Fun_People Archive
9 Jan
Courtesy Titles

Date: Tue, 9 Jan 96 15:32:25 -0800
From: Peter Langston <psl>
To: Fun_People
Subject: Courtesy Titles

[The following messages appeared in a longish thread on the journalist's
discussion group about a newspaper that had just started using courtesy
titles (Mr., Mrs., Miss, Ms) on second references instead of just using the
last name.  Early on it was mentioned that the rule at the New York Times
has always been that for the second and later references (i.e. after the
first, full name reference), the title must be used.  -psl]

From: "Miryam [Mickey] Williamson" <wmson@EQUINOX.SHAYSNET.COM>
To: Multiple recipients of list SPJ-L <SPJ-L@PSUVM.PSU.EDU>

>        Ms., in reality, is a short term for Miss. Women in pre-PC days
>who wished to assert their independence from a husband, referred to
>themselves as Miss whether married or not. Frequently this was true of
>actresses who retained their stage names despite being married.

Au contraire, Ms, without the period, has for generations been prescribed by
etiquette mavens as the proper way to address a woman whose marital status
is unknown.  In my undergrad days I was a part time business correspondent
for a sterling silver company in Baltimore (we're talking late '50s here).
My supervisor hauled out a copy of Emily Post to show me the correct form of
address.  It was not an abbreviation for Miss.

From: "Miryam [Mickey] Williamson" <wmson@EQUINOX.SHAYSNET.COM>
To: Multiple recipients of list SPJ-L <SPJ-L@PSUVM.PSU.EDU>

>        The AP in Florida has been using courtesy titles for women but
>not for men.

Oh, gross.

From: Dan Froomkin <froomkin@UMICH.EDU>
To: Multiple recipients of list SPJ-L <SPJ-L@PSUVM.PSU.EDU>

Back when I worked at the Winston-Salem Journal in North Carolina (from 1985
to 1987) they used courtesy titles -- but only for women! I never got a
clear explanation of why (just old fashioned Southern chauvanist chivalry,
I guess). Men were just referred to by their last names; women were given
the choice of Miss, Mrs. or Ms. And I must admit that, being a lonely cub
reporter at the time, I sometimes was delighted to have a "legitimate"
excuse to inquire as to the marital status of certain sources! I wonder if
the Journal still does that.

I also recall my favorite use of courtesy titles in the New York Times,
in which a story about the rocker Meat Loaf referred to him on second
reference as -- yes, I kid you not -- Mr. Loaf.

prev [=] prev © 1996 Peter Langston []