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.
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?