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Honorific: A title, phrase, or grammatical form conveying respect, used especially when addressing a social superior.

Most honorifics are are imposed by social convention. Some are earned, some are granted, some are self-applied. Some are demanded by their owners or bestowed by their ‘admirers’.

Honorifics are linguistic politeness – the little drop of oil that keeps society’s bearings moving. Some societies have few honorifics. Some have hundreds. Honorifics do contain a certain amount of power. The honorific ‘Ms.’ came about as a way to influence societal attitudes. There is a far-off strain of anarcho-libertarian which would replace the usual honorifics of Mr., Ms., Mrs. etc. with ‘Sov’ as in “Sovereignty”. Then there is Mr. Christopher Hitchens:

It is actually a pity that our culture doesn’t have a good vernacular word for an oppositionist or even for someone who tries to do his own thinking: the word ‘dissident’ can’t be self-conferred because it is really a title of honor that has to be won or earned, while terms like ‘gadfly’ or ‘maverick’ are somehow trivial and condescending as well as over-full of self-regard. And I’ve lost count of the number of memoirs by old comrades or ex-comrades that have titles like ‘Against the Stream,’ ‘Against the Current,’ ‘Minority of One,’ ‘Breaking Ranks’ and so forth—all of them lending point to Harold Rosenberg’s withering remark about ‘the herd of independent minds.’ Even when I was quite young I disliked being called a ‘rebel’: it seemed to make the patronizing suggestion that ‘questioning authority’ was part of a ‘phase’ through which I would naturally go.

There’s also “Cheap booze is a false economy”, but that’s perhaps for another post.


Written by PappyBro

October 2, 2011 at 16:20

Posted in Media, Musings

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