Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

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Whatever Happened to Farmer Giles?
Some titles are conferred as a badge of office, or by possession of a qualification: Captain, Doctor, Justice, Professor, Sister (both medical and religious). We might call these "official" titles. In the US, head teachers seem (if The Simpsons does not lie) to have "Principal" as another such, and I think (from the same source) that "Dean" may be used similarly in higher education.

"Farmer" was never an official title in this sense. It seems in any case to have died out. Mr Giles the farmer is no longer called "Farmer Giles" except by his ribald cronies in the Public Bar. Should one regret this? When and how did it dwindle? Were there others of the same sort? I feel in my bones that "Miller" may also have been used as a courtesy title. I wonder about "Squire", but that hovers between job description and social rank, so is equivocal.

Are there any job-related courtesy titles still in use? The only one I can think of at the moment is "DJ".

It's a long time since I heard Nurse as a title, and I don't remember ever hearing Principal So-and-so. Dean, however, is still in use. (At my college the dean of students while I was there had the first name of Jean and was of course known as Dean Jean ["Dean Jeanie, let yourself go-o-o-o"], to the point where I've forgotten her last name -- ah, it was Phillips.)

I'm reminded of Owen in the Choir School books thinking it sounds rather grand to say Beekeeper Iddingley.

Actually I'm wrong -- people do sometimes use Principal So-and-so under more formal circumstances. See, e.g., http://www.seattlepi.com/local/article/Garfield-principal-Students-drinking-hazing-in-4860558.php

I still don't think I've heard it in ordinary conversation.

I know I never have either; our principals were just 'Mr' or 'Mrs' so-and-so.

I agree about "Beekeeper Iddingley"!

I don't think I've ever heard Principal used in real life the way it's used on The Simpsons.

Sincerely,
Reviewer Rabinowitz

I've seen "Principal" used as a title on other school-setting shows besides The Simpsons. But, like you, I've never heard it used that way in real life. My school principals were addressed as "Mr." or "Mrs.", or, in the case of my high-school principal who had a PhD and very proud of it, "Dr. Angus." (Angus was his surname, not his forename.)

I have seen "Farmer" used as a term of address in other children's literature besides FGH. I couldn't say if it was ever used that way in normal life, as I didn't know any farmers.

I grew up around farmers in the UK, and never heard it used that way.

I suspect it's a relic of a former time, but I'm having trouble thinking of instances from, say, nineteenth century novels either. Mentally riffling through Thomas Hardy is giving me nothing!

I tried "Farmer Brown" on Google Books and came up with various 19C examples (some using "Farmer Brown" as a generic name and some as an actual character).

The Gentleman's Magazine - Volume 78, Part 2 - Page 648
books.google.com/books?id=eGdAPoXrCBAC
1808 - ‎Read - ‎More editions
Farmer Hockey, in particular, will be a sufferer of more than 500/. ; Farmer Brown, upwards of 360/. ; Fanner James, upwards of 160/. j and the other farmers in proportion. The storm lasted about 40 minutes ; and many of the hail-stones ...

The New Sporting Magazine - Volume 14 - Page 329
books.google.com/books?id=82w6AQAAMAAJ
1838 - ‎Read - ‎More editions
Our path lies by old farmer Brown's house, (the Hundrells, as it stands in the parish books, Anglicé the Under Hills); and as farmer Brown is the proprietor of a good portion of the stream in which we are going to fish, and has moreover a brother ...

Underhills! More Tolkien!

There's Farmer Maggot, even without straying beyond JRRT, but I too have seen it elsewhere.

"Dr" is a courtesy title here for dentists, so it only gets used in the workplace, and even then, only by the very formal (I call my dentist by his first name, which is fairly typical these days).

When I trained (1980-83) Nurse was very much used on its own by patients
"Could I have a cup of tea, Nurse?"
and by the ward Sister, as in
"Nurse David, please tidy the sluice."
However its equivalent isn't used in France.
Avocats (lawyers) have a title here, something like Monseigneur, for both male and female.

In terms of address, perhaps we should add "Miss", as used to female teachers of any marital status (and dating from a time when they were obliged to resign when they married).

My son attended preschool classes taught by Teacher Denae and Teacher Jeri. (I think this might be from Quaker tradition, not sure.) My daughters went to a different preschool where their teachers were Miss Kathy and so on. At one point a young man started working there and at first they automatically called him Miss Ezra, as they didn't yet know that Miss was gendered.

When I first went to primary school, we were obliged in morning assembly to greet the teaching staff en masse. At that time the only two male staff were the head and deputy head, and the formula we had to use was: "Good morning teachers, good morning sirs." I remember this incensed my mother, despite her (as she said at the time) not being a great supporter of Women's Lib - which is I suppose the 1960s equivalent of "I'm not a feminist but..."

(Deleted comment)
Yes, but it also designates (at least in casual usage) a certain position within a village. The local squire is the parasite who lives in the big house, not-quite-lording it over his neighbours, riding to hounds and dining off the rents of his tenants. A pillock of the community.

As for informal titles i had an uncle who was a farmer and was well known in the village and was refereed to as Esquire rather than Farmer. As i sometmes DJ i sometimes have been called by my alter ego DJ Jazzy D.

There's Lawyer Wakem in the Mill on the Floss.

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