Sunday, May 01, 2005


Forms of Address

Mr. Dennis Mangan has some interesting observations on forms of address. He concludes:
It seems to me that the old style of denominating everyone as Mister, Missus, or Miss gave dignity to all, no matter what their station in life. Maybe we ought to bring it back.
Being the reactionary that he is, Mr. Mangan may be pleased to learn that St. Benedict, in his rule for monks (chapter 63), arrived at exactly the same solution to the problem of how we should address one another. Always use titles rather than bare names:
Let the juniors, therefore, respect the seniors, and the seniors love the juniors. Moreover, even in the form of address, let no one call another by the bare name [puro nomine]; but let the seniors call their juniors brothers [fratres] and the juniors address their seniors as fathers [nonnos]. In this way, paternal respect is signified. Let the Abbot, however, because he is thought to act in Christ's stead, be called Lord and Abbot [Domnus et Abbas]; not from any claim on his own part, but out of honor and love for Christ.
I have written an essay on the antecedents of this rule in ancient Greek, Latin, and Jewish sources.

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