Do You Honour Honorifics?Saturday, April 24, 2010
Recently, Nicole Baute, a reporter for the Living section of Toronto's TheStar.com, contacted me to inquire about honorifics from the viewpoint of a teacher and a mother. She brought up an interesting point, that it isn't so clear nowadays as to when we should Mr. or Mrs. or Miss or Ms. It seems that our society is becoming more informal in that regard. I, on the other hand, am stuck in my traditionalist views of honouring honorifics. Being of European descent, I feel an inclination towards demonstrating respect for my elders and for people in a position of authority. It's what my parents taught me to do.
As a teacher, it goes without saying that my students are required to use the French version of Mrs. - Madame. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it. I feel as though there is a fine line that distinguishes between the roles of the teacher and student, and once you cross that, you can't go back. I don't need my students to befriend me on an informal level. I need them to respect me as their elder. I also hope that my colleagues refer to me as Madame in front of students as well, to keep in the theme of showing respect. It's a personal desire of mine to maintain professional relationships at work and without honorifics, what would we do?
As a mother, I teach my kids to use honorifics. I found it odd when their daycare teachers insisted on being called by their first name. But that's their choice. So it should be respected. When I introduce a family friend, it's a bit too formal to use Mr. or Mrs, etc. and yet we don't necessarily want our kids to refer them solely by their first name either. In our culture, we often use zia or zio in Italian or tia and tio in Portuguese, meaning aunt and uncle, to emphasize that these friends are close to our family but should also be shown a little more respect than our kids would show their peers. Confusing? Yes. We hadn't really given it much thought until I was approached about Ms. Baute's article. Or should I say, "Miss Baute" or "Nicole?"
In any case, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the topic. If you have a minute, head over to TheStar.com and read the article for yourself. If it sparked some water cooler talk at work or a heated debate in your family, I'm curious to hear about it. You can leave a comment on this post or you can always send me an email.