Honorific Evolution

sansama 400Over on hellogiggles.com, Kit Steinkellner asks, Is It Time We Stopped Using The Word “Miss?” The use of honorifics is something that has long been on my mind as well.

As pointed out in the post, with English, males aren’t segregated due to age, marriage, or other factors as women are. Then there is the issue of dealing with people identifying as being of non-traditional gender. What to call them?

For many decades, I’ve been partial to the use of at least a subset of Japanese honorifics. For our purposes here, I think we could do quite nicely with just using the equivalent of “-san” (general, all-purpose) and “-sama” (to honor someone who’s worthy of said honor). This works for males, females, and gender-fluid folk; it isn’t agist; and is relatively uncomplicated.

In keeping with English convention, the title would probably come before the name than after (e.g. San Mary Smith, or Sama Abraham Lincoln) or might only be used with last names unless the occasion is formal (e.g. San Smith, and Sama Lincoln). I actually prefer the Japanese style of using it as a suffix (Smith-san, Lincoln-sama), but that’s a matter for grammarians to debate.

There are several other honorifics available, often based on age or status. Given the opportunity for abuse so that underlings “know their place”, I think it’s best that we keep the set small.

While I’m not quite as passionate on this as I am with the genderless pronouns Ey, Em, Eir, I consider this is a strong contender for language change/evolution. It’s something we should consider…at least a little.

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