I last wrote about the “Dear X” trend in March 2018, and since then it’s shown no signs of fading away. This week, for example, a new show called Dear San Francisco: A High-Flying Love Story opened at Club Fugazi in North Beach, where Beach Blanket Babylon played for approximately 679 years*. It’s billed as “an acrobatic love letter to San Francisco,” and I plan to see it as soon as I can find a performance that isn’t sold out. Live theater is back!
But it’s not just Dear San Francisco. Here are some of the other Dears I’ve spotted in the last three and a half years.
The musical Dear Evan Hansen won a bunch of Tony awards in 2017, and the movie adaptation opens this week, with star Ben Platt, who turns 28 on September 24, still playing a teenager. When the movie was screened at the Toronto Film Festival it got mixed reviews.
The Russian film Dear Comrades! had a very limited theatrical release in December 2020 and began streaming, with little fanfare, in January 2021. (You can find it on multiple streaming services, including Kanopy, the free public-library service.) Synopsis: “When the communist government raises food prices in 1962, the rebellious workers from the small industrial town of Novocherkassk go on strike. The massacre which then ensues is seen through the eyes of a devout party activist.”
The English title is a direct translation of the Russian Dorogie Tovarischi. “Dorogie” (Дорогие) has the same dual meaning as English—“beloved” and “expensive”—so it would seem that the words are cognates with a common ancestor.
It’s been a dear year for publishing, too.
- Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets, & Advice for Living Your Best Life, by the comedian Ali Wong (October 2020).
- Dear White Peacemakers: Dismantling Racism with Grit and Grace, by Osneta Moore (May 2021). Not to be confused with the film, book, or TV series Dear White People.
- Dear America: Live Like It’s 9/12, by Graham Allen, “one of the top 50 conservative voices in America” (August 2021), Not to be confused with Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen, by Jose Antonio Vargas (2018), or with the Dear America series for young adults (1996–2014).
- Dear Santa, a holiday romance for grownups by Debbie Macomber (October 2021). An unrelated Dear Santa movie was released in 2020; it’s a documentary about children’s letters to Santa Claus.
And that, dear reader, is my trend report for the week.
UPDATE: Here’s a dear that’s actually in the headlights. Reader Dan Freiberg alerted me to Toyota’s “Dear ___” ad campaign, which has been running since at least 2019. The mock-epistolary installments include “Dear Drivers,” “Dear Freedom,” “Dear Winter,” “Dear Night Owls,” and others, all written in a chatty direct-address voice.
UPDATE 2: Dear Frances is a brand of high-end, Italian-made women’s shoes founded by Jane Frances. The line launched in the UK in 2014 and in the US in 2016.
* Fact check: It was 45 years.