On honorifics

Unless you have a doctorate, honorifics are easy if you’re a dude. It’s “Mr.” in all circumstances.

For the rest of us, not so much. I get Mrs., Miss, and Ms. Simpson in probably about equal numbers.

Even if you actually know me, it’s complicated. I’m not Miss Simpson because I’m married, and I’m not Mrs. Simpson because my husband’s name is Brodbeck, and I’m not Mrs. Brodbeck because MY last name is Simpson.

I think the only really correct way to refer to me, if you’re going to go down that road, is Ms. Simpson. But feel free to just call me Dana.

Also, I’m always surprised how many people didn’t learn this in school like I did, but if you don’t know a woman’s marital status, or even if you do, Ms. is generally the safe choice.

  14 comments for “On honorifics

  1. Jeffrey Hope
    February 4, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    Who uses “Mrs.” in speech anymore anyway?

    • dana
      February 4, 2012 at 7:53 pm

      You’d be surprised.

    • Mataata
      February 4, 2012 at 8:05 pm

      I usually use it out of respect if I know someone’s marital status.

    • orv
      February 5, 2012 at 10:56 am

      I haven’t called anyone “Mrs” since high school, to be honest…in fact, a few adults who I knew as “Mrs. So-and-so” in school insisted I start calling them by their first names after I graduated. (A surprisingly difficult adjustment!) In college it was generally “Professor So-and-so” or “Doctor So-and-so” so it didn’t come up much.

  2. February 4, 2012 at 9:27 pm

    I usually consider “Mrs Hisname” as a title, used by people who don’t know my real name. I get that occasionally socially, though I go by “Ms Myname” professionally and the children are “X & Y Hisname” There is one place I could find online where I’m referred to by the wrong name — as a survivor on the Mother-in-law’s obituary.

  3. King Ploobis
    February 5, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    Does “Rain” still count, or have you dropped that monicker?

    • Dana
      February 5, 2012 at 4:51 pm

      I still answer to it. 🙂 I almost took it as a legal middle name, but decided not to mess with my existing initials.

      • King Ploobis
        February 5, 2012 at 5:13 pm

        Oh good… I’ve always liked that name.

  4. BunnyHugger
    February 5, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    I get called Mrs. constantly by students, which drives me crazy since to them I should be Prof., and even outside class I am Dr. And, besides that, the polite thing to call a woman if you don’t know her preference is Ms. I have to disagree strongly with Mataata on that point.

    • Dana
      February 5, 2012 at 5:32 pm

      Agreed. Even if calling me “Mrs.” made any logical sense, I’d still feel old being addressed that way.

    • Mataata
      February 6, 2012 at 5:29 pm

      Oh, so people don’t actually like it? Noted.

      • Dana
        February 6, 2012 at 5:43 pm

        It’s definitely a matter of individual preference. Which is the problem in the first place. 🙂

  5. David Feuer
    February 13, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    Mrs is best reserved for people who explicitly request it.

  6. Wanderer
    April 14, 2012 at 10:02 am

    Keep in mind that “Mrs.” was, for a long time, a term of respect for a woman, while “Miss” was used for young girls. (Similar to the difference between “Madame” and “Mademoiselle” in French.) “Ms.” was revived in the Twentieth Century after having doed in the 17th, specifically to be used as a generic; because of that, it can be hard for people raised with the more traditional titles of “Miss” and “Mrs.” to place.

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