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Mr. President
Posted: 11 August 2007 05:57 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Was the idea here to remind him that despite being president he was still a mere Mr., accountable under the law like every average Joe or Nixon?  “President” is already an honorific so why else have two?
In the UK we would say “More tea, Prime Minister?” or “More tea, Mr Brown?”
Do they say Senor Presidente in Spain etc.?

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Posted: 11 August 2007 07:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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In the case of the POTUS, at least, the form of address was subject to quite some debate during the adoption of the Constitution. The trick was to demonstrate appropriate respect without using honorifics associated with royalty. The form “Mr. President” was the one settled on. It follows the practice of the British Parliament’s “Mr. Speaker.”

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Posted: 11 August 2007 07:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Two thoughts here:

1. All professors at the University of Virginia are referred to as “Mr” (or women by a similar title) rather than “Dr.” or “Professor” in deference to “Mr. Jefferson” who founded the university.

2. It is interesting that Gordon Brown, who was referred to by our President as “Gordon” during his recent visit to the US, referred to our head of state as “Mr. President” or by other such honorifics.  Never “George.”

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Posted: 12 August 2007 10:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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That explains it, Dave, thanks.  Since I posted this I’ve remembered that the French say Monsieur le President, I think. If they were the first to come up with the concept of a president as head of state after doing away with their royalty. might the honorific Mr be a translation of Monsieur? Didn’t the writes of the Constitution source Rousseau and other French Republicans? Also, Monsieur is more respectful than Mister - you can say the former to attract someone’s attention in France but not the latter in the English-speaking world. The English equivalent would be Sir but that is also a British title that Americans would have wanted to avoid.
Oceolampadius, “Gordon” is better than “Yo, Blair”! Odd disparity but Dubya is a “just folks” kinda guy I guess.
I believe highly-qualified surgeons in the UK are called Mister not Doctor.

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Posted: 12 August 2007 12:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I believe highly-qualified surgeons in the UK are called Mister not Doctor.

I think the title is used by Fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons (not every qualified surgeon’s a Fellow). The usage goes back to a time when surgeons were held in low esteem and the title “Doctor” was used only by physicians.

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Posted: 12 August 2007 12:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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The surgeon who operated on me a couple of years ago made FRCS (becoming a mister) then spoilt it all by taking a PhD…

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Posted: 12 August 2007 08:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Since I posted this I’ve remembered that the French say Monsieur le President, I think. If they were the first to come up with the concept of a president as head of state after doing away with their royalty. might the honorific Mr be a translation of Monsieur?

The French Revolution came after the adoption of the US Constitution, which was drafted in 1787. Washington was sworn in as the first US President in April 1789. The Bastille was stormed that July and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man came that August. The French royal family didn’t flee until 1791 and they weren’t executed until 1793. So US use of Mr. President to address the head of state came before the French. Although it is certainly possible that Monsieur le President may have been used earlier in other contexts.

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Posted: 13 August 2007 07:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Pursuant to the Gordon/Mr. President exchange above, does anyone know if an American president has ever been referred to while he is present by his first name? Would Americans have found it inappropriate if Gordon had called him George in that press conference?
I have heard CNN say “Prime Minister Blair” but BBC World always said “British PM Tony Blair........” and “Mr Blair” thereafter. Is the CNN version wrong?

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Posted: 13 August 2007 11:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I don’t think, with the exception of First Ladies, that I’ve ever heard anyone refer to a US president by his first name in his presence. (During his presidency, Hillary frequently referred to her husband as “Bill.") But wouldn’t think it inappropriate for another head of government/state to refer to him as “George,” especially if the president were to refer to the PM by his first name. They are “equals,” after all. I might judge it as staged familiarity, but not as inappropriate.

But I’d be rather shocked to hear someone else publicly address the president by his first name, even a very close friend.

As for news story references, you’ll find “President Bush” and “President George W. Bush” in pretty much equal measure. It really depends on the organization’s style preferences. “Mr. Bush” and “the president” are common on subsequent reference. Broadcast and online commentators will also frequently refer to him as “Dubya” and “Bush-43” (he’s the 43rd president; his father is Bush-41), but you rarely see these in print journalism. You’ll never hear an American commentator refer to him as “the American president.” (You will see general references to “an American president,” particularly when describing historic events, such as “the first visit to Upper Slobovia by an American president.")

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Posted: 14 August 2007 08:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Jeez . . . and I thought Marilyn Monroe made it up.

And yes I think it’s somewhere between poor taste and disrespect for Mr. P. to say “Gordon” and “Vladimerr” while none of his peers can say Georgie.

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Posted: 14 August 2007 09:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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When I first heard CNN say “PM Blair” it struck me as odd because I had never heard it before. It could be down to CNN’s and the BBC’s style guides as you said, Dave, or some subtle difference between post, title, and honorific in British usage. I really don’t know.

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Posted: 14 August 2007 10:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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President Nixon notoriously required even his best friends to call him “Mr. President”, even in informal social situations.

Certainly, I said to Nixon, his best friends were allowed to treat him differently—were allowed, for example, to call him by his first name.

“No,” Nixon said. “They didn’t. Even my close friends like Rebozo, for example, did not refer to me that way.”

I told him I found that difficult to believe. When Nixon and Rebozo were out on a fishing boat, and Rebozo wanted to offer Nixon a beer—did Nixon actually require his best friend to say, `Would you like a beer, Mr. President?’”

“Yep,” Nixon said. “That’s right. That’s the way.”

Bob Greene

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Posted: 14 August 2007 10:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Ah, ain’t hubris lovely.

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Posted: 14 August 2007 02:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Nixon was a pathological case and should not be taken as the norm.

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Posted: 15 August 2007 02:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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VB, in answer to your question, CNN is entitled to say what it likes (I suspect it’s simply following the style of saying “PM Blair” because it says “President Bush") but “Prime Minister Blair” grates badly on British ears -it’s because we treat “PM” as a job description rather than as a title, like President. (the PM’s actual title, if I recall correctly, is First Lord of the Treasury ...) British media will always say “The Prime Minister. Gordon Brown ...”, followed subsequently by “The Prime Minister ...” or “Mr Brown ...”

Here’s a trivia question: when did the US President and the Prime Minister of Great Britain last share the same initials?

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Posted: 16 August 2007 05:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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That makes sense, Zyth.
There are explanations of the origins of the terms here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/President
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prime_minister which explains why Premier is also used.

I meant Nixon was hubristic not all American Presidents, Dave.  Dubya is an interesting case - he is clearly a decent and moral man but many would say ill-equipped for the job. Is believing that God told you to invade Afghanistan hubristic or delusional? I don’t know if he believed the same about Iraq. That could’ve been the “slam dunk” argument. More interesting is how people who think they are performing God’s Will rationalize things when events start to go horribly wrong.

Could Cheney be described as an eminence grise, albeit a high-profile one?

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