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What Happened to the Titles Mr. and Mrs.?

Marian T. Horvat, Ph.D.
It is very disturbing the trend in society that has made the use of titles between inferiors and superiors virtually disappear in the last few years. Adults, youth and children are on a first name basis with everyone - teachers, doctors, civil authorities, priests, etc.

I recently had the opportunity to attend several social events, something rare for me, and found this egalitarian trend is even invading traditionalist circles.

“This is Jim Rogers,” I heard a mother say, introducing a lawyer to her daughter, no more than 16 years of age. “Hello, Jim,” the girl politely chimed. No Mr. Rogers, just Jim, regardless of the great differences in age, education and social status between the two.

It is not just children addressing adults by their first names. A man meets another man or woman, and immediately is on a first name basis with him or her. This revolutionary attitude is so prevalent in the sales world that it seems clerks no longer even have surnames “Hello, I’m Josh. Can I help you?”

I can already hear the objections: “With our youth facing all the problems of drugs, morality, etc, why do you bother with such a trifling matter.”

A child and grandfather

Children should be taught to respect their relatives, above, and teachers, below, using their formal titles

A student respectfully raising their hand
I disagree. The use of proper titles is not so trivial. At the root of the modern day casual attitude is an all-encroaching egalitarianism in the way we treat others. As the revolutionary spirit grows, it demands a leveling of hierarchy, a leveling of honor paid to superiors, a leveling of privilege and respect paid to anyone who symbolizes superiority and authority.

In every sphere of human activity, we have seen this leveling in society, a leveling that has created an ever greater vulgarization of human relations. It also helps to destroy any hierarchical structure in relationships by leveling manifestations of respect and honor. Such a leveling induces a child to not respect adults when he treats them like good buddies, calling them by their first names. It induces students to not be deferential and polite to their teacher when they call him Joe. It influences an employee not to take orders from an employer when he addresses his superior the same way he addresses his fellow employees.

Throwing out titles as being superfluous represents something that is very non-superfluous: the breakdown of the good and hierarchical ways of treating others in society as they were established as a fruit of Christian Civilization.

The unacceptable became commonplace

If we consider the respect, reverence and honor that the youth paid to adults a century – or even a half century – ago, we will see how far this Cultural Revolution has progressed. When I went to the American Catholic Etiquette book (1963) and an older Emily Post Etiquette (1922) to see what the “courtesy experts” had to say on the topic of youth addressing adults by their first names, I was surprised to learn the topic was not even addressed.

Why not? For the simple reason that then those authors could not even imagine a day when children and young adults would leave off the Mr., Mrs. and Miss when they spoke to their elders and superiors. Sad to say, what was unthinkable then has become so common today that even in conservative and traditionalist circles this bad habit does not raise eyebrows… It is an important reflection of the magnitude of this erosion that is leading to a complete egalitarianism.

A counter-revolutionary response

When the faithful Catholic becomes aware that the Revolution is destroying dignified ways of treatment and implanting others to foster egalitarianism and vulgarity, he responds with a counter-attack.

a classical painting showing a grand-daughter giving gifts to her grandmother

Today it has become difficult to imagine the dignity and respect adults used to receive from children

First, he acknowledges that doing away with titles is not an insignificant matter. He realizes that the aim of destroying the signs of respect in human relationships is to chip away at the authority and dignity in all levels of society. He decides to fight against this egalitarianism that wants to destroy hierarchical relationships in society.

The weapons to be employed in this particular battle are simple: He takes up the good practice of using titles in his relationships with others. He also teaches his children to call adults by their courtesy or professional titles and surnames (Mrs. Jones, Dr. Smith, Fr. Riley).

Should friends, family or clergy invite his children to address them by their first names, they are instructed how to politely refuse. That is, not to argue or become belligerent with the adult, but simply to quietly affirm that this is a family custom. Even if a teacher or coach has a first-name policy, a youth should use the proper title. A parent should teach his child to not be afraid to be different when being different means doing the right thing.

The Catholic counter-revolutionary is not egalitarian. He does not condone nor make compromises with this leveling spirit. He loves and supports all legitimate manifestations of veneration and respect for superiority that are the proper legacy of Christian Civilization. Thus he is the protector of every legitimate sign of honor, distinction and respect that exists on the face of this earth.

Posted August 9, 2013

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