Honorifics in the 21st century

  • Randolph West


    Points: 1569

    Comments posted to this topic are about the item Honorifics in the 21st century

  • Naked Ape

    Ten Centuries

    Points: 1095

    Nice article Randolph. Because language is a living/evolving organism it can be hard to keep up with changes, especially now when everything seems to be changing so fast, but we also need that flexibility of language to adapt and evolve ourselves. I can totally relate to the "if you get it wrong, apologise and move on" approach - one of my boxes is the "older white male", which cops a bit of flack for being the cause of many ills. I like to think that box is better than it's portrayed but, whether it is or not, we are all different in some way or other so if we can accept and respect our differences then I believe we're at least evolving in the right direction.


  • Randolph West


    Points: 1569

    Thanks for your comment, Chris. My word of the year for 2019 was “nuance”, and this is a great example of where NOT being quick to judge is the safer bet. You want to give folks the benefit of the doubt when it comes to new ways of thinking.

  • Charlie Wongy

    SSC Rookie

    Points: 37

    To be fair, as much as we need to learn new ways of thinking about gender and addressing people, we also need to learn not to be upset when people get it wrong, for which Randolph is a good role model. Afterall, if gender shouldn't be a thing in the end game, why should we even bother?

    My only worry now is when I enter a toilet next time, which one should I go into? Is the plate on the door referring to sex (biological) or gender (an identity which could be a continuum)?

  • latkinson

    Ten Centuries

    Points: 1301

    I grew up in the 60's addressing people as sir or ma'am, and believe me that is a hard habit to break and at 61, its even harder, especially if you wish to show respect (at least the way I was trained). When part time teaching, I used sir and ma'am a lot with my students when responding to their questions (mostly from having trouble remembering 30+ individual names). Being a fan of science fiction and fantasy, I have liked one author's(L.E. Modessitt) attempt to maintain an honorific as gender neutral by using the word Ser in place of Sir or Ma'am. Regrettably, the pronunciation of Ser sounds too much like Sir for some people. Its not easy breaking 50+ years of behaviorisms, but I do wish we collectively could come up with a generic word of respect to use in place of the Sir and Ma'am that doesn't upset anyone and still allows me to use my old school habits of saying "Yes, **" and "Thank you **"



  • seebert42

    SSC Enthusiast

    Points: 135

    Seems like a needless complication to the data.  Just assign everybody a generic numeric bigint identity(1,1) and be done with it.  No need for individuality in a database, and you'll never need more than 80 billion keys anyway.

    And as a fellow autistic who is likely much older than Randolph, the real key is to know you are a minority of 1- and your issues do NOT translate to general solutions for cisgendered neurotypicals.  Your issues are YOURS, and yours alone, and you should not seek to change others.  Who cares what they call you?  Stop being offended at such small things that cannot kill you, when there are many things that are much larger that CAN kill you.

  • anthonyparker80


    Points: 1

    It was a nice article and let me say this first....I am an ally. I believe everyone should be treated fairly and not judged. That being said, I generally wait for people to self identify and then address them as they prefer to be. I have gay friends, that if it comes up to their sexuality , I use the term gay. I cannot or for that matter will not address or refer to a gay person with the 'q' word as when I grew up it was a slur, and it stays that way in my mind. I cringe when I hear gay people say it these days.  I had to explain this to a younger person who said that I had a bigotry issue by not saying that word, so I asked a gay friend of mine that is approaching 70 to explain it to him.

    Eventually this will all sort itself out as I hope ( not foolishly ) that people will begin to see the better side of  each other.

    When I initially saw the article , I wasn't aware it was social in nature, but I wondered how these terms would translate in a language/culture with honorifics like Korean; where titles are based on a person's gender relative to age... a boy's older brother is Hyung , but his older sister is Noona , a girls older brother is Oppa , but her older sister is Uni ...so on an so forth

  • Steve Jones - SSC Editor

    SSC Guru

    Points: 721480

    Charlie Wongy wrote:

    My only worry now is when I enter a toilet next time, which one should I go into? Is the plate on the door referring to sex (biological) or gender (an identity which could be a continuum)?

    In Europe, I've seen plenty of mixed bathrooms. Of course, they tend to have the stall go from floor to 6-7ft, and it's not a big deal.

  • John.Q.Martin


    Points: 6

    Thanks Randolph, yet another opportunity for me to learn, grow, and evolve the way I interact with people.

    One thing that I would take issue with in a previous comment about it not killing someone if people mis-gender them. Put simply, it can. For people who have been forced, for want of a better term, to live in the shadows, by society in order for them to be open about who they are it can be a big knock when that is not recognised when they become open about who they are with society. Over time this build up and can result in tragedy like suicide.

    What seems trivial to those of us who have been privileged enough to be considered ‘normal’ (whatever that is) is a big step for others. It is on every single one of us to adapt and help shape a more open and accepting society. Normal, put simply needs to become recognition that everyone is a fellow human going through their life discovering things about themselves. We all need to support one another on our journey.

    Articles like this, and the thought processes they start are vital to helping us achieve the potential of the human race. If we remain bound to what has gone before then we are destined to repeat the mistakes of the past.

    We need to recognise this will take time and effort, but it is achievable. I know I have grown and will continue to do so. If I can affect small positive change for those who come after then great. Together we can make a positive difference.

  • David.Poole

    SSC Guru

    Points: 75401

    Seems like the ISO5218 was thinking ahead.

    One of the most interesting Twitter threads I've seen was from someone who said they were in an airport, delayed, slightly tipsy, bored and trans "ask me anything".

    OK being Twitter they got the usual crazies but the vast majority of questions were honestly asked and their answers were given in kind. It was a rare chance to learn.  Some of the questions were the sort where Google would be no help and you'd have to know the person a long time before asking. All answered. I was mentally wishing them a free upgrade for the flight and destination.

    People are curious but at the same time not sure how to ask questions.  There's also the point that a person of diversity 'x' doesn't have a duty to be an ambassador or spokesperson for diversity 'x'.  Fantastic if they are willing, but they don't have to.

    What I have found is that at some point in life everyone will have a desperate need for a friend. At that point it can be humbling to find out who the real friend is and humiliating to find the friends that aren't. When that situation arises it won't matter a damn what the friend's race, creed, colour, diversity is.


    P.S. Had to edit this because it is so easy to fall back to using gendered pronouns

    • This reply was modified 2 months, 3 weeks ago by  David.Poole.
    • This reply was modified 2 months, 3 weeks ago by  David.Poole.

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