Archive for the ‘Honorific’ Category

Service of Honorifics II—Yea or Nay?

Thursday, May 23rd, 2024

A friend, we’ll call her Hortense, [all names in the post are pseudonyms], texted this objection recently. “As I’m shredding unwanted mail, I thought about your blog in which you write about charities sending unwanted solicitations! 

“I hate when they send me return labels, printed with Ms. Hortense Crabtree. If they had any idea who I was they would address me as Hortense or Horty Crabtree—skip the honorific!

“Now that younger people choose their pronouns…he, she, they, them…how do we still address mail to Ms., Mr., and Mrs. or Mx.? …Is it offensive to assume gender? Is the Ms. Mr. Mrs. or Mx. outdated?” [I covered a different aspect of honorifics in February.]

She continued, “My married name was Fredrick and I identified as Horty Fredrick,” she wrote. “I hated it when someone would call me Mrs. Fredrick (that wasn’t even my mother-in-law’s name, it was the father- in-law’s second wife’s name!) Now that I’m Hortense Crabtree again, I hate even more when I’m referred to as Mrs. Crabtree…that’s my mother!”

I admire Hortense’s sensitivity; however, I don’t care.

Maybe it’s because I’m in PR. I’m happy when someone communicates with me—I don’t even care if they get my name wrong if the email address is right and I get a reporter or producer’s request for images or information because they are planning to write an article or produce a program that includes my client. Or maybe because I’ve lived through a formal period where most everyone was Mr. and Mrs. and then, suddenly, everyone was called by their first names, I’m inured to the options.

I wonder if in French speaking countries they just say “Bonjour” these days where the custom was to greet customers in the morning, for example, with “Bonjour Monsieur,” “Bonjour Madame” or “Bonjour Mademoiselle.”

I looked through a fat stack of return address labels from charities and sure enough: Most of my labels use Ms. and very few—the New York Public Library for example–launch directly into Jeanne [photo above]. In some I’m Jeanne Byington, in others Jeanne-Marie Byington. What’s important to me is that the apartment and building numbers are accurate—the zip code too.

Where do you stand? Are you bothered if you are called by either Ms., Mr. and Mrs. or Mx.?

Service of Honorifics

Monday, February 26th, 2024

Dog Aging Project Chief Veterinary Officer Kate Creevy, DVM, is looking for people to contribute to valuable research into prolonging dogs’ lives by signing them up. Super Pet Expo visitors at the New Jersey Convention Center, Edison, March 1-3, can see presentations by Dr. Creevy who will share highlights of preliminary findings based on 47,000 four legged participants. Her goal: 100,000.

I’m a huge “All Creatures Great and Small” fan as I’ve mentioned here before. I read all the books when they came out and devoured the first TV series in the late 1970s. When this season’s last episode of the current production ended, I thought about what good friends the housekeeper Mrs. Hall and vet Mr. Farnon are and how, after all they have been through together, they maintain the formalities of addressing one another as Mrs. and Mr.–true to the period. The series takes place in the mid-1930s.

After decades living across the hall my parents’ next-door neighbor remained Mr. Schechter and my father Mr. Reiss. At the time, I wondered about it. Everyone called Mr. Schechter’s wife Missy, the name I’d given her when small in my attempt to pronounce Mrs. Schechter.

I called my parents’ friends Ellie and Ed, Alice and Larry, Alice and Charles, etc. My youngest aunt eventually succeeded in prying me away from calling her Aunt.

At my first job out of college at Dun & Bradstreet there was a clerk who was much older than any of us or our bosses. We called our bosses by their first names but I could not bring myself to call him by his although I was told it was OK. He had gray hair.

In North Dakota where I lived as an Air Force wife, I became close to a local family. I was in my early 20s. I never called Mr. McNabb anything else although others did. He owned a secondhand furniture shop. He was my parents’ age.

My mother was called Mrs. Reiss by most and she corrected nurses who’d call her Ruth.  

I suspect most doctors like to be called “Dr. XYZ,” and not Sally or Sam.

I’m still in touch with students I mentored years ago. One, now a father of two with a prestigious job, still calls me Ms. Byington.

Door staff at my apartment call me Jeanne or Jeanne-Marie [!]; porters and maintenance men greet me with ma’am or just say “hello” or “how are you?” and smile.

I scheduled interviews with students recently and signed the email Jeanne Byington. “Hello Jeanne Byington,” and “Hi Ms. Byington” was how two of the students responded. A high school senior dodged the issue and wrote “Good evening!”

The countless fundraising letters I get dive right in with my full name minus honorific.

Do you care if someone calls you by your first name? Do you prefer Ms., Mrs., Mr. or Mx?

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