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The way we were

Posted by Lotg on November 17, 2003

I was watching an old black & white movie called Vice Versa starring Peter Ustinov and Antony (Anthony sp?) Newly. It was just a silly comedy but the credits were what took my eye.

Instead of saying simply 'Peter Ustinov' & 'Antony Newly' all the actors' names were prefixed with their title - so Mr Peter Ustinov and Master Antony Newly (as he was just a lad).

Then very polite and special thanks were given to the actors with 'walk on' parts.

When booking to attend a conference in Milan back in June, all the people emailing me from Italy and Germany were very formal and referred to me as Miss Garth-Shepherd (without them knowing my marital status). Even though we had several communications over an extensive period and I always signed off with my first name, they never relaxed this.

As an Australian, I'm very relaxed about this, even a tad uncomfortable being referred to in any way other than by my first name. Having said that, I'm certainly not offended, in fact I think it's quite charming.

It's probably a bit of a shame that in the evolution of our language and its tendency to be more practical that we loose such delightful flourishes.

I realise that Australians are probably more relaxed than pretty well anyone else about such matters, but are Europeans still quite formal about this generally? And what about Asians and Middle Eastern languages?

Another little thing... As mentioned before, I was referred to in that correspondence as 'Miss'. If I were to address a woman with a title and didn't know her marital status, I would call her 'Ms' in our current day and age. Again please don't misconstrue this as a criticism of my Italian friends. Far from it. It was clear to me that their intention was to be polite, and I really couldn't care less if they called me 'late for dinner' as long as I know the intention behind it.

But I'm curious to know if there is an equivalent for 'Ms' in non English speaking languages, etc., or is it just not something that's evolved in their 'politically correct' psyche?