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Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com • Call me Mrs., or Ms, or just plain Dorothy ... : Conversation question • Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com
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Call me Mrs., or Ms, or just plain Dorothy ...

PostPosted: Thu Jun 02, 2016 2:34 pm
by Oldtimer
No, you don't have to call me "Madam".

There is one aspect of American reporting that makes me cringe every time I see it, and that is the practice of referring to people by their last names after the initial introduction.

I have a copy of The Writer in front of me, and I am reading an article about Celeste Ng and her first novel, Everything I Never Told You. Here's a small extract from the article:

Ng grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Shaker Heights, Ohio, in a family of scientists. Since childhood, she has been both an avid reader and writer.
"I can't remember a time before I wanted to write," says Ng, who now lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. ...


The next paragraph starts with "Ng", too.

In England, reporters never omit a prefix, unless the subject of the interview is extremely well-known. You might see Mr. Donald Trump referred to as Trump, but rarely a lady. It is just "not done", my dear. It smacks of rudeness. Compare the excerpt above with two paragraphs taken from the June 4, 2012, edition of The Daily Telegraph, reporting on the Queen' Jubilee procession down the Thames:

Gwendoline Carroll, 56, and her daughter Nicola, 33, had travelled from Cork to join the Pageant. "I come to all Royal events - the wedding, the Queen's birthday, even Diana's funeral - but this one tops the lot," said Mrs. Carroll.
Two students, Graham Morris from Brighton and Laura Pritchard from Birmingham, both 19, missed last year's royal wedding because they were revising for exams. "Being here today is like being part of history," said Miss Pritchard.


How did the American practice come into being? Was it to save ink or typesetting? Whatever the reason, it is one Americanism that I just can't get used to.

Re: Call me Mrs., or Ms, or just plain Dorothy ...

PostPosted: Thu Jun 02, 2016 3:06 pm
by Loren Killdeer
Its strange, but it must be some social factor. Here we never call the other by a surname, and if you REALLY want to be polite to an older person, you can say usted. But its usually names, doesn't matter who it is.

Anyway, how would anyone put the single surname? I agree, it sounds terrible!

Re: Call me Mrs., or Ms, or just plain Dorothy ...

PostPosted: Thu Jun 02, 2016 10:42 pm
by shadowwalker
I guess I'm so used to seeing men referred to by surname only, seeing women getting the same treatment doesn't really bother me - equal treatment and all that. What does bother me is seeing the president (regardless of who) referred to as "Mr Jones" instead of "President Jones". That's what doesn't sound respectful to me. :(

Re: Call me Mrs., or Ms, or just plain Dorothy ...

PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2016 12:54 pm
by cynicalwanderer
It is odd. Perhaps it filtered down from the military boot camp practice of depersonalizing soldiers by calling them by their last names only.

Re: Call me Mrs., or Ms, or just plain Dorothy ...

PostPosted: Sat Jun 04, 2016 9:33 am
by pls
I would say the use of the surname only originated with TV sound bites, and newspapers followed. I don't see it as disrespectful at all, at least with well-known personalities. It's a means of saving a little space.

Re: Call me Mrs., or Ms, or just plain Dorothy ...

PostPosted: Sun Jun 05, 2016 9:40 am
by lifeontherun
My sir name, only. was used by my friends, teachers and professors throughout my young years. It was a novelty to them and it was fine with me. The term Ms, creates a lively image of me as a mess, and that I don't care for. I was glad when the talented people began to take on a persona of equality and it was a big improvement in the business world.

Re: Call me Mrs., or Ms, or just plain Dorothy ...

PostPosted: Sun Jun 12, 2016 12:10 pm
by James A. Ritchie
I don't think it's as written in stone as you do. I see many forms of this, depending on the writer. Given the choie, though, I'll take the American way every last time. The English way sounds overwritten and crude, to me.

Re: Call me Mrs., or Ms, or just plain Dorothy ...

PostPosted: Sun Jun 12, 2016 3:48 pm
by Oldtimer

Re: Call me Mrs., or Ms, or just plain Dorothy ...

PostPosted: Sun Jun 12, 2016 4:39 pm
by shadowwalker
I think there are lots of cultural things that come across badly for any given group.

Re: Call me Mrs., or Ms, or just plain Dorothy ...

PostPosted: Thu Jun 23, 2016 1:10 am
by Carly Berg
I'm American but I'd have to say I agree with you, Dorothy. I'd consider it rude if someone called me by my last name, unless it was the kind of close pal where you get to call each other the b-word and stuff. :p