Doesn’t need a title

I really struggled to come up with a title for this column. Fact is, I seriously struggle with titles in general. Not the titles of books or movies or even newspaper columns and articles, but with the titles that people give one another and themselves.

We’ve gotten all overblown on titles. When did receptionists become Ministers of First Impressions? Remember last summer when Sen. Barbara Boxer chastised a military general for calling her “ma’am?” She asked the general, “Could you say ‘Senator’ instead of ‘ma’am?” Is that what it’s come to? Do our titles give us identity? I don’t think so.

You wouldn’t know it by watching television, though. On practically every show offered on the Food Network, hosts are tripping over themselves to call one another “Chef.” They say it is a sign of respect because of their training. Well, OK, let’s take that to its natural conclusion. Next time your sink is backed up, refer to the person you call as “Plumber” every time you address him. After all, he’s gone through a lot of training and he deals with the same stuff as the cooks on television, just in a more processed form.

Now, I have no problem with some titles, I appreciate all of the schooling, training, residencies and internships which physicians have gone through before they can treat my family. I believe that they’ve earned the title “Doctor.” The same can be said for Ph.D.s — there should be some benefit to enduring dozens of years of school.

I know that using a title is often a sign of respect. I’m OK with that. Children should refer to teachers as Mr. or Ms. I have no problem with “Coach,” “Pastor” or “Officer,” but when people start requiring that they be called by a certain name without actually earning the respect or when the title is longer than an all-day insurance seminar, I must draw the line. For instance, when a pastor starts going by The Most Reverend and Holy Apostle Bishop Brother Samuel E. Jones Jr. it is a little too much. I compare it to a self-given nickname. Calling yourself “Champ” when no one else does makes you a loser.

Let’s not forget that sometimes we are subject not only to titles, but also to all of the accreditations that follow. Call yourself “Dr. Holly Johnson, M.D.” if you want, but to me it is redundant. The M.D. means doctor. I think it’s like keeping your pants up: Use a belt or suspenders, but not both.

And speaking of accreditations, when did it become appropriate to list college degrees after your name? I especially see this in academic and social service settings. I understand that it used to be fine to be Matthew Ford, M.B.A., or Cynthia Arvin, M.S., when those degrees weren’t as common as leaves in autumn. The other day I saw someone sign her name as “Mallory Harris, B.A.,” like that was supposed to impress me. In these days of political correctness, are we all so desperate to feel important that we have to start stringing initials after our names like someone spilled alphabet soup on our business cards? I, for one am tired of it. Ross Lowery, C.P.A., C.A.E, C.S.P.? I think it’s been taken to X.S.

I do, however, guess I’m going to have to get with the program and wear labels and letters with pride. For that reason, from now on I want to be known as Columnist Extraordinaire Mr. Les O’Dell, H.S., B.S., M.S., with emphasis on the B.S.

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