A Courteous Note about Courtesy in Names

A reader wrote an anxious note to apologize for addressing me by my first name. I fear he was more taken aback by the matter than was I.

Here was my reply, which I care to share with other readers, lest the same undue anxiety light upon any.

I am not an emotional man and I do not take offense at such things.

To me it is simply a logical proposition: if I give a stranger the same signs of intimate friendship I give an intimate friend, then I have nothing left to give intimate friends.

I am well aware that no one in the modern generation has the least interest in old standards of courtesy, and, thanks to a successful campaign by the radicals, most people of this generation regard courtesy as an insult, formality as a stiff and inauthentic pose, and grow offended if I want to treat others with courtesy and be so treated myself.

To them, discourtesy is courteous, and courtesy is discourteous.

The radicals did this precisely to cause friction between people, feelings of uncertainty, and misunderstandings where people would give or take offense when none is meant.

I have a friend who once told me that, as a child, as a cruel practical joke, he took his younger brother into a corner, and taught him all the names of the colors wrong, so that the younger brother thought ‘green’ was ‘red’ and so on.

People with modern hence fake standards meeting someone loyal to older hence real standards are in the same position as that younger brother.

You have no idea what a cruel practical joke has been played on you by the modern inversion of the forms of courtesy, nor how much sincerity, fellowship, and elegance has been deliberately removed from the world.

But I am not a king nor a pope, so there is no reason why someone who knows me only through my public words and works should be required to address me by my Christian name.

It would be rather presumptuous of me to assume that I can impose the burdens of intimate friendship on you.

You have done me no wrong. Please do not fret over so minor a matter.

To which I should add a general word: I am prone to wrath, as it is one of my besetting sins, and would do well to avoid a sharp tongue. I find that, for myself, speaking formally to people who give a last name, and calling him by his last name, makes it easier to resist the temptation to be shrewish and rude.

A man or woman whose Internet handle is some presumptuous yet joking phrase or nickname is much harder to take seriously, and much harder for someone like me to treat seriously. I was able to keep my temper with Dr. Andreassen for years, or nearly so, despite his studied provocations, merely because I addressed him formally.

Someone with a dippy handle like “Gharlane of Backdoor” or “4ssclown Pharting” or “Visions-from-Trippy-High” inadvertently will create in me the impression the I am addressing a pimply and nasal sophomore in teeth braces with a dull sense of humor who is most likely on mood medication.

It is no fault of theirs, nor do I recommend, in these days, with the Thought Police turning violent, any reveal his true name online. But if you want to be called “Dr.” or “Mr.” or “Mrs.” or “Miss” you have to use a pseudonym of the correct sex and marital status.

I never use “Ms.” because it is a crude insult to all married women, as it implies that the feat of winning a husband is as nothing. Indeed, the feat is more difficult than it once was, since all of society is against you. To call a woman by an anti-female and anti-family title is like not saluting the superior officer.

I do not insist on older distinctions between married and unmarried men, because the barriers to a man finding a bride are lower, not higher, than they were in days of old.