Honorifics

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Stu
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Honorifics

Post by Stu »

One of my Scandinavian students recently told me that honorific titles are now dead in Sweden - they are never used. I know that's not entirely true because I occasionally receive emails from students and sometimes they are addressed to me with Mr or Dr and my last name rather than my first name (even though I tell them to use my first name). However, it did come as a shock when I found that everybody, strangers included, default to first names in Sweden and Denmark and without being invited. My doctor would give his/her first name and shake hands on meeting and assume he or she could use my first name. The same applied to my optician, dentist, child's teacher, even bank staff serving me. This does not normally happen in the UK and I have experienced it doesn't in other English-speaking countries either. I am more comfortable with titles and last names with people I don't know, while allowing some leeway to people such as new neighbours and colleagues. I was recently asked by an ultrasound person before an examination at the hospital how I would like to be addressed and I said by my title and surname. She looked mildly surprised, but respected that. I noticed she wore a name badge which showed only her first name. Maybe I am getting old and things are changing, but I wondered what do others think.
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crfriend
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Re: Honorifics

Post by crfriend »

Well, none of us are getting any younger, and, like Stu, I find honourifics and titles a comforting reminder of a gentler more civilised past. Perhaps I'm just a throwback, but I also find the formality a polite way to keep folks I don't know very well at arm's length -- which can be handy.

I use first names for close acquaintances and friends, but frequently not strangers. Likewise, also refuse to use nicknames for folks that aren't very close in.
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Dust
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Re: Honorifics

Post by Dust »

When I was a kid, it was always Mr. or Mrs. last name for adults. I did a brief summer camp thing with some Quakers who had the kids refer to adults by first name, and I found it uncomfortable.

In college it was always "Prof" or professor last name. One particularly friendly and approachable professor was occasionally dubbed "papa" last name, but not generally to his face, though it was a genuine term of endearment. I'm fairly confident he was aware of it, and didn't mind.

When I became an adult, getting used to calling people old enough to be my parents by their first names took some getting used to. I still use the more formal in communication until they indicate something else is okay, such as by signing an email with just their first name (but generally don't directly ask).

Now I see a lot of parents having their kids refer to adults as Mr. or Mrs. first name. Also their parents' close friends often get an honorary aunt or uncle title despite not actually being related.
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Re: Honorifics

Post by moonshadow »

As a low end retail worker turned grease monkey, professionally my name tags and shirt embroidery always featured my first name only, even to this day. However over the years I have at the very least gravitated those tags to my actual legal first name, "Andrew", rather than the childhood "Andy" that I would rather reserve for family (including Jenn) ONLY. (even among friends I prefer to be called Andrew)

I have somewhat of an odd last name, people have a hard time pronouncing it and frankly, it sounds dirty, so I generally go easy on folks who, while they may know my first and last, resort to calling me by my first name.

As for my habit, if the last name is known, I will generally try to call people by their last name just out of respect, especially professionally. Though I have to admit, people that I tend to know "well" such as my boss, and the branch manager, I, like pretty much everyone else in the department call them by their first name. Usually when a position gets into regional ranking (like my branch manager's boss), I'd likely call them by their last name [0].

One time during my old job, I happened upon the C.E.O of Food City (the boss, the man who signs the paychecks of the people who signed mine, the big shot, top dawg, you get the picture). He gave me the usual two minute casual chat that you might expect with such an engagement, he shook my hand and thanked me for my hard work (this was pre-covid when you were allowed to shake hands... I miss that).

If you're wondering if I called him "Mr. Smith"...?

..you betcha.

[0] Well Coder, I guess I finally found a use for that gender neutral term "them/they/theirs". :wink:
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Re: Honorifics

Post by Coder »

moonshadow wrote:
Sat Nov 20, 2021 4:22 pm
[0] Well Coder, I guess I finally found a use for that gender neutral term "them/they/theirs". :wink:
:D

Coworkers I use first name - professors I always refer to as "Professor Last Name" in email, except for one I was emailing back and forth with and he asked that I call him by his first name. Maybe I think they are "above me", or perhaps I just respect their official title, not sure which. In any case, family members get their role "Aunt/Uncle." prepended to their first name... although cousins I call just by their first name as they are at my level.
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Re: Honorifics

Post by Jim »

Based on "mister" being from "master" and Jesus telling his followers to call no one on earth "master", I do not use "mister" if I can help it and prefer not to use it for others. I'm just "Jim", or "James" when they insist in places like medical settings.
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Re: Honorifics

Post by Sinned »

School times, Primary and Grammar, teachers were Mr/MIiss/Mrs Lastname. During work it has always pretty much been firstnames. I think that during University it was firstnames. Titles such as Dr or Prof became a bit unwieldy and too formal when the teaching and research staff have them. Present employment is all first names even with the Directors. My name badge says Dennis and I occasionally get called that by a customer.
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Re: Honorifics

Post by crfriend »

Jim wrote:
Sat Nov 20, 2021 7:27 pm
Based on "mister" being from "master" and Jesus telling his followers to call no one on earth "master", I do not use "mister" if I can help it and prefer not to use it for others.
Interestingly, in very old-school usage, "Master" was used as the honourific for a juvenile male, as "Mistress" (hence, "Miss") was for a female. Once adulthood was obtained, the title for a male transitioned to "Mister", yet it was marriage that determined the switch for females. Unfair, yes, but it is what it is, largely the same as "Monsieur", "Madame", and "Mademoiselle" in French. Even in German, "Herr", "Frau" [0], and "Fräulein".

Every so often somebody will approach me and call me "Mr. Friend", and my usual response is to look around for a moment and comment, "That's my father, and he's been dead for more than a decade". On very rare occasions, I've been addressed as "Dr. Friend" which has elicited similar reactions (but I'm flattered by it nonetheless).


[0] E.g. Frau Blucher [3] [1] [4]
[1] Horses whinny
[2] This space intentionally left blank
[3] You know you're getting old when Cloris Leachman's character is more attractive than Terri Garr's.
[4] Dammit, where's an umlaut when you need one!
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rode_kater
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Re: Honorifics

Post by rode_kater »

Interestingly, the honorifics have been going away here in NL too, since about the 80's. If you look at the history of honorifics they're fairly weird. The current "jij" used to be the polite form but became the normal form when the previous impolite form "du" fell out of use (apparently the same thing happened with thou in english). At some point a new "polite" form was invented "u" but now that's falling out of use again.

I remember referring to teachers as Mr/Mrs X from school in Australia but here in NL first name basis is normal. Which suits me fine, I have a hard enough time remembering first names, the surnames would be even more difficult, they get quite unwieldy with the double names. I don't see the problem referring to the CEO by first name, we don't have an aristocracy and we don't need to invent one.
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Re: Honorifics

Post by denimini »

Not many honorifics are used around my neck of the woods. Teachers are the exception but the suffix is their first name as in Miss Sarah or the Principal is called Mr Greg.
Few people insist on it; a new priest visited town and was welcomed in a friendly manner using his Christian name (seems appropriate). He replied:
"Please call me Father, I didn't spend 4 years at a seminary just to be called Jeff"
The welcomer was quick in responding: "Yes, call me father too, I didn't have 4 kids just to be called Chris".
Older people are addressed as Uncle or Aunty as a mark of respect, rather than Mr or Mrs.
Most doctors introduce themselves by their first name.
I address people as they wish to be, most using first names or nicknames.
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Re: Honorifics

Post by Bodycon »

We have the remains of the feudal system in the UK, so have all sorts of titles (or entitlements) some of which are hereditary, though most are now purchased with a donation to the Conservative party ( the term Government would imply a degree of competence, so is avoided). Through wars and revolutions most of the world has done away with archaic and corrupt honours systems but we hang on, as, apparently, the tourists like it. It may have served a purpose in the past (a thousand or so years ago) before governments were properly formed, but now needs to be scrapped. As for the Royals (the pinnacle of feudal regimes), once the current generation dies out, they should become normal citizens, take their personal wealth and live like everyone else.

I always use first names, but happy enough with Mr, Mrs etc. if I don't know their first name yet. I don't use letters after my name either. I will call no-one Sir and correct anyone who addresses me that way. Never bow to anyone (apart from mutual bowing with Japanese people, where it is a common courtesy and not a submittal). Not sure how I would address a judge, but hopefully I'll never need to find out.....

I think that the Americans have stolen the term Esquire from medieval French and now use it for Lawyers, I wonder how that came about?
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Re: Honorifics

Post by Dust »

Bodycon wrote:
Mon Nov 22, 2021 10:48 am
I think that the Americans have stolen the term Esquire from medieval French and now use it for Lawyers, I wonder how that came about?
Americans borrow a lot of foreign language terms and incorporate them into English. It's part of the "melting pot" thing of America. So many people from all over the world, each having a little bit of impact on the culture...
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Re: Honorifics

Post by Bodycon »

Dust wrote:
Mon Nov 22, 2021 12:05 pm
Americans borrow a lot of foreign language terms and incorporate them into English. It's part of the "melting pot" thing of America. So many people from all over the world, each having a little bit of impact on the culture...
Yea, I get that; what I was wondering was how an ancient term for an Apprentice Knight metamorphosed into a term for a lawyer, who, when and why?

The term itself was in use in the English language long before Americans (as we know them) were Americans and spoke English, but the use for lawyers is I believe only fairly recent.
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Re: Honorifics

Post by Kirbstone »

In our Practice the clientelle/patients/victims are all so high up the Social ladder that we address them as 'Your Grace', Your Eminence', Your Lordship, Your Majesty', 'Your Holiness', You're late' &c.

Tom
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Re: Honorifics

Post by Sinned »

Tom, do you bow your head and tug your forelock ( assuming you have one )? Or do you do the full bow sweeping your left arm from on high across your body to lower right? Or is it the right arm? Never sure.
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