Mr./Mister, Miss, Mrs. etc. used with forenames/first names

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Thomas1

Senior Member
polszczyzna warszawska
Good evening everyone,

I am curious about the usage of the word in the title of this thread. I met an English teacher today, he’s a colleague of mine. He comes from Congo. He uses this word when he addresses me, e.g.: (It was nice to meet you,) Mr Thomas/Tom. I must admit I had never come across this word being used this way. I have come across it though with reference to politicians in newspapers or news reports used along with their surnames. My questions are: is this word used like that often? What sort of connotation does it convey? If he addresses me like that should I follow the way too while addressing him? When do you use it like that?

Input appreciated. :)

Tom
 
  • The Scrivener

    Banned
    England. English
    Good evening everyone,

    I am curious about the usage of the word in the title of this thread. I met an English teacher today, he’s a colleague of mine. He comes from Congo. He uses this word when he addresses me, e.g.: (It was nice to meet you,) Mr Thomas/Tom. I must admit I had never come across this word being used this way. I have come across it though with reference to politicians in newspapers or news reports used along with their surnames. My questions are: is this word used like that often? What sort of connotation does it convey? If he addresses me like that should I follow the way too while addressing him? When do you use it like that?

    Input appreciated. :)

    Tom
    Hi Tom,

    In general, we do not use the term "Mister" when addressing someone by their Christian name; only when using the surname.

    I can understand your colleague from the Congo calling you "Mister Thomas". Sadly, some people of different skin colour still feel the need to be ultra polite, almost subservient.

    If you are addressed as "Mister" I suggest that you tell the person to call you Tom or Thomas, then politely ask how your colleague would like to be addressed.
     

    Padraig

    Senior Member
    Hiberno-English, Irish Gaelic
    Formality is cultural, and thus varies from group to group.

    I agree with The Scrivener that you should invite your colleague to adopt the mode that is considered appropriate in your circle, and also be prepared to grant him the kindness of using a convention with which he is comfortable.

    Here in Ireland, the use of "Mister" as a form of address is in terminal decline. It is still sometimes used when addressing somebody of higher station -- for example by a young employee addressing a much senior staff member.
     

    Thomas1

    Senior Member
    polszczyzna warszawska
    Thank you for the answers. :)

    A follow-up question:
    If it's not generally used like that, in what kind of situations is it used this way then?
    Padraig, do you, Irish I mean, use it with ones Christian name or only with surnames?

    Tom
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    In my part of The Island, and I believe in Padraig's, it would be unusual to say Mr <forename>.
    As he says, use of Mister is in decline, but if used at all it would be Mr <surname>.
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    I can understand your colleague from the Congo calling you "Mister Thomas". Sadly, some people of different skin colour still feel the need to be ultra polite, almost subservient.
    I think this is patronizing in the extreme. If a Congolese gentleman addressed me this way, I would not think he was feeling the need to be "subservient" because he was black and I am not. I would instead assume that in his own language one did not use a first name without an honorific, and he was merely translating directly -- much as a Japanese person might address an English friend as "Mary-san" or "Henry-san". If one thought "this means Mr. Henry in English, and the Japanese say this because they feel the need to be almost subservient when addressing white people", one would be very, very wrong.
     

    Vinlander

    Senior Member
    Canada, American English (mostly)
    The only place I have heard this, if old films are to be believed, was when servants were addressing the children of the employer/master Sometimes Master would be used instead of Mister (my grandmother, from Scotland, always addressed letters to me as to Master Joe McBlow). Regardless of this, the term is now never heard, or at least I have never heard it in use.

    Vinlander
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Note that nearly all U.S. newspapers have dropped the use of courtesy titles, i.e. "Mr." on second reference.

    One notable exception is the New York Times.
     

    nichec

    Senior Member
    Chinese(Taiwan)/English(AE)
    In my part of The Island, and I believe in Padraig's, it would be unusual to say Mr <forename>.
    As he says, use of Mister is in decline, but if used at all it would be Mr <surname>.
    Nowadays, I only use "Mister" when I am upset :D

    "Get back here, Mister! I am talking to you!"

    But that's just me, of course.

    (I actually call my boss by his given name..............)
     

    TheAmzngTwinWndr

    Senior Member
    United States
    In school (high school and lower) we call our teachers "Mr. so-and-so" (in college you call them Professor so-and-so). I also call my friends parents Mr./Mrs. It is usually (or at least should be, I think) used as a sign of respect when there is a substantial age gap between the two people.


    In your example, I agree with what people said above that maybe it is used with one's first name instead of their last name. Also, maybe he didn't know your last name (I'm just guessing) and so used your first name as a replacement. Also, keep in mind that there are always some people that just do things differently just because, maybe he's one of them.
     

    anothersmith

    Senior Member
    English, U.S.
    The only place I have heard this, if old films are to be believed, was when servants were addressing the children of the employer/master
    Or the elderly parent of the employer, as in the film "Driving Miss Daisy."

    I am under the impression that it may still be used in some of the Southern states of the U.S. I have been addressed this way twice (first name preceded by "Miss"), each time when I was younger, by an older African-American gentleman from the South. I found it a bit odd, because I'm not from the South and had never heard the usage outside of films and television, but in each instance the man in question was being very polite, even gallant.
     

    Hara

    Member
    Greece & Greek
    Hello all,

    I would like to ask you if we say "Mr John" or "Ms Helen" without using their surname. Like i.e. Ms Helen is not here.

    Thank you in advance
     
    It depends on the context - which you ought to have given us.

    The answer is - not usually.

    But I'm thinking of an office where there are two solicitors called John Todd and Jim Todd. The receptionist might well tell callers that only Mr John is available as Mr Jim is out.

    Rover
     

    xebonyx

    Senior Member
    TR/AR/EN
    I like the above example. But as Rover said, it's rare to do that. You may hear it from a little kid who is attempting to give respect to someone who has allowed people to refer to her or him by their first name. Also, someone who acts like a diva or wants to be recognized as one might give themselves the "Ms.+first name" title. Or in a silly way, one could say to someone they know-- ie. John says, "That's "Mr. John", to you."- which means, give me respect with reference to my name.
     

    Hara

    Member
    Greece & Greek
    Thank you guys.

    I was trying to figure out (in a text I'm translating) if one is speaking in a polite or informal way, because in Greek there is a distinction in the tense used in these two cases.

    Thank you so much.
     

    Esca

    Senior Member
    ATX
    USA - English
    I was just reading another discussion about this very structure. It seems that "Mr. John" or "Ms. Diane" is a common form used in the American South to show respect for someone who is older than you, but familiar to you.
    I have never heard it in my area, aside from the very specific situation of a preschool or kindergarten, where in my experience children are commonly told to address their teachers as "Miss Karen," etc.
     

    Harry Batt

    Senior Member
    USA English
    I'll string along that the usage of simple titles has been continued by many classes of people for cultural reasons in a society. I became a volunteer in the Minneapolis public school system about 5 years ago; handed the job of creating and teaching enriched English to elementary pupils. Nobody asked what they ought to call me. The students placed me in the category of classroom teacher and began calling me Mister John. The simple title in a classroom seems to have meant that the students have more respect for me compared to other volunteers that they deal with. Perhaps the chap from the Congo, coming from an education system was merely following unspoken rules of respect.
     

    epistolario

    Senior Member
    Tagalog
    I know that the following are okay:

    Full Name: John Smith
    a) Mr John Smith
    b) Mr Smith

    Full Name: Ms Mary Walter
    a) Ms Mary Walter
    b) Ms Walter

    Is it unnatural or awkward to use the first name with titles?

    a) Mr John
    b) Ms Mary
     

    cropje_jnr

    Senior Member
    English - Australia
    It is not usual practice. You will however sometimes hear it in conversational English, usually jokingly.

    You would certainly not be going into a business meeting with somebody called "John Smith" and addressing him as "Mr John"!

    (Of course, it's a different matter for names from countries such as China, where the surname precedes given names).
     

    Cypherpunk

    Senior Member
    US, English
    It is common for children to address their elders (non-family members) by title and first name, but it is much less common as one gets to late elementary school.

    For example, a kindergartener would refer to the high school students that care for them after school as Miss Emily or Mister Jason, but a 13- or 14-year-old student would almost certainly call them Emily or Jason.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    This construction was used here long ago by servants as a term of address.

    It's also current elsewhere.

    I'm adding this question to a previous thread on the same topic.
     

    Cypherpunk

    Senior Member
    US, English
    After reading through posts to the earlier thread, I am reminded that I often used this form of address when I was young to refer to anyone older than myself that I knew reasonably well (as others mentioned). I recall that it was also used by older persons, to address me when they were either annoyed with my behavior or when offering a bit of praise or approval for proper or mature behavior.
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    As noted earlier, where one is (or where one is from) can have an effect on what one says. Just as in Spanish an older lady whom all respect might be called "Doña Ana" or "Doña Margarita", in the American South it is not uncommon for respected older ladies, regardless of their race, and regardless of the race of the person speaking to or of them, to be addressed or referred to as "Miss [Firstname]". I remember my own mother used to address a southern friend of hers playfully as "Miss Louise" because in Louise's family it was habitual to speak of their elderly friends or neighbors as, for example, "Miss Mary" or "Miss Susan". Probably the most widely known example of this practice was the way President Jimmy Carter's mother was commonly referred to, even in the press; namely, as "Miss Lillian."
     
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