Honorifics are terms used with people, often by being added to their names, to “honor” them. Such terms convey or imply a status difference between the speaker and the person being referred to (“the good doctor”) or addressed (“Professor Dumbledore”). Although people in the United States tend to be less formal than other nationalities, American English still has its honorifics. They include such terms as Mr., Mrs., Ms., Dr., Professor, Dean, Senator, Reverend, Honorable, and President. Often these terms are attached to names, as in “Dr. Wilson,” “President Rudd,” and “Senator McCain,” but some of them can be used to address someone without using his or her name, such as “Dr.,” “Mr. President,” “Senator,” and “Miss.” The British have a more developed set of honorifics corresponding to status distinctions based on class nobility (e.g., Lord and Lady Trumble), and special recognition (e.g., knighthood– “Sir Elton John” or “Dame Maggie”).
The Japanese language has several honorifics, some of which convey more respect than others do. The suffix -sama (added to a name), showing great respect, is used to address someone of higher social status, such as a lord or a respected teacher. Women can use it to demonstrate love or respect for their husbands. The most common Japanese honorific, -san, attached to the last name is respectful but less formal than “Mr.,” “Mrs.,” or “Ms.,” in American English. Attached to a first name, -san denotes more familiarity. The honorific -dono shows more respect and is intermediate between -san and -sama.
Kin terms also can be associated with gradations in rank familiarity. Dad is a more familiar, less formal kin term than Father, but it still shows more respect than would using the father’s first name. Outranking their children, parents routinely use their kids’ first names, nicknames, or baby names, rather addressing them as “son” and “daughter.” American English terms like bro, man, dude, and girl (in some contexts) seem similar to the informed/familiar honorifics in Japanese. Southerners up to (and sometimes long past) a certain age routinely use “ma’am” and “sir” for older or higher-status women and men. adapted from Anthropology: Appreciating Human Diversity, Conrad Phillip Kottak
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