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Evening star. [volume] (Washington, D.C.) 1854-1972, May 31, 1936, Image 75

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Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045462/1936-05-31/ed-1/seq-75/

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When to say “Mrs.,” “Miss,” and “Mister” is often puzzling
in this day of the wholesale use of first names. But the
definite rules exacted by good taste are given here
I _
FROM COLLEGE
YEARS ON, YOUNG
MEN AND WOMEN
WHO USE FIRST
NAMES SHOULD
KNOW EACH OTHER
REALLY WELL
■ 1
The so-called
“name of
safety" used
by every well
bred man or woman
or child, when
speaking to a stran
ger about any mem
ber of his family, is
"my wife" or "my
husband" or "my
daughter” or “my
mother" or if necessary "my sister Alice" or
"my son George.”
No matter to whom these descriptive names
are said, they can’t be wrong. On the other
hand, should Mrs. Stranger when talking to
vou, speak of her husband as "Mister,” this
would mean either that her own social back
ground is very provincial or else that she is
quite frankly rating you as one outside of her
own social group. Which may, of course,
mean merely that your meeting is a business
one.
The only occasion when a lady speaks of
her husband as "Mister" to one whom she
has met socially is when this person presumes
. to call him by his first name and she objects.
This is a situation that was never met with
until the last few years in any society that
could have been called "good.” But with the
present wholesale discarding of last names by
all younger (and even many older) people of
social prominence, it is no wonder that
strangers are sometimes at a loss to guess
who's who, and what they themselves may or
may not say.
Perhaps our manners are no more erratic
than those of other people, but the extremes
to which we go seem fantastic. When Charles
Dickens wrote his “American Notes,” he es
pecially ridiculed the American wife who not
k only spoke about her husband as “Mister”
but who never called him anything but “Mr.
Jones" when speaking to him herself.
Today, we find this just as absurd as he
did. And we also find absurd the custom, of
not so long ago, which exacted that every well
* brought up young girl of eighteen, at which
age she became a debutante, be called "Miss”
by all her partners and even by her most de
voted beaux whom she in turn called ‘ ‘Mister. ’ ’
not only until she knew them better, but for
life! Only the one to whom she became en
I
by Emily Post
Author of "Etiquette: The Blue Booh of Social Usage,"
"The Personality of a House," Etc,
gaged called her “Mary” and was in turn
called "John”!
First names were “bad form” to such a
degree that even those who had been play
mates in childhood, and called each other by
first names when at home or among others of
their own group, spoke to each other as
“Miss” or “Mister” before strangers.
And yet, absurd as this prim formality
sounds today, I’m not sure but that there is
something to be said in favor of formality, even
to the extreme of teaching little children, as
part of their training in deportment, to pre
fix each other’s names with “Miss” or “Mas
ter” on the formal occasions of dancing class
or a party.
Changes in custom are often erratic, but in
the modem trend toward omission of titles
almost entirely by those whose right to them
is most assured, there is an ironical reversal.
This same familiarity in the use of first names,
which the smart world would seem to be
adopting, is the outstanding hall-mark by
which those at the other end of the social scale
are handicapped. The sole reason why so
many men and women who work prefer jobs
in factories or stores to those of domestic em
ploy is that the latter carries the opprobrium
of being addressed by first names. One rather
wonders whether Mr. Dickens, were he alive
today, would think our manners had changed
for the better.
As in almost every general precept, mere
can be found exceptions which seemingly
break its rules and yet actually break none.
At this moment there comes to mind a gentle
woman of serene loveliness- the wife of a
world famous man -and to every one who
knows her she is “Mary”; sometimes “John’s
Mary." But her first name has become a sym
bol, in a way, of the loveliness which is hers.
One can not imagine her as being called by
any other name than "Mary,” nor could one
imagine it pronounced other than endear
ingly.
But this one exception in no way ap
proaches the middle-aged woman who seem
ingly thinks that being hailed as “Darling
Kitten" by a whole roomful of boys and girls,
young enough to be her grandchildren, is
proof of her own youth and popularity! If she
had a grain of common sense, she would know
very well that behind her back “Darling Kit
ten” is probably spoken of—if at all—as
“Poor old cat.”
It is obvious that the real standards of good
taste belong somewhere between reserved
primness to the point of prudery, and no re
serve at all. The woman in Dickens’ “Ameri
can Notes” is at one comer of the triangle,
Kitten is at another comer, and "Mary” is
at the third comer.
But to return to the opening paragraph of
this article: As already said, a lady says “My
husband” when speaking to an acquaintance.
But to a friend or the friend of a friend, she
speaks of him as "John.” Yet this does not
give anyone else the privilege of calling him
John unless otherwise told to do so. In the
same way, Mr. Worldly speaks of “Edith” to
friends, of course, and also to every woman
whom they both know socially. But to a man
not an intimate friend and to a woman who is
a stranger, he says "my wife." To employees
or to clients, as well as to his business ac
quaintances, he calls her “Mrs. Worldly.”
When speaking to strangers about other
people, one says "Mrs.”, "Miss" or “Mr.”,
as the case may be. It is very bad form to go
about saying “Edith Worldly” or "Ethel
Eminent” to those who do not call them
Edith and Ethel. And to speak thus familiarly
to one whom you do not call by her own first
name is unthinkable.
Until the last lew years no wen Drougni up
child would have thought of calling the friends
of his parents by their first names. But today
this practice (like that of the hostess who
serves herself first) is all too often accepted,
by those who are either lacking in sensibility
or who are afraid to criticize because they
might be thought not modem.
The rule which every child must be taught
is that he may never call a grown person by
his or her first name- unless told to do sc by
the grown person. Even so, this is sometimes
not fair to the child since it prejudices
strangers who are apt to take it for granted
that his apparent lack of respect is a short
coming of his own.
Illustration by
Georg*
Jam**
T*tz*l
There is a prejudice of good taste against
teaching children to call anyone Aunt, Uncle
or Cousin when no such relationship exists.
Therefore, in many cases, really intimate
friends who are devoted to the children and
do not like the formality of Mr. and Mrs., and
yet do not want to be called by their first
names, are given nicknames which either they
themselves or the children make up.
The use of first names is proper, of course,
between schoolboys and schoolgirls of all ages.
But between young men and young women of
college ages, first names should indicate that
they know each other fairly well; and the
degree of friendship implied among those
beyond college years should increase in pro
portion to age.
The question of what a bride is to call her
parents-in-law is one that has no definite
answer except the old-fashioned oneof ‘‘Moth
er Jones’’ and “Father Jones.” Among the
moderns, choices of names is purely personal.
Most often the father-in-law is called ‘‘Mr."
but mother-in-law is given a name which
means mother, but is not the name by which
the bride’s own mother is known. Or perhaps
she is called 4 ‘Mrs.” until a grandchild’s nick
name gradually becomes hers. Many ultra
modem mothers- and fathers-in-law are
choosing to be called by their first names, as
are nearly all stepparents of half, or quite
grown sons and daughters—depending again,
of course, upon their own choice.
In business, the strict observance of con
vention is necessarily of greater importance
than in the social world. The impression made
upon clients or customers by the improper
manners of a clerk affects the standing of the
office as a whole.
A very poor impression of a firm’s efficiency
is given to a visitor, entering an executive’s
private office, who hears his secretary call him
"Jim” or even "J. B„" or hears him call her
"Marjorie.” Not only should she address him
as “Mr. Smith” but when answering she
should add “sir” to yes or no, because this ob
servance is one of the requirements of pro
priety in business relations. And it is no more
proper for a clerk to enter the manager’s office
and say ’"Did you ring, Bill?” than it is for the
manager to sit in his shirt sleeves at a
directors’ meeting.
Copyright, 1906, by Emily Host

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