Marital status titles reveal more information about women than about men. But why has the title of ‘Master’ declined in popularity, when the female counterpart of ‘Miss’ still exists?
Robert Hickey, deputy director of the Protocol School of Washington stated that, “Use of Master [as] an honorific when addressing boys is considered old fashioned outside of conservative circles”.
Leslie Dunkling, author of a variety of books about names, states that, “Master as a prefixed title is a way of addressing politely a boy too young to be called Mister. It can be used as a title, and a form of address for any son”.
There seems to be a considerable level of respect connected with the use of ‘Master’, with the general consensus being that if it is used, it is dispensed with by the boy’s age of 18, regardless of marital status.
There’s very little information on how and why the title of ‘Master’ has almost ceased to be used. The title seems to have ghosted into the past without a death certificate.
Businesses and organisations have made the decision, one by one, to just stop using it.
Some of the guidance on usage of ‘Master’ is still written very much in the present tense and use of ‘Master’ as a title does still seem to exist in Doctor’s surgeries and for children’s bank accounts. However ‘Master’ is extremely rare as an option on the drop down list of day-to-day registration and sign-up pages.
Now let’s look at the ever present title of ‘Miss’ in comparison;
Samuel Johnson (admittedly in 1755) noted in his famous Dictionary, the title of ‘Miss’ meaning 6. A whore or concubine.’ i.e. During those times, the title of ‘Miss’ was popularly used to refer to a prostitute.
Extensive research by Dr Amy L. Erickson for the University of Cambridge includes a history of female titles and how they were used in various ways to denote standing in society and profession as well as marital status.
‘Miss’ was used to refer to a school teacher, and ‘Mrs’ mostly used to address working women of the household.
Progress could come in the form of, dropping ‘Miss’ at the age of 18 too, and reverting to ‘Ms’. But as many parents are now opting to raise children in a more gender neutral way, a more progressive way of thinking would be to drop titles for children altogether, and start as we mean to go on!