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BEIJING (Reuters) - China's bus drivers and ticket sellers have been urged to leave communism behind, with a new training manual instructing them to call travellers "sir" or "madam" instead of "comrade," state media reported on Monday.
Older Beijingers, a few of whom still wear "Mao suits" that were once a virtual uniform for China's hundreds of millions of citizens, will be exempt from the new ruling.
"Old comrade" is listed as the final possible choice of address for elderly travellers, but it comes after "elder master" and "elder sir," the Beijing Youth Daily reported.
A newly released manual for Beijing bus staff suggests forms of address ranging from "student" to the plain "passenger" for younger travellers, for whom comrade has a different gloss, as a slang term for gay.
"Using 'comrade' as a form of address is not suited to an appropriately targeted service standard," the paper quoted an official from the Beijing Public Transport Co saying.
China's communists picked up the habit of calling each other comrade from the Soviet Union, as it was considered a more egalitarian, friendly form of address than traditional titles.
At one point, it was virtually obligatory, and leaders still use the word frequently in speeches and letters.
Reporting by Huang Yan and Emma Graham-Harrison; Editing by Ken Wills