H.L. Mencken > The American Language > Subject Index > Page 141
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H.L. Mencken (1880–1956).  The American Language.  1921.

Page 141
 
honorary, before the name of his office. If he leaves it off it is a sign that he is a hireling. Thus, the agent of the New Zealand government in London, a paid officer, is simply the agent, but the agents at Brisbane and Adelaide, in Australia, who serve for the glory of it, are hon. agents. In writing to a Briton of condition one must be careful to put Esq., behind his name, and not Mr., before it. The English make a clear distinction between the two forms. Mr., on an envelope, indicates that the sender holds the receiver to be his inferior; one writes to Mr. John Jackson, one’s green-grocer, but to James Thompson, Esq., one’s neighbor. Any man who is entitled to the Esq. is a gentleman, by which an Englishman means a man of sound connections and what is regarded as dignified occupation—in brief, of ponderable social position. Thus a dentist, a shop-keeper or a clerk can never be a gentleman in England, even by courtesy, and the qualifications of an author, a musical conductor, a physician, or even a member of Parliament have to be established. But though he is thus enormously watchful of masculine dignity, an Englishman is quite careless in the use of lady. He speaks glibly of lady-clerks, lady-typists, lady-doctors and lady-inspectors. In America there is a strong disposition to use the word less and less, as is revealed by the substitution of saleswoman and salesgirl for the saleslady of yesteryear. But in England lady is still invariably used instead of woman in such compounds as lady-golfer, lady-secretary and lady-champion. The women’s singles, in English tennis, are always ladies’ singles; women’s wear, in English shops, is always ladies’ wear. Perhaps the cause of this distinction between lady and gentleman has been explained by Price Collier in “England and the English.” In England, according to Collier, the male is always first. His comfort goes before his wife’s comfort, and maybe his dignity also. Gentleman-clerk or gentleman-author would make an Englishman howl, though he uses gentleman-rider and gentleman-player in place of our amateur. So would the growing American custom of designating successive members of a private family bearing the same given name by the numerals proper to royalty. John Smith 3rd and William Simpson 4th are gravely received at Harvard; at Oxford they would be ragged unmercifully.
  An Englishman, in speaking or writing of public officials, avoids

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