Dialect confusion

I am on the online reference chat service we subscribe to, helping a patron with a question.

Patron: (asks question, quite politely if slightly incoherently at first)

Me: (answers question, equally politely)

Patron: “Ok thank you very much bitch.” (signs off)

Me: (blink, blink, blink)

Is there any regional variant of English in which “bitch” is a reasonable term of address for a person you have never met, in a vaguely formal situation? I’ve dealt with rude patrons before, and it doesn’t especially bother me, but the insult after the perfectly polite and more or less standard-English question was just perplexing.


4 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    tirerim said,

    I’m pretty sure not. Is it possible that the person was not a native English speaker? Or that your reply could have been misinterpreted as being rude?

  2. 2

    limesarah said,

    Either of those is possible. I did correct their assumption about a literary device they had to study, which might have annoyed them, but I’d thought that was why they were asking the helpful reference chat.

  3. 3

    Jillian said,

    I don’t believe there’s any dialect in which they were not insulting you. I suspect, though, that it’s a really good example of why we can’t lose all face-to-face contact — you would’ve figured it out and defused the hostility face-to-face, and it’s much harder to just insult someone and sign off in real life.

  4. 4

    limesarah said,

    Yeah, that’s kind of what I thought…

    Online reference chat in general is *hard* — you can’t show the other person what you’re doing, and it takes forever to figure out their actual question if they’re a slow typer. But it’s really the best solution for getting help at weird hours or if students are at home and can’t get to the library easily.

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