Mr. Obama? Is this typical?

Both my husband and I have noticed President Obama being referred to as Mr. Obama. For the life of me, I can’t recall prior presidents being referred to as anything other than President Whoever (Whomever?)

It sounds so jarring. I don’t know if I’m being oversensitive or if this is more common than it seems to me. I’m not looking for a debate, just wondering if this is a new thing or not.

ETA: I’m not sure which network I keep hearing it on, or if it is several. I rarely get Fox, FWIW.

In the media, the Style (as in, the style guide media outlets use and adhere to (which can vary from outlet to outlet)) is to refer to the American president as “President X” on first mention in a story, and then “Mr. X” on further mentions.

It’s been like that for a long long time. You’re just overly sensitive.

Since George Washington was asked what he should be called and answered thathe should be addressed as Mr. Washington, it’s always been that way. In fact, It was in the early 1990s that I found unusual for Clinton to be referred to anything but President Clinton. More annoying to me is that former governors, senators, etc kept their titles in news stories and interviews. I remember in the 1980s people being referred to as “former Senator So-and-So” or “former Congressman Whatishisface”. Now you hear things like Senator Dole or Mayor Koch. Now I find politicans keeping their elected titles more jarring that politicans referred to as Mister, since Mister at least reminds everyone is equal.

More specifically, the New York Times does, and has done, this for a long, long time. It sometimes has strange results, such as calling (then) Secretary of State Colin Powell, “General Powell.” Example.

Other media outlets have different styles: some use Mr. Obama, others use President Obama, yet others might just say Obama.

George W. Bush was referred to as “Mr. Bush” all the time. I mean, he was the President immediately preceding Barack Obama.

It’s been like this forever, for all presidents. Depending on the style manual used by the publication in question. It’s amazing how bad some people’s memory is.

Every time there is a new President, people complain about The Biased Media calling him “Mr.” We have non-consecutive threads on this topic going back to Grover Cleveland’s inauguration.

Styles differ between publications.

The New York Times says this about its style:

I don’t have access to the Associated Press Stylebook, but this article indicates AP has recently changed its style to refer to the president as President Barack Obama (first and last name) on first reference rather than simply as President Obama, as it would have previously. Evidently AP dispenses with the “Mr” in subsequent references, calling him just “Obama.”

Dang, I read the responses a tad too late, I’m watching PBS and they are the ones doing it, I missed whether or not they switched to Mr. after the first mention. Thanks for your responses. :slight_smile:

I’m pretty old fashioned when it comes to such things. My daughters teacher introduced herself to me as “Stacy.” I told her I’m old, she can be Miss Stacy or Miss/Mrs. Whoever, but I could never refer to a teacher by a first name. Ever. I doubt I could ever refer to the President as anything other than Mr. President, President Whoever, even if I was the First Lady. :stuck_out_tongue:

First Lady Auntbeast.

Kinda rolls off the tongue, don’tcha think?


I was listening to NPR this afternoon and they talked about this. Their policy going back to at least President Ford has been to make the first reference in a story to President Whatsis and subsequently to Mr. Whatsis. They mentioned that they have recordings and transcripts going back decades at their website ( if people want to check it out.

The New York Times is known for referring to people as “Mr. So-and-so” regardless of their status. I recall an interview they did with the singer Meat Loaf in which they kept calling him “Mr. Loaf.” :smiley:

Not really. As the copy editor for the New York Times tells the story, its use of Mr Loaf was in a joking headline: “Is He Called Just Plain Meat Or Should It Be Mr. Loaf?”

What’s interesting to me is that people are already just noticing this and complaining that it is something new. As everyone has said, it’s been standard for everybody’s adult lifetimes. (I just did a quick newspaper search back through Truman and found tens of thousands of hits.)

So what triggers this sudden awareness? What makes people forget that it is used all the time? It’s not because it’s being used derogatively. There has to be something that makes it stand out and none of the many threads we’ve have ever get to the reason why.

I believe Perlman has it wrong. I personally recall reading the original article many years ago, possibly in the 1970s. It was an interview with Meat Loaf, not this movie review from 1991 that Perlman refers to. The article referred to “Mr. Loaf” in the body of the article, not just in a headline. Now I think it was probably tongue-in-cheek, but that’s what they did.

My personal experience it is so unobtrusive that I didn’t notice the convention until someone pointed it out to me. And since I didn’t remember noticing it before, I assumed it was new.

I’m pretty sure this could happen with anything. Let’s say I mention the “new” feature of quoteboxes including a little image that, if you click on it, will take you back to the original post. I’m sure I could get a lot of people to think it really was new.

Maybe we need to design some sort of experiment.

Perhaps the fact that most people either call the President by only one word (Clinton, Dubya, Bush, BushJr, Obama) or President Whatever? The form that’s most common in the media doesn’t match the language in the street.

Just to be clear, I was not thinking it was some sort of anti-Obama backlash. It just sounded jarring to my ears.

Perhaps people keep thinking it is new is because, like now, we’ve had the same dude for 8 years and the title convention is applied to a new name, so it sounds new, even though it isn’t.

Oh, and Duckster, while I agree emphatically, I was more looking forward to being a Queen of a small, Central American country. Belize, perhaps.

I can confirm seeing it in a New York Times concert review in the early 70s. No tongue in cheek at all.

The NYT archives are online. Surely one could find this review?

Although Perlman is certainly wrong about the origin of this belief. Here’s a Sarasota Journal article from 1978 that says, “one formal interviewer with the New York Times insisted on calling him Mr. Loaf,” so clearly a 1991 article can’t be the source of this.

Are you sure you saw it in the Times, and not another publication?