Consul, honorable honoree? That’s the question for today. When a friend showed me instructions for a certain consulate headed by an honorary consul, the head of that post was referred to as honoree consul. This makes no sense in that context.
A consul as an honoree is someone who’s honored for something. While a consul in a career or honorary position can, of course, often be the subject of an honor this is not the case in the above scenario. When a consul is named as the contact person for some consular function (“please contact Consul Doe for further information”) he’s definitely not a consul honoree. He’s a consul, that’s all.
Since there are two major categories of consuls – career and honorary – and the word “honoree” somewhat resembles “honorable” the question that naturally follows is, “When do we use “honorable” with a consul?” The book The Foreign Consuls Among Us: Local Bridges to Globalism tackles this tricky situation at more length and in different contexts, but suffice it to say here that there is no definitive answer to this dilemma. Only the suggested way of abiding by international comity (“do unto others what you’d want them to do to you”). The U.S. Government does not want the honorific applied to its consuls serving abroad; therefore, the book suggests eliminating its usage for foreign consuls in the United States.
“Honorable Consul Doe” as a form of address still lives on in communities across the country. This is a fact of life we just have to deal with. Never mind that some cities are host to a large number of consuls, many of whom are honorary, and when a lot of them appear at an event this whole problem with “honorable” or not is likely to confuse everyone.
Consul, honorable honoree? The gist of this dilemma is still: Can a consul ever be an “honorable honoree?” The possibility is clear from the above, although it remains an awkward way of referring to a consul who’s receiving an honor. “Honorable” and “honoree” in the same breath is at the very least a redundancy. And what a mouthful we’d have if we spoke of Consul Doe as the “honorable honorary consul/honoree.” Some things that are technically correct don’t work for other reasons.