Titles like Mr, Mrs, Ms, Dr, etc are commonly and widely used, but have you heard of Mx?


I hadn’t heard of it until yesterday when I listened to an episode of the Subtitle podcast all about it.

Mx [mɪks/məks] is a gender-neutral alternative to Mr, Mrs and Ms. The x was chosen as a “wildcard” character, and it was first used in print in 1977 in Single Parent, and American magazine. It is usually written Mx. in the USA and Mx in the UK. It was added to the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary in 2016, although is not widely used in the USA. [source].

The first major organisation to acccept its use in documents was the UK Post Office in 2009. Since then many other companies and organisations have accepted it, at least in the UK [source].

More details: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mx_(title)

An alternative gender-neutral title is apparently M. [ɛm], although it is rarely used [source]. Several other alternative gender-neutral titles are discussed on https://nonbinary.wiki/wiki/Gender_neutral_titles – apparently Mx is the most widely used.

The title Ms(.) has been around since the 17th century as an abbreviation of mistress, which does not indicate marital status. It was revived in 1901, based on Southern dialects of English in the USA which pronounced both Mrs and Miss as [mɪz]. Ms started to become popular in the 1970s after Ms. magazine was founded [source].

More details: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ms.

I generally avoid using titles or even names when talking to people, unless they ask me to do so, and prefer to be addressed simply as Simon. If I had a fancy title like Dr, Professor or Sir, I might ask people to use them, at least sometimes. Sir Simon has a nice ring to it. I also rather like Japanese titles like san and chan.

How about you?

One thought on “Titles

  1. Simon, we go back a ways, and for me, your de facto title might as well be “Hi” because I always start my email with Hi Simon.

    Now, I’ve long thought you should have a column called “Simon Says” where you comment on any stuff that doesn’t fit into other categories. I suppose you could spell it “Simon Ses” or “Sez” if you wanted a more mysterious/international appearance to it.

    About the Mx thing. I can tell you in the US, nobody (and I mean nobody) ever uses Mx. Plenty use Ms. but not Mx. I feel like if you really don’t want to say anything about someone’s name, then just use their name, but if you are determined to apply some kind of “formality” to someone that has no other formal distinction, M alone seems find. But, the problem with that is, if Mx (or M) designates neither gender, nor marital status, nor professional status, what exactly does it designate? That the name that follows it is of a person? Why would you do that, unless you were distinguishing names of pet owners from their pets’ names? Like, Mx John Smith and Fido?

    The justification for Mx/M seems very, very weak.

    I have to be honest here. Mx really leaves me cold. It’s almost how you would address a sentient machine. Even if somehow, some time in the future this caught on, it would never catch on with me.

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