Forms of Address

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Forms of Address

Postby bnjtokyo » Sat Jun 29, 2019 8:45 am

I can't decide on the proper category for this question: Is it a Grammar question? Is it Slang question? Is it an Idiomatic question?
Not being able to decide, I post it here.

I recently received an email from a non-governmental organization with the following signature block

First Name Last Name
Program Director
phone number; email address
Pronouns: he, him, his

Can anyone advise me on how I am to use the information in the "Pronouns" line?

On the one hand, the pronouns listed are all third person pronouns and I would only use one of them to refer to Last Name when communicating with some other party, and, as such, Last Name would not be aware of the pronoun I chose to use.

On the other hand, if I were to write or call Last Name directly, I would use second person pronouns (you, your, yours) and the pronouns provided are not obviously useful.

So my questions: What information is Last Name trying to communicate to me? How am I to use that information in further communication with Last Name?

Thanks to any denizen of the Agora who can shed light on this enigma.

Senior Lexiterian
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Location: London, UK

Re: Forms of Address

Postby Audiendus » Wed Jul 03, 2019 8:57 pm

I suppose Last Name just wants to ensure that you get his gender right when communicating with a third party. Perhaps he doesn't like being called 'Mr'.

Or is Last Name a woman who likes to be referred to by masculine pronouns? (Unlikely!) :?

Posts: 207
Joined: Thu Jul 07, 2016 7:16 pm

Re: Forms of Address

Postby bnjtokyo » Wed Jul 10, 2019 9:41 am

When I wrote the above post, I was hoping some of the Agorans would help me with the general problem the "pronouns he, him, his" line suggests. Although, as Audiendus pointed out, "he, him, his" is not difficult, what about the alternatives? If someone were to close with "pronouns she, her, hers," how should we address our letters? Ms? Mrs? Miss? perhaps something else? If some one were to close with "pronouns they, them, theirs," how would that person like to be addressed? Are there other possible pronouns? What are they? How should we address such an individual?

The office I work in in Japan has a large international correspondence which is largely conducted in English. People come to me from time to time to ask how a letter to someone in Indonesia or Nigeria or Uzbekistan should be addressed: Dear Mr. X or Dear Ms X? In these cases, I often use a google search on the name to find a picture of someone who shares that name to find a solution. But now with a letter from the US with a list of unfamiliar pronouns, what advise can I offer? The internet suggests most people in the US with the name "George" have a male phenotype but if the pronouns listed are anything other than "he, him, his" or "she, her, hers," what should I advise?

On the other hand, our correspondent in Uzbekistan may not be familiar with Japanese names and may not know how to address a letter to us. I suggest that a male close his letter with
Koichi TANAKA (Mr.)
and that a female close her letter with
Kimiko TANAKA (Ms)
(or if she prefers, Mrs or Miss)
(N.B. Some in the office prefer to write their names Japanese style, last name first, and I recommend closing the letter with TANAKA Koichi (Mr.))

If any Agorans have any experience with these matters, I would appreciate hearing what solutions you have found.

George Kovac
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Location: Miami

Re: Forms of Address

Postby George Kovac » Mon Nov 18, 2019 11:20 am

Forms of address when you don't know the gender of the addressee are a challenge, not just when you are unfamiliar with the language.

But even in English it is getting tougher with the popularity of non-traditional names: are Hudson and Madison boys or girls? It is now a fashion to give boys' names to girls--but that is a practice that has a long tradition in the American South. I once had to contact an attorney in a small town in Alabama. Before I wrote to the attorney, I phoned the attorney, and, sure enough "Michael" was a woman. Fans of "The Waltons" TV series may remember that the role of Olivia Walton (the wife) was played by the actress Michael Learned.

As to pronouns, Turkish has a solution: the single pronoun "o" can mean "he", "she", "him", "her" or "it". But that does not solve the form of address issue.
"The messy layers of human experience get pulled together, and sometimes ordered, by words." Colum McCann, But Always Meeting Ourselves, NYT 6/15/09

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