Is it time to ditch Ms, Miss and Mrs as titles?

Women can find themselves in a more awkward position than men when asked to give an honorific...

Is it time to ditch Ms, Miss and Mrs as titles?

Picture by: Geoff Kirby/PA Archive/PA Images

What's in a title? For women, it's actually quite a bit of information.

Traditionally, 'Miss' has been used to refer to girls or unmarried women, while 'Mrs' is used as the title for married women. 'Ms', meanwhile, is typically used as a purposely neutral term or when the marital status of the woman is unknown.

This, however, differs from the situation faced by men. Aside from the increasingly uncommon 'Master', 'Mr' is by far the most common title for men.

Mx, it should be pointed out, is sometimes used as a gender-neutral honorific.

While the issue of titles may seem like a minor issue for many observers, there's little dispute that there's a definite gender divide in the way titles are used and interpreted.

Concerns over the trio of titles for women were raised by writer Catherine Mack in an Irish Times article this week, and today she spoke to Moncrieff about the issue.

Catherine told Sean: "The one instance I wrote about in The Irish Times was not long after my marriage broke up sadly. I guess that's when I became more sensitive to the issue.

"I was in the doctor's surgery and the receptionist asked me quite loudly 'are you Miss or Mrs?' I was just completely stumped and said 'well, actually I'm Ms'... I had to spell it out.

"I became aware that really everywhere I go now I'm asked for the same thing, asked to give my title."

No more Fräulein

Catherine says that while it's a good thing that 'Ms' exists as a more neutral honorific, ultimately that may even be redundant in 2017.

She suggested: "I think it's great there is a neutral title that we can use, but I just don't see why we actually have to give our title anymore [...] Of course the main point being that men's titles aren't related to their marital status."

Have any countries managed to move away from traditional honorifics?

Catherine observed: "I was writing about Germany recently, and I only found out then that the word 'Fräulein' - which I had learnt at school meaning 'Miss' - no longer really exists in Germany. They've removed it from all official documents and in general use it's just not used.

"In Brittany [in France], there are two separate towns that have removed Mademoiselle from all official documents - so they just used Madame, again not discriminating against age or marital status."

She suggested that these are separate concerns to something like gender identity, which can also lead to some administrative awkwardness.

"I really think that on most forms gender identification is treated separately to your title anyway," she said. "That's why for me it's a very different issue.

"But certainly in this day and age, people are becoming more sensitive to all of these issues. So particularly if Irish Government can lead at European level, I think that would be fantastic," she concluded.