When I gathered all my notes for my consular reference book a couple of my beta-readers commented, “Why so much emphasis on titles?” This led me to repeat the commonly-stated explanation of how people in distinguished positions — think judges, politicians — generally are offended when they are not recognized with their titles.
To repeat from a prior blog post on titles: it’s the position (or the office) and not the person we honor when we address him correctly. This has nothing to do with using titles for their own sake.
Naturally, I love it when I’m in a situation where a relevant example presents itself. This happened to me not long ago at a function honoring foreign consuls. Since they were the honored guests it was only correct that they be introduced with their title, name, and the country they represent. The Master of Ceremony was both elegant and smooth in that part of the program.
Then, what happened?
Consul General Doe of Ruritania is what (who?) happened! The country is besides the point. As a matter of fact, readers of the 2nd edition of my book, The Foreign Consuls Among Us: Local Bridges to Globalism, know I use fictitious names of both consuls and their countries in my real-live examples. John Doe, Consul General of Ruritania, will do fine here.
When the MC came to Mr. Doe he was introduced as the Deputy Consul General of Ruritania. No big deal, you say? Besides, what’s the difference between a consul general and a deputy? And, more importantly, does anyone care?
For starters, Mr. Doe himself was offended. Standing alongside his colleagues who had already been recognized, he shouted a correction to the podium: “No, I’m the Consul General of Ruritania!.” Over the din of the event his voice didn’t carry far, so he had to repeat himself – along with an added correction (“not the Deputy Consul General”) – two more times before he was heard. Diplomatically and with great aplomb, the MC apologized while some members of the audience seemed incredulous.
Are consular titles really that important?
As you can see, they are. Maybe not to you, but to a consul. Maybe you’re chuckling to yourself and wondering how you would have dealt with the situation.
Most people know that the overriding goal of any host, anywhere, is to make his guests feel appreciated and welcome. One way of doing that is to recognize them with their correct titles to honor their position. I’m not even going to touch on the matter of protocol here; – just going with the universal rule of conduct of hosts everywhere.
One more thing, though: “deputy” comes with the meaning of second-in-command and, in that sense, a subordinate. At the very least, we muddle the meaning of the position of a consul general if we attach “deputy” to it.