Shouldn’t Everyone Have an Honorific?

Image: Bob RosnerI like Doctors and Senators as much as the next guy. But I’m confused at why they are the only ones who consistently get their job title before their name (Dr. Welby and Senator Hillary, for example).

Read any newspaper or magazine and you’ll notice that the docs and politicos are the only group granted this courtesy. Nuclear physicists? No. Rocket scientists? Uh-uh. Teachers? You must be joking. And the funny thing is, I never hear anyone mention this. I can only assum this means that we’ve have we become conditioned to assume their professions are more important than others and warrant the special treatment of a printing their job titles.

Okay, I’m not jealous. And I’ve never tried to get anyone I know to call me “Columnist” Bob. But I’ve often wondered why a small group of people get their job title listed before their name even when they are far away from serving in any official capacity.

Let me anticipate the pro-honorific position—doctors have to go through a lot of school and politicians have to eat a lot of bad chicken dinners at fundraisers. Shouldn’t this sacrifice be acknowledged by all of us?

Then again, many lawyers, engineers and Ph.D.s in literature have a lot of schooling. And most public speakers have started down a lot of bad chicken dinners (that is a comment based on 25 years on the speaking circuit). Don’t the rest of us work hard too? By boosting a few professions, are we cheapening the efforts of the rest of us as we hold our nose to the grindstone at work week after week?

I was in a quandary on how to address this issue. Then the answer came to me in the form of an article in the New Yorker. The article talked about the form to sign up for Skywards, the frequent flyer program of Emirates (the international airline of the United Arab Emirates). When you list your name it gives you a drop down menu that goes way beyond—Mr., Mrs., Ms., Miss and Dr. Some would say too far.

Just a few of your choices are listed below:

Admiral, Air Comm, Air Marshall, Al-Hag (denoting a Muslim who has made a pilgrimage to Mecca) Archbishop, Archdeacon, Baron, Baroness, Colonel, Commander, Corporal, Count, Countess, Dame, Deacon, Deaconness, Deshamanya (a title conferred on eminent Sri Lankans), Dowager (for a British widow whose social status derives from that of her late husband, properly used in combination with a second honorific, such as Duchess), Duchess, Duke Earl, Father, Frau, General, Governor, HRH, Hon, Hon Lady, Hon Professor, JP, Judge, Khun, (the Thai all purpose honorific, used for both men and women), L Cpl., Lt, Lt Cmdr, Lt Col, Lt Gen, Midshipman, Mlle, Monsieur, Monsignor, Mother, Pastor, Petty Officer, Professor, Senor, Senora, Senorita, Sgt, Sgt Mjr, Shikha (for a female shikh, or sheikh), Sheikh, Shiman (an Indian honorific, for one blessed by Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth, wisdom, luck and other good things), Sister, Sqdn Ldr, Sqn Ldr, Sub Lt, Sultan, Swami, The Countess, The Dowager, The Dutchess, The Marquis, The Matron, the Rev Cannon, The Reverend, The Rt Hon, The Ven, The Very Revd, Ven, Ven Dr, Very Revd, Vice Admiral, Viscount, Viscountess along with Mr., Mrs. Ms. Miss and Dr.

After reading this article I worked hard to encourage all my friends to refer to me as Khun for the last week. Heck, one of my books was even published in Thailand. I love the idea of an all purpose honorific, but it didn’t stick.

As I went down this list I realized that it would be cumbersome and confusing for all of us to cart around an honorific. On the other hand, why honor only a few professions? Either let’s drop Doctors and Senators (preferably on their heads, maybe that would knock some sense into them) or let’s let everyone join in the fun. Feel free to use the list above as a starting point if you want to jump in the honorific pond head first.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning You can also hear workplace911 on BlogTalkRadio weekly. If you have a question for Bob, contact him via

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Madeline Messa

Madeline Messa is a 3L at Syracuse University College of Law. She graduated from Penn State with a degree in journalism. With her legal research and writing for Workplace Fairness, she strives to equip people with the information they need to be their own best advocate.