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Suffix (name)

From Academic Kids

A name suffix, in the Western naming tradition, follows a personís full name and provides additional information about the person. There are academic, honorary, professional, and social name suffixes.

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Academic

Academic suffixes indicate the degree earned at a college or university. These include the bachelor's degree (A.B, B.A., B.S., etc.) the master's degree (M.A., M.B.A., M.Sc., etc.), the doctoral degree (Ph.D., D.Phil., etc.) and the professional doctorates, (M.D., J.D., etc.). (In the case of doctorates, either the prefix "Dr" or the suffix is used, not both.)

Honorary

Such titles may be given by:

Professional

This includes such titles as Esq., used for an attorney in the USA who has passed a state bar examination, and CSA (casting) and ASCAP, which indicate membership in professional societies.

Social

Social name suffixes are almost exclusively applied to men.

The most common name suffixes are senior and junior, which may be written with a capital first letter (Sr.) or in lower case (jr.) after a comma following the personís name. The term ‘junior’ is only correctly used if a son is given exactly the same name as his father. When spelled out in full, these suffixes are always written with the first letter in lower case. In French, the designations are pŤre (‘father’) and fils (‘son’).

Sons with a different middle name or initial are not called junior. An example is Ronald P. Reagan, the son of the late U.S. president, who is not titled junior because his middle name, Prescott, differs from his late fatherís middle name, which was Wilson. This notwithstanding, a son may sometimes be called junior even if he is not titled as such, because ‘Junior’ is a popular familial nickname in the United States. One instance of this is George W. Bush, who is nicknamed Junior by his family. Interestingly, the son of actor Lon Chaney, was billed by Hollywood as Lon Chaney, Jr to capitalize on his fatherís success, even though he had an entirely different birth name.

Although there are instances in print of daughters who are named after their mothers also being titled jr., this is usually for effect; it is not common practice. The title ‘Jr’ is sometimes used in legal documents, particularly those pertaining to wills and estates, to distinguish among female family members of the same name.

Primarily in the U.S.A. (and never in the U.K.), boys who should be styled junior are sometimes incorrectly labeled with the suffix ‘II’, particularly if there is a third or fourth with the same name. Even if a legal title, this is socially incorrect; strictly speaking, ‘II’, pronounced the second, refers to a boy who is named after his grandfather, uncle, or cousin. The suffixes ‘II’, ‘III’, etc. are also correctly written 2nd, 3rd, etc.

A wife traditionally uses the same suffix as her husband in formal society, speech, and writing, or if it is her preference. Wives are also correctly addressed in less formal situations using their own first names; such references would not take any suffix. Hence: Mrs. Lon Chaney Jr, but Mrs. Shannon Chaney. Widows are entitled to retain their late husband's full names and suffixes but divorcees may not continue to style themselves with a former husband's full name and suffix, even if they retain the surname.

There is no hard-and-fast rule over what happens to suffixes when the most senior of the name dies. Do the men retain their titles, or do they all "move up" one? Neither tradition nor etiquette provides a definitive answer (columnist Judith Martin, for example, believes they should all move up, but most agree that this is up to the individual families). Upon the death of John Smith, Sr., his son, John Smith, Jr. may decide to style himself John Smith, Sr., (causing confusion if his widowed mother and his wife both use the formal style Mrs. John Smith, Sr., and necessitating that his son and grandson change their titles as well) or he may remain John Smith, Jr. for the rest of his lifetime. One advantage of moving up one is that it eliminates the extension of Roman numerals over the generations: i.e., a John Smith III, IV, and V. A disadvantage is that it may cause confusion with respect to birth certificates, credit cards, and the like.

The style Esq. or Esquire was once used to distinguish a gentleman from the rank and file. It is still used as a courtesy title in formal correspondence. Although still occasionally used in the United Kingdom it is used less frequently in a social sense in the United States, where Esq. or esq. is used as the professional styling for an attorney. ‘Esq.’ in its social sense is never used for a woman.

In public schools in the United Kingdom, it has been customary to refer to children with the same last name (not necessarily from the same family) as major and minor, e.g. Smith maj. and Smith min.. Later children become tertius, etc., following the Latin scheme.

Practical use of abbreviated forms

Abbreviated suffixes are often used in lieu of the full style and title of people, particularly if their titles are lengthy. For example, in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries the full name, style, and titles are used in formal communications to and from the Monarch, as in:

"(Our) Right trusty and well-beloved cousin John Doe, Knight of The Most Noble Order of the Garter, Knight of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, Bachelor of Medicine, and Bachelor of Surgery"

In this example the following forms of address are abbreviated:

  1. (Our) Right trusty and well-beloved cousin: Rt Hon.
  2. Knight of The Most Noble Order of the Garter: K.G.
  3. Knight of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire: K.B.E.
  4. Bachelor of Medicine: M.B.
  5. Bachelor of Surgery: B.Chir.

Therefore the abbreviated name is "the Rt Hon. John Doe, K.G., K.B.E., M.B., B.Chir.".

See also

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