Thursday, June 02, 2005

They Call Me Mr. Tibbs

One of the reviews for a 1959 film called The Best of Everything has the following memory of 1959 office life:

"I was married then and remember being addressed as "Mrs." by my boss, even
though I was only 19 years old."

Well why not? And what does being only 19 have to do with it? Married is married, and once upon a time we had the idea that even very young married people were adults.

But I don't mean to snipe at the reviewer. What I dislike is the fact that we don't still call people Mr., Mrs., or Miss. Who decided that this was to be a first name only society? I don't remember being asked to vote on it. And I would have voted nay if I had been.

Honorifics convey respect for the other person. We once cared about showing respect and called most other people by their last name and an honorific. Nowadays every workplace has its employees on first name basis, whether they want to be or not. In the past, college students and even some high school students were addressed as Mr. and Miss in class; nowadays it's not unheard of for the students to call the teachers by their first names. Complete strangers who see my name on a form or on my debit card call me by my first name. People I've never met send me unsolicited mail urging me to buy their products, yet my potential patronage of their business doesn't rate a Mrs. (or even a Ms.) And has all of this faux chumminess made us a friendlier society? Hardly. I say we should bring back Mr. and Mrs. and Miss and, yes, even the rather silly Ms. Let's try for a little dignity and respect in both public and private life.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree with you more. I spent 15 years in California. During those childhood years you called everyone, including friends parents by their first name. Then I moved to the midwest where all elders are Mr. or Mrs.. I find that preferable. Even at 29 I still call friends parents Mr. Mrs., it's just proper.