Now that I have children, more and more, I am finding myself struggling with the name question.
How do I want to be addressed? How should I be addressing others? How should my children be addressing them?
In a society that’s increasingly eschewing formality in our dress, our homes and our communications, the issue of what to call people seems to be cropping up more and more.
When I was a child, you always addressed adults as Mr. or Mrs. Smith. There were a few exceptions where I was allowed to call a grown-up by a first name, but the honorific (the title before a name) was always kept. For example, Mrs. Audrey or Mrs. Betty was deemed acceptable, but only with parental consultation.
Now times have changed. I, for example, still look over my shoulder to see if my mother-in-law is standing behind me whenever someone calls me Mrs. Hughes. I have a friend who insists on her children calling me that, but other parents are fine with their children addressing me by my first name.
I think this is a common conundrum, as many children end up referring to their friend’s parents in a round-about sort of way. To most kids, I’ve wound up being known as “Devyn’s Mom.”
But the issue of names isn’t only about my own name, it’s about others too. Lately I’ve been confounded by the doctor conundrum.
In general, at this newspaper, we follow Canadian Press style and do not use honorifics. For example, we don’t call someone Mr. Brown, but simply refer to them by their name. For a medical doctor, we will use Dr. before their name — as long as the story involves them in a medical context.
If they are commenting on the city’s tax policy, or something else where their medical education is irrelevant, we leave the Dr. out.
Don’t even get me started on what to do if the person is a PhD and not a medical doctor.
The doctor thing also gives me personal question marks. It’s a small town, so I regularly bump into my doctor or other doctors I know. When my kids are with me, it’s easy to simply use the full title, but as an adult speaking to another adult who also happens to be an MD, I’m sometimes at a loss. I want to be respectful, but it seems weird talking about their child’s soccer game and calling them Dr. so-and-so.
So do you call them by their first name in a social setting, but use their Dr. moniker if you see them in the Emergency Room? Where’s Miss Manners when you need her?
Or maybe I just need to be more direct.
My daughter was introduced to her physician, Dr. Mike Skubiak a few years ago. When she heard the name, she immediately asked, “Can I just call you Dr. Scooby-Doo?”
“Sure,” was his ready reply.
Once again, a life lesson from a pint-sized human.
When in doubt, just ask.
-Tracy Hughes is editor of the Salmon Arm Observer