Mr. Obama?

It’s something that makes me quite proud of our Founding Fathers - Mr. Adams (see what I did there?) didn’t get his “His High Mightiness”.

Because of his Kenyan background he should obviously be referred to as Bwana Obama.

Didn’t we have a debate about this some weeks ago?

Actually, winning a major election (e.g., governor, president, senator, etc.) or being appointed to a high position (e.g., judge, cabinet secretary, etc.) permanently changes how you are formally addressed: you’d be known as “The Honorable (insert name)” for purposes of introduction.

For example, if you write a letter to Jimmy Carter, you’d write something like:

As opposed to us schlubs, who you’d write to:

The NY Times refers to everyone as Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms. They only started using “Ms” when Geraldine Ferraro was running for Vice-President. As Gloria Steinem quipped “I’ll no longer be referred to as Miss Steinem of Ms Magazine.”

It’s a little jarring to read about the execution of “Mr. Bundy.”

Yeah, he certainly does merit increased vigilance.

Well, they certainly didn’t execute Miss Bundy. :slight_smile:

I have in my humor collection a long-forgotten book of hers from 1972, called The Name on the White House Floor and other anxieties of our times. The cover calls her “the Washington Post columnist who makes the whole town laugh - except the President.” The jacket copy says she “writes a weekly syndicated column for the Washington Post” and the book is a collection of those columns starting from 1965. I consider it a humor column in much the same way that Art Buchwald was writing his humor column for them at the same time. The format of the book is identical to the collections of Buchwald’s columns that he put out on a more regular basis. (But Martin’s is from from a different publisher who was obviously trying to ride the coattails of Buchwald’s popularity then.)

I don’t know what the formal definition of a humor columnist might be, but she fits mine.

It is never improper to refer to or address an adult male American as “Mr. ____,” regardless of his or her job or qualifications.

Ravenman: I have never once seen Mr. Carter referred to as ‘The Honorable’ and I would like a cite to someone that establishes it’s actually done.

It should appear in any table listing forms of address. Here are a few:

http://www.cftech.com/BrainBank/OTHERREFERENCE/FORMSOFADDRESS/SpkWritFrmsAddr.html
http://www.umw.edu/policies/style_guide/protocol__forms_address/default.php

And from “Protocol, 25th Anniversary Edition: The Complete Handbook of Diplomatic, Official and Social Usage,” page 33. Link.

The specific form of letters and introductions of former presidents and vice presidents appears on page 52, and is identical to the links above.

Missed edit window:

http://www.state.gov/s/cpr/what/c18027.htm

Protocol FAQ from the US State Department.

Q: Does a person retain the honorific title “The Honorable” after leaving the position for which they hold it?

A: Yes, a person who has been in a position that entitled them to “The Honorable” continues to retain that honorific title even after he or she leaves that position.

Clearly, the protocol promulgated by the State Department is not the operative norm here. Nor should it be. The State Department creates such protocol for state occasions to be followed by people participating in such occasions (most commonly employees of the State Department). It has nothing to do with how a news reporter should address or refer to a person.

I was responding to Derlith’s point, which, if I understand it correctly, was that high office doesn’t change how people are supposed to address you. His statement went far beyond the question of how journalists are supposed to address people, and it is in error.

Of course journalistic standards vary. I am not disputing that, and that question has been adequately answered. But there is no variation in terms of introductions or addressing a letter: every source on forms of address out there will back me up here. Go look in the back of your dictionary, which I presume isn’t only for use by State Department personnel.

i believe there may be a bit of a “back door” so to speak for those who die in office. they did not leave the office of president voluntarily or transfer power to the president-elect. they may get to hold onto the president title.

all others are former or past presidents, and can go by mr. or whatever retired rank they had.

It’s not correct as a way to refer to him in the third person: you wouldn’t say “The Honorable Jimmy Carter built this house with a Habitat for Humanity group.” It’s correct as a form of address when writing to him, though. This letter to Carter, written in 2007, shows an example of its use.

If there are no rules, then what are we arguing about? Of course there are rules: you just have a different opinion from me (and from Miss Manners) about whether a particular rule has changed.

Is there any exceptions? What if a person served in a state legislature and murdered 65 women and children while operating a slavery ring in the state capital, then was impeached, convicted, and sentenced to death?

Would the warden have to refer to him as “The Honorable Inmate X” while reading the death sentence?

Once again, the honorific “The Honorable” is correctly used only in formal address/introduction, not in every single form of reference or address.

Death warrants (example) use the inmate’s full name with no honorific, so there would be no question of including “The Honorable” in a death warrant for an ex-government official.

On the other hand, if you send mail to an ex-government official who’s incarcerated, you do use “The Honorable” in addressing the letter, no matter how dishonorable the official in question has been legally proved to be. Miss Manners had a wonderful column (can’t find it online, sorry) on this very question, where she pointed out the delicious irony of writing, say, “The Honorable Buddy Bedfellow” above the address “State Penitentiary”.

And yet, a letter addressed to Mr. Buddy Bedfellow or Buddy Bedfellow or Bedfellow would get there just as well.

Etiquette is about what you should do, not what you have to do.

Sure, but that’s beside the point. Conventional forms of address in correspondence serve a purpose beyond simply identifying the recipient.

The convention of using “The Honorable” when addressing former elected officials is intended not as an expression of your personal admiration of them as individuals, but as a formal acknowledgement of respect for the office of public servant. As Derleth noted, this is ultimately an expression of respect for our nation as a whole, and as such I think it’s meaningful and valuable, even if I personally would be more comfortable addressing Mr. Bedfellow as “Hey Asshole”.

For example, I am not a big fan of our most recent president, and don’t consider him a model of integrity. But if for any reason I were impelled to write him a letter, I would grit my teeth and put “The Honorable George W. Bush” on the envelope. Because that’s what’s correct.

IMHO, violating a recognized and accepted convention of etiquette (like not using “The Honorable” in addressing ex-politicians) to show my disdain for the arbitrariness of etiquette conventions wouldn’t make me look enlightened or independent. It would just seem jerkish and petty of me.