Nicholas Bodley wrote:
> [Basic question here: We in the USA are very informal, and
> immediately use a person's first name as soon as we learn it.
> Such easy informality could be very impolite in traditional
> European society.

Indeed! In traditional European society, should you dare address a gentleman
in a villainous way, he would challenge you to dismount from your horse and
unsheathe your sword... Unless the felon is an American and/or does not bear
a sword, in which case the gentleman would show his magnanimity by just
having him whipped by his servant. :-)

Seriously speaking, as modern devilries such as rock'n'roll, electricity and
blue jeans are making their ways also to our remote European lands, we too
have developed this habit of addressing each other by first name only (and
the confidential form of "you", in languages having this distinction),
including in situations such as business meetings, which would have required
more formal forms of address just a generation ago.

Addressing by first name and/or confidential "you" is definitely the norm on
European newsgroups and mailing lists. Only in a couple of French newsgroups
I have seen posters addressing each other with "vous", but I had the
impression that that habit was initially a joke, which then developed into a
distinguishing buzzword of those newsgroups.

> (Remember the "nonexistent 'Pete'", of recent notoriety?

Well, but AFAIK the "nonexistent 'Pete'" is an American guy. So I guess he'd
rather settle the matter by drawing his colts and shooting dead the felon in
the town's saloon, as usual in traditional American society. :-)

Sir Marco, Esq.