In 2003, Prof. Michael Hertz at Cardozo School of Law wrote a short but thought-provoking article on the incorrect but increasingly frequent use of the term ‘General’ to refer to sitting Attorneys or Solicitors General. Interestingly, Attorney General Mukasey, who came into the office after it was published, was and is often referred to as Judge.
It is, therefore, only fitting that we now have a battle over the use of incorrect honorifics in the private sector. It comes as a particular shock that Newt Gingrich, expert in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral, hasn’t noted this glaring error of etiquette himself. Indeed, all three candidates are correctly referred to as Mister rather than Governor, Senator, and Speaker.
Why do we feel the need to maintain unnecessary titles? Do we long for our very own Downton Abbey world of order amidst the chaos? Or does it make us feel more important to use the terms even when referring to others? Or are reporters simply too lazy to realize they are wrong when following the crowd?