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Thursday, September 21, 2006

The pleasures of formality

One custom I enjoy is that of using formal titles. It started out as a joke, referring to my friends as Mr So-and-so. But it stuck, and now I rather like it.

The way I see it, most people have undergone a fair amount of effort in order to earn their title. The exception of course would be those whose title is “Miss”. It’s an unfortunate social norm that discriminates unfairly against women. “Ms” doesn’t quite do the job of replacing it, and I can’t help but feel patronising when I use it, so I don’t. Until a suitable replacement is found, I’ll have to continue using ‘Miss’.

Apart from ‘Miss’, just about every adult has earned their title in some way. A ‘Mister’ has earned it by surviving into adulthood. Not a spectacular achievement, but an achievement nonetheless. “Mrs” is also earned: she got married. Also not a big deal, but there was work done in order to acquire it.

In Starfleet everyone has a much fancier title… some more than one. Depending on who I’m speaking to, mine could be ‘Sir’, ‘Captain’ or ‘XO’. I’ve put a great deal of time and energy into my Starfleet work, so I have certainly earned those titles, and I enjoy hearing them. I also like to do other members the courtesy of addressing them by title whenever appropriate. Whether they’re a Crewman or an Admiral, they’ve earned that rank, and should be proud of it.

I find it dissatisfactory that is has become commonplace in modern society to address people by their first names. Even professional people who have fancy titles, will often prefix their first names with the title instead of the traditional surname (‘Doctor John’, as opposed to the traditional ‘Doctor Smith’).

And whatever happened to addressing your uncles and aunts as ‘Uncle’ or ‘Aunty’? It’s all first-names now. I’m surprised that ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’ are still as popular as they are… I suspect we may start to see that decline in years to come.

That’s a real pity.