To Polish people and others who use the term “Ms Amy”, “Mr David”, etc in English

Just for your information, a title plus the first name is decidedly old-fashioned in English now. We use it for people with very high titles, such as Sir Cliff (Richards), Dame Edna (Everage) but not Lord and Lady. Mr, Miss and Mrs were used only with surname already before Ms was revived in the 20th Century. Ms plus first name is recorded in the seventeeth century. Ms then went out of use for two centuries, (because it is actually short for “mistress” which took on a risqué meaning).

The use of any title less than Sir or Dame plus first name seems decidedly quaint now. One is put in mind of that traditional old Texas oil baron Jock Ewing, who persisted in calling his wife “Miss Ellie” even after they were married and even just before his funeral. I understand that this is a bit of a Texas thing.

Meeting his Dick (Whittington) ness Mr Boris Johnson, at least, a pasticine avatar of the same.

Meeting his Dick(Whittington)ness Mr Boris Johnson, at least, a plasticine avatar of the same.

In the English-speaking world, first names seem to be in general use now and in the main people do not even ask for permission to switch to it. However there are still situations where deference is called for, such as to a client or a teacher, in which case Mr/Miss/Mrs/Ms or a professional/academic title like Dr or Professor are used with the surname. More highly honorific titles still, such as Excellency for embassadors, highness or majesty for royalty are not usually combined with names at all in direct address. It is also usually appropriate to use the term once in a meeting and then default to “sir, ma’am” after this. The use of first or second name after foreign titles used in English will follow the usage in the language of origin. Examples include Don Giovanni, Sheikh Yamani, Mufti Menk and Imam Bayildi.

About David J. James

56 year old UK origin Chartered Accountant and business consultant who loves languages, literature, history, religion, politics, internet, vlogging and blogging and lively written or spoken discussion, plays backgammon and a few other board games. Walks and listens to Audible for hours a day usually, and avoids use of the car. Conservative Christian, married to an angel with advanced Multiple Sclerosis. We have three kids, two of them autistic, and we live in Warsaw, Poland. On the board of the main British-Polish charity Fundacja Sue Ryder in Poland, and involved in the Vocational Autistic School of "Nie Z Tej Bajki" in Warsaw. Member of Gideons International. Serves on two committees of the Chamber of Auditors in Poland, and on several Boards and Supervisory Boards. Has own consultancy called delivering business governance and audit/valuation solutions as well as mentoring. Author of the GoldList Method for systematic optimal use of the long-term memory in learning.

Posted on 23/03/2016, in Blog only, Savoir vivre and Etiquette and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Rashid Patch

    #1) It’s “Mr.”, and “Mrs.” – with a period; they are contractions of “Mister” and “Mistress”. #2) “Ms” – with NO period – is very specifically NOT a contraction, “Ms” is NOT a “revival”. It is possible that “Ms.” as a contraction for “Miss” had earlier usage, but “Ms” was designed specifically because it did not indicate marital status. It was invented in the 1970s and promoted by the Women’s Liberation Movement.

    • There is no “period” as you call it, or “full stop” as we call it, in British English for Mr, Mrs etc. This went out some tims in the 1980s. If you see “Mr.” with a full stop after it then either this is American or written in the early 1980s or earlier.

      In the UK it simply looks wrong to see this in business correspondence now.

      • Rashid Patch

        “Mr.”, “Mrs.”, and “Ms” are indeed U.S. English. I never noticed that UK English had dropped the “.” contraction marker. By doing so, “Ms” reverts to a contraction for “Miss”, and the purpose of not indicating maritial status is defeated. Has UK English also dropped the marker for “St.”, “Ave.”, “Blvd.” or other contractions?

  2. Thank you David for useful explanation. 🙂
    I have the same knowledge regarding the use of a contraction Ms., if we do not know whether a particular woman is married or single. At least that says Larousse.

  3. Thank you David for usefull explanation. 🙂
    I have the same knowledge regarding the use of a contraction Ms., if we do not know whether a particular woman is married or single. At least that says Larousse. 🙂

  4. Thank you David for usefull explanation. 🙂
    PS: I have the same knowledge regarding the use of a contraction Ms., if we do not know whether a particular woman is married or single. At least that says Larousse. 🙂

  5. Rashid Patch

    Ms. – with a period – may indeed be a contraction for Miss or Mistress. Ms – without a period – is very explicitly NOT a contraction of anything. It was newly invented in the early 1970s by feminists who would punch you in the face if you asserted that it was any such thing. It was devised specifically to avoid any implication of a womans’ relationship status.

  6. Michael Brooks

    This is, however, still a common practice in the southern United States, particularly when addressing someone older but familiar. So, a friend’s children might refer to you as “Mr. David”, or you might call your elderly neighbor “Miss Lula.” It is considered polite and cultured. “David” or “Lula” would be too familiar, and “Mr. James” or “Mrs. Johnson” would be awkwardly formal.

  7. Excellent. What a very useful resumé of the ‘titles thing’ in England. Not sure about possible varients in Ireland scotland or Wales ?

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