Service of Honorifics II—Yea or Nay?

May 23rd, 2024

Categories: Charity, Honorific

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 outdated?”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.?

8 Responses to “Service of Honorifics II—Yea or Nay?”

  1. ASK Said:

    I’m not bothered by titles on unsolicited address labels unless they carry my late husband’s name as he has not been with us since 2014! And while this is not particularly PC, I do giggle a bit at “Mx” … shorthand for “mixed”?

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Ha ha ASK,

    My husband, gone five years now, receives no address labels. However, he does get warnings from hackers, threatening to do him legal and financial harm for not paying his college loans.

    I’ve never seen the gender neutral Mx used. Maybe some think it is short for mixed!

  3. Martha Takayama Said:

    I share your sentiments completely. I am happy to be acknowledged and receive communication. Furthermore, given all the overwhelming disastrous events transpiring everywhere, such as wars, prejudice, criminal politicians, mass shootings, tornadoes and floods of heretofore unknown proportions, mass starvation in different parts of the globe just to name a few, it seems at best incredibly superficial or trivial to be focusing on honorifics or lack thereof!

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Martha,

    I remember when honorifics were still important, to me at least. It was 100 years ago, my first job out of college. One of the employees who had been at the company for decades may have been in his 50s but to me, he could have been 80. I was told to call him by his first name. I could not do it. Once married and living in North Dakota as an Air Force wife, we became friendly with a local family. Their children were both older than I was and younger. I could not bring myself to call the parents by their first names. They were Mr. and Mrs. McNabb.

    Most of the door staff at my apartment building call me Jeanne, Jeanne Marie and one, new to the job and middle aged, calls me Miss Jeanne. I’m amazed when anyone remembers my name–especially in a place with 510 apartments.

  5. Martha T Takayama Said:

    I never heard of Mx. What does it signify?

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Martha,

    I’ve never seen it used either. It’s a gender-neutral honorific for people who don’t want to identify their gender for whatever reason.

  7. Lucrezia Said:

    I’d as soon scrap titles in addresses, but they’re needed in salutations. The “Dear Elizabeth Baecher:” is clumsy, and the “Dear Mr./Mrs./Ms./ etc. is sorely needed.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    Some people write “Hello there,” which is like mail addressed to CURRENT RESIDENT that makes it into the garbage as soon as I open my apartment door.

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