Ms. Smith reads the Journal

My dad loves the Wall Street Journal because its articles are insightful and often lead the media pack. I love the WSJ because they put “Mr.” in front of a fellow’s name.

It takes me by surprise every time, the same way a teenage boy once surprised me, when I was new to Boise, by touching his fingers to his cowboy hat as he passed me. I felt like I’d been transported into a Louis L’ Amour story, where the lone-wolf hero has broad shoulders and an impeccable sense of honor, and all the women are beautiful.

The WSJ was born just as the Wild West was waning, but honorific titles in conversation have remained strong for generations, declining only (at least for me) when I got out of college. No longer did I have to respect friends’ parents, teachers, and professors; we’re all equals, here in the workplace. So I began calling adults by their first name. My boss, the company president, someone a week away from retirement—forget his seniority, just call him Bob. We’re all friends here.

A decade and a half later, it feels very natural to use a person’s given name. And why not—unless you’re trying to schmooze a teacher into making that C+ into a B-, or begging for a raise, aren’t we all equal these days?

Perhaps. Times do change, and I don’t foresee returning to our archaic roots. But when I want a little taste of formality, a sense that I could be called “ma’am” by a manly hero with piercing eyes and broken-in cowboy boots, I read the WSJ. Thank you kindly, ma’am.

Monelle Smith blogs for Gemstone Media, Inc., in Boise, Idaho.

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