According to Wikipedia, an honorific is:
a title that conveys esteem or respect when used in addressing or referring to a person. Sometimes, the term “honorific” is used in a more specific sense to refer to an honorary academic title.
[I]n the case of a male, “Mr” (irrespective of marital status), and in the case of a female the honorific will depend on her marital status: if the female is unmarried, it is “Miss”, if she is married it is “Mrs”, and if her marital status is unknown, or it is not desired to specify it, “Ms”.
Some honorifics act as complete replacements for a name, as “Sir” or “Ma’am”, or “Your Honor” [when addressing a judge in court].
Wikipedia also describes honorifics in various countries, and they have a completely separate article for English honorifics, which discusses the nobility, royalty, and the clergy.
Many years ago, we read that the Wall Street Journal had a policy of not using “Mr.” when writing about convicted felons, and recently they’ve dropped honorifics altogether when referring to athletes. Most American newspapers seem not to use “Mr.” at all — or they so only rarely. The Chicago Tribune had a recent article on the usage of honorifics, which says that contemporary journalists regard honorifics as “pretentious, anachronistic, archaic, fusty” and a “clumsy formality.”
Aside from “Mr.,” “Mrs.,” and such when speaking of individuals, and the title of “Doctor” for physicians and those who have earned a PhD in their fields, or “Professor,” for those who hold such a position at a recognized university, and military ranks, the topic is relatively unknown in the US, and it doesn’t concern us much here in this humble blog. However, the use of honorifics when speaking about creationists who have a Ph.D. or who are medical doctors was recently raised in some comments, so we’ve been thinking about it.
Creationist organizations like the Discovery Institute, the Institute for Creation Research, and ol’ Hambo’s Answers in Genesis have some of those people in their employ, and they are extravagant in the use of such titles, imagining that they add an aura of authority to the silly things such people say and write.
So what is the Curmudgeon’s policy? Now that we’re confronting the question, the answer seems obvious. An honorific is a title of respect which we are free to use or not use, as a matter of personal discretion. When people support and promote creationism, regardless of their academic history, in our humble opinion they have forfeited any claim to academic or intellectual respect. Therefore, it seems absurd to use academic or professional honorifics when writing about their silly articles.
Our practice here is to entertain our readers by quoting, rebutting, and ridiculing the babblings of creationists. While doing so — aside from what may appear in material we’re quoting — we won’t even use “Mr.” or “Mrs.” or “Miss” when referring to such people. Our policy is to use their last names only, or sometimes only their first names, while occasionally referring to their supposed fields of knowledge by describing them as a “creationist astrophysicist,” or “creationist gynecologist.” At the same time we withhold honorifics, we also refrain from insulting creationists with pejorative terms like “idiot,” “ignoramus,” “fool,” etc. There’s no need for that — you know what we think.
So that’s our policy. Feel free to offer your suggestions.
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