The Death of [Ms.] Manners

I swan, nothing sets my teeth on edge like the disappearance of titles and honorifics in our current society. [I offer a hearty “thank you” to Mr. Dad over’ta thedaddyblitz for reminding me of this particular peeve in a recent  blog entry.] Lordy, I know that I sound old writin’ this, but, back in my day we used them or were seen as disrespectful lil’ upstarts.

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Using good manners isn’t just a sign of good breeding or a reflection of your family, it confirms respect — for yourself as well as the person you’re addressing. An important ingredient of good manners is showing special respect for your elders and persons of authority. I see “grown-ups” constantly shaking their heads and bewailing the state of our youth culture and their utter lack of respect for others, especially for authority.

Titles such as “Doctor” or “Professor” or “Officer” signified that the person was an authority, or at least adept, in their field. They had training and were therefore authorized in their function. They held a position of consequence. Their words and actions deserved consideration. Even elders without professional titles were called “Mr” or “Ms.”, “Aunt” or “Uncle” — their title implying a significant status.

Being “on a first name basis” actually used to have heft and meaning. It used to be that first names were used solely among immediate family and friends. It signified a level of intimacy between peers. It relaxed the rules and placed you on a level playing field with one another.

Nowadays, practically everyone insists on being called by their first name. Not only our friends and relatives, but also our doctors, teachers, and even pastors insist we call them by their first name. Intentionally or not, this removes them from their place of special status — and ultimately places them in the common place of “just one of the guys.” There is no clear significance to their vocation or their chosen career. Their authority then becomes negligible, even inconsequential. So who cares what they have to say? It begs the question, Why should I even listen to you? 

It’s as if no one deserves authority or respect anymore. Like school children yelling, You’re not the boss of me!, our society insists that everyone is exactly the same. Is it any wonder then that good manners, on the whole, are quickly disappearing?

6 thoughts on “The Death of [Ms.] Manners

  1. I’ve joined office recently and I am the youngest one in my department.It comes natural to me to address all my colleagues with the suffix sir or mam after their names.Most of them have 5-10 years of work experience and I am just beginning my work life. But everyone insists I call them by their first names- adding that such suffixes make them feel old and like a person of bygone era.
    But I call them thus out of respect for their experience and to acknowledge that they are more knowledgable than me and I seek to learn from them.
    I don’t feel very comfortable calling people with their first names unless they are truly my age or younger to me.Else I find it awkward.I prefer the Old School mannerism.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree! I was watching “Judge Judy” the one day and the teenagers were so disrespectful to her. The adults were saying “Your Honor” while the teenies were saying “Uh-huh”. She almost dismissed their case (they were the plaintiffs) for being disrespectful. Teens and young adults are more and more disrespectful to each other and adults. I blame the parents.

    When I was working in the educational system, I informed students that respecting adults would get them much further in life. When a student said “yes, ma’am” and “no, ma’am”, I complimented them for their respect. If I met their parents, I told them how proud they must be of their child showing respect. They beamed with pride.

    It’s up to the parents to teach their children to respect everyone. If children want respect, they have to give respect. I had a middle school student once tell me that I had to respect them first before they respected me. Of course, I told them that it was the other way around. But I also told them that, if they got into trouble with me, I would be a lot more lenient if I was given respect. That student was late to class one day and they were very courteous, respectful and apologized for being late. I excused them but said that the next time I would send them to the office. They were surprised that I was lenient. No, they were never late to class again. Yes, they continued to treat me with respect and I in turn treated them with respect.

    Liked by 1 person

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