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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The overlooked importance of being called Mister

How did a rookie candidate who had never sought public office defeat 14 governors and senators, as well a woman and a surgeon? One small reason is his title. He had none.

The others were called governor, senator and doctor. These are common titles on cable news. There are 50 governors and 100 senators, after all. Carly Fiorina was seldom given a title, in part due to that feminist-infused confusion over Miss/Ms./Mrs.

Everyone is cowed when it comes to titles for women.

But because he has never held public office and has no medical degree, the default title for Trump is Mister.

While every man is a mister, the title is rarely heard on cable news. Certainly the title distinguished him from the bevy of rivals in the presidential debates. Through lack of usage, mister has risen to a position of high regard. In an eight-man debate, he squared off with a doctor, two senators and four governors. He was the only mister.

Mister is an important title. The American Film Institute listed the 100 most memorable quotes in movies. Number 16 was "They Call Me Mister Tibbs!"

The line is from Detective Virgil Tibbs, portrayed by Sidney Poitier in the film, "In The Heat Of The Night." The line was pivotal in a movie that used a murder mystery to put forth the idea -- which was revolutionary at the time -- that a black man was just as good as a white man, in fact a little bit better in this case. Poitier had to overcome white racism and also deal with his own racism against them. The line was a demand for the respect he earned. The film won the Academy Award for best picture in 1967.

With the exception of the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and a few others, newspapers seldom use mister in a story. This enhances its value.

Mister seems like a simple and small matter because no one really thinks about the word. But Mister denotes some expertise on the subject, such as Mr. Science. When you place Mister before a powerful word synonymous with topping an opponent -- trump -- you have Mister Trump. He is an expert on Trump, therefore an expert on winning.

You know who else we call Mister?

That's right, it is Mister President.

We do not call Barack Obama Senator President. We call him Mister President. On the stage in this autumn's three presidential debates only one person will be called Mister, mister.

We also call him Donald, a name that I have some familiarity with. It has three forms. When your mother calls you, "Donnie," you know she loves you. When she calls you, "Don," you know she needs something. When she calls you, "Donald," you know you are in trouble.

But voters are not Donald Trump's mother. His first wife christened him The Donald. (I explain this in my upcoming book, "Trump The Press.")

The nickname mocks him, but it also brands him as Donald Trump, not Don but Donald.

Don Trump would not work. Too ordinary. It's a comic's name. Don Knotts.

Don Cornelius works because of the way he rolls this surname off, as if he were a Mafia Don. The name is enchanting, exotic, and melodious. Two single-syllable names are vanilla. A single-syllable name followed by three or more syllables is a winner. Don Ameche. Don Corleone. Don Meredith.

But Donald is better. It carries an authority. Don Rumsfeld is a bureaucrat's name. Donald Rumsfeld was a military leader in a time of war.

So the name is the game. Mister Trump is a winner. Donald Trump is a respected Mister Trump. Was this the plan all along? Only Ivana Trump knows for sure.


  1. And, of course, "No, Mr Bond. I expect you to DIE".

  2. Same deal in our local yacht club; All Members are called Mister, Miss or Missus, staff are referred by first names. Even staff who happen to be related to Members. (Not a snooty club, anyone can be a member!) Title is very important to maintain decorum and mutual respect.

  3. Mister Trump and his twin, Mister Ed. Hahahahaha

  4. The name Donald is in itself an authoritative name. It comes from the Gaelic name Domhnall which means "ruler of the world", composed of the old Celtic elements dumno "world" and val "rule". This was the name of two 9th-century kings of the Scots and Picts. It has traditionally been very popular in Scotland, and during the 20th century it became common in the rest of the English-speaking world. I'm proud to be a Donald, and my father is a Donald as well. - Elric

  5. One of your best pieces ever. I can't wait for the book. You're on fire right now Big D. I think you should get a little WV talk/signing tour together. I'd be there at the Martinsburg Books A Million, with bells on, and then the wife and I will take you out to dinner afterwards. Good times!

  6. I too can't wait for the book. Any chance you would like to email chapters out for a final proofreading? Spill chick is not you're fiend.

    1. It's being copy edited professionally. Email me at

    2. I was kinda hopin' to get a piece of that action, too.

  7. Jimmy Stewart's movie wouldn't have worked with any name beyond "Mister Smith".

  8. Donald Trump's everyday-man appeal is rooted in this post. He reminds me of Rex Harrison's character in "My Fair Lady" - when Audrey Hepburn complains of his rudeness, he explains he treats everyone the same way, if rude so be it. In non-Democratic England that was surely a faux pas, but in increasing non-democratic (small d) America, it's downright glaring. We are supposed to attribute special categories to women, to people with titles other than mister, and treat with kit gloves those recognized in the special classes and those who put them there: "Our Betters".

    If Trump had no other impact than to point out our cultural diversion from truth in the name of PC, he's done our country a great service. Fortunately, we have more work for him to do...

  9. "A single-syllable name followed by three or more syllables is a winner. Don Ameche. Don Corleone. Don Meredith."

    So what's your take on "Don" followed by 2-syllable "Surber"? Winner or No Winner? LOL

  10. For the next St. Nicholas of Flüe's Day Parade, I'm thinking: "Oh, Donnie boy, the Alpenhorns are calling..."

    Can't miss!