I noticed on the Facebook page for Occupy Mississippi that there was a lot of calling folks Miss Insert First Name Here. We need to talk about that. Okay, first? Not a fan. There are like five people allowed to call me Miz Susan and that’s only because years of conditioning physically prevent these few people from calling me anything else. Were I to ask them to call me Susan, they would begin to drool and spend the rest of the day holding the door open for people going in and out of Rose’s. Now, those people happen to be Equal Opportunity Honorific Users (EOHU). Thus, Chuck is also Mr. Chuck. (Side note to those people out there from Memphis: Yes, we’re totally aware of Hello Mr. Chuck! What is your point?)
Occupy Mississippi does not seem to be an EOHU. It seems to apply only to women. So if you’re not going to treat the people within the movement equally, why should I listen to you? I know it seems like a small thing, and it is. But small things are generally indicative of larger issues. Seriously, I don’t want to mountain up a molehill, but if you’re putting yourself in an subordinate position by referring to someone as Miss Someone, why should Miss Someone see you as anything but a subordinate?
Let me, as I heard someone say the other day, tangentify here. Back when the world was young, my husband and I worked for Macy’s. The Head Men What’s In Charge were known as Principals. It was a big deal if any of the Principals came to visit your store. I’m talking Chief Stores Officer, CEO, CAO, those types. Stores spent thousands of dollars to make the stores look perfect for these cats. If you see a store looking swanky–especially this time of year–you can bet your sweet bippy it’s because some muckity muck was just in. They aren’t doing it for you, John Q. Shopper. Anyway, you were not to call these people by their first names.
Let me repeat that. Store workers and management were not to call people like CEO Terry Lundgren by his first name. You were to call him Mr. Lundgren. My husband, your basic store executive operations manager extraordinaire, is introduced to Ron Klein, Chief Stores Officer. Chuck says, “Nice to meet you, Ron.” Klein says, “It’s Mr. Klein.”
I won’t tell you my husband’s reaction to that because I like the Aura Of Calm And Objectivity he’s cultivated. My point is that while using honorifics in social situations is perfectly fine and even important, they have no place in a business setting. None. And you young folks out there, don’t let anyone tell you differently. I know if you’re in the military you identify by rank. Macy’s, though I suppose the case could be made to the contrary, is not the military.
I asked some friends whether or not they liked to be called Honorific-First-Name. It was evenly split. Most Southerners don’t give it a second thought. It’s as natural as holding a door open for someone. It’s a way to acknowledge both familiarity and, generally, a difference of generation. You call the lady who runs the toddler room at the church Miss Marsha. Miss Christy is your child’s pre-k teacher. Miss Charlene slips you an extra honey bun at lunch. A smarmy man will call his secretary Miss Lydia and assume she is deeeelighted to be called such.
Also, it should be said that “Miss” has traditionally been used regardless of marital status. I notice that people are changing it to “Ms.” Unless you are the prettiest woman in all of Puppetland, it is always pronounced “Miz” despite how it is spelled. You know who else does that? Brett Favre. That’s not a political statement. I’m just telling you.