Sunday, October 2, 2011


An honorific is a word or expression with connotations conveying esteem or respect when used in addressing or referring to a person. The most common honorific's in modern English are usually placed immediately before the name of the subject. Honorific’s which can be used of any adult of the appropriate sex include `Mr', `Mrs' or `Miss'. Other honorific’s denote the honoured person’s occupation, for instance `Doctor', `Captain', `Coach', `Reverend', for all clergy and/or "Father" (for a Catholic Priest), or "Professor". Abbreviations of academic degrees or professional certifications, used after a person's name, may also be seen as a kind of honorific (e.g. "Jane Doe, Ph.D.") 

In past times, as also now in modern Britain, people were conferred an honorific by the Ruler, you could be knighted. You could obtain an honorific by studying, for example becoming a doctor. Over time honorary honorific’s, honoris causa, have been doled out by universities to deserving persons. So Vijay Mallya has got a Doctorate and is now Dr. Vijay Mallya.

Then there are honorific’s that people either assume or they are thrust upon, and accepted willingly by the person concerned. So you have Mohandas K Gandhi becoming Mahatma. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar becomes `Veer’ Savarkar, sounds so much better. Qureshi Alla Rakha Khan became `Ustad’ Allah Rakha. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar has become `Babasaheb’ Ambedkar. Our friendly neighbourhood spiritual leader, the rather mundanely named Ravi Shankar Ratnam has become `Sri Sri’ Ravishankar. The list of this thrust upon and willingly accepted honorific persons is endless. I do wonder who thought of these honorofics and how they came to be so widely accepted. The craze for honorofics has now even touched ordinary professions. Advocates now affix `Ad’ before their name, and not to be left behind, architects now add `Ar’. Chefs, especially in India are becoming Masterchefs, and this is such a hollow claim that it really boggles my mind. Sanjeev Kapoor is now a Masterchef.

I am quite unsure as how to deal with the very latest in the line of honorofics that we now have. These are not merely titles or descriptions of the persons profession. These new wave honorofics are not single words but entire sentences. It’s now impossible to say `Dr Manmohan Singh’ without also writing `that his honesty and integrity is beyond question’ or words to that effect. Sachin Tendulkar has many, from the one word `Masterblaster’, to the sentence `icon who has brought international laurels’ or words to that effect.

With the money attached to cricket I wonder if cricketers will as Cr before their names? Do you get me Steve?

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