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Ms.

2 comments | 3:21 pm | top |
The courtesy title, Ms. which began to be popularised in the 1970's has come to remove the need for people to refer to a woman as Miss or Mrs. Below is an excerpt from an interview with Alma Graham (the first lexicographer to put the courtesy title Ms. into a dictionary), with emphasies my own.

"Ms. Magazine, first published in 1972, was instrumental in popularizing Ms. Ultimately, it was widely adopted because it filled a real need in the language. More and more, as women claimed careers of their own, many resisted being labeled according to whether or not they were married. Originally used only when marital status was unknown, Ms. came to be used when such status was considered irrelevant. Some mistakenly thought it was to be used if a woman was divorced, but the whole point of Ms. is that it says nothing about a woman's marital status. The biggest faux pas is using it before a man's name as a substitute for Mrs., as in Ms. Frank Mitchell. Ms. should always be followed by a woman's name: first and last or last name only, as in Ms. Jo Gillikin, Ms. Gillikin. Informally, it may be followed by a woman's first name only, as in Ms. Jo."
- excerpt from All About "Ms.", from the Virginia Tech Library website

The commonly repeated reason given for the use of this title generally goes something like this, "As a courtesy title, Ms. serves exactly the same function that Mr. does for men.", which is a fair enough point to make. However, as we read above excerpt, we see that the real reason the Feminist movement was so determined to propogate the use of the title Ms. is that they decided that it was irrelevant whether a woman was married or unmarried.

This is precisely the reason that I object to the use of the title; it devalues the importance of marriage, and carries with it the sentiment, "Who cares whether I'm married or unmarried? Marriage is obsolete!".

Perhaps the reason the title Mr. (as used to refer to boys and men) never really stands out, is because the abbreviation has not been introduced into the English language as a means of furthering a cause. Even so, if we value the importance of distinguishing between Miss and Mrs, then we should also be sure to use Master and Mr. in their respective places.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Theresa said...

I think it was started to refer to mature single women. Think the Miss Brownings in 'Wives and Daughters', they are oldish ladies yet when you read the book it gets a little confusing as to their age because of the broad title used. If they were named Ms, then their station in life would be rather obvious.
If I was a single woman of forty-odd I would want to be called Ms.
Don't hate on them.

1:23 pm, August 01, 2008 
Blogger Andy Moore said...

Good point... But I still don't like it.

2:26 pm, August 01, 2008 

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