Monday, May 11, 2009

Andrei An oddity in English customary usage from the BBC

You don't see the honorific Mrs used very often these days - especially not in the print media where it is usually reserved for elderly matrons.

So I was highly surprised to see it used twice in a BBC story about Iceland joining the EU when referring to Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir.
Mrs Sigurdardottir was elected last month on a wave of discontent over the dire state of Iceland's economy.
Mrs Sigurdardottir said a bill authorising EU accession talks would be introduced when Iceland's parliament - the Althingi - resumed sitting on Friday.
Now this is a completely novel use of Mrs.

Indeed Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir was married to Steinar Jóhannesson but has long since divorced him and is currently civil unionized to Icelandic playwright Jónína Leósdóttir, her election causing excitement in some circles - based solely on her gender and sexuality. Given the divorce customary usage would dictate she be formally addressed as Mrs Jóhanna Jóhannesson if she had kept his surname or Ms, Miss Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir if she had not.

I can shed no light the formal honorific for the civil unionized, unless of course the BBC style-book as used in this story has become the norm. In which case Ms transforms to Mrs with no accompanying name change for those dwelling in the state of civil unionized bliss.

5 comment(s):

ZenTiger said...

As strange as Helen preferring Miss Clark instead of Ms or Mrs.

Andrei said...

Not quite Zen, that conforms to customary usage, in that she kept her maiden name.

Had she been known as Mrs Helen Clark.....

ZenTiger said...

Ah! I thought Miss was for unmarried woman, or a very young one.

Blair said...

Mrs is kind of redundant in Iceland anyway, since everybody's last name is determined by the name of their father, and this is determined by law. You don't change your name when you get married.

mzala said...

And I got a serious blasting not long after emigrating by calling a lady(no less), Mrs. Foolishly, I assumed that a lady above a certain age would be married or had been married. Well, roastings do help so now I just stick to plain old-fashioned "love".

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