Thursday, 19 March 2009

What's in a Name... Again?

I've been following, in a fashion, a debate in the Yorkshire Post about calling someone by their surname (or family name if you want to be PC), mainly in the media - and particularly newspapers. I suppose the basis of the arguments is simple. To call someone by their surname in print is simply rude. Others cite that it is a method of psychologically belittling or being critical of a person by just the use of the surname. Others are quite comfortable with it as a norm.

For example, "Brown argued that the economical solution proposed by the Tories was unworkable." Two issues there: why call our Prime Minister by his surname when he has a title - 'Brown' is sharp and functional and stand-offish; whereas 'Prime Minister' or 'Gordon Brown' seems respectful and rather more dignified. Tories, another argument altogether, of course seems to me to be simply disrespectful.

But of course newspapers and usually the big boys don't care, they know they won't be challenged and if they are, they'll simply ignore it. Being disrespectful and hoping for a bite is their business and the tabloids think it's what the common man wants to hear. The question is are they setting a damning standard for disrespect in this country? I believe they are.

However, at school both in the juniors and senior school, I can't ever remember being called by my Christian name (I can call it that - I was Christened a Christian). Being spoken to in class, shouted at in the play ground - it didn't matter and in fact my surname became a recognised and regularly used nick name for me that people would call me in everyday conversations; indeed we would do the same to their surname and convert it to a practical term of endearment. Like 'Aggers' is a friendly representation for Agnew the cricket commentator, as is 'Jonners' the familiar term for the late and much missed Brian Johnston, Belly (for Bell) a school friend of mine or Youngy for Young, simple and non offensive, never intended to be disrespectful and fully accepted.

Perhaps like the much parodied but necessary and overdue 'Respect' campaign being run by the Football League, perhaps the papers need to start respecting the public as a whole and editors need to start respecting people as individual human beings. Given respect, respect may be returned in kind. Only the destructive and evil monsters in our society deserve our contempt.

Chat soon


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