President Sarkozy and Angie Baby

And another thing. Not up there with US legislators telling Catholic hospitals go right ahead, let pregnant women die if you don’t want to give them abortions, but still annoying.

The BBC World Service was talking about the economic mess in Europe last night, as it does every night, and it said something or other was decided or discussed or fretted over or laughed at by President Sarkozy and Mrs Merkel.

Excuse me?

It already bugs the shit out of me when they call the US Secretary of State “Mrs Clinton,” but to give the man his title and then immediately reduce the woman to Mrs is just infuriating.

That’s Chancellor Merkel to you, beeb.


  1. slc1 says

    Actually, if the BBC was going to be chauvinistic, they should have referred to her as Dr. Merkel as she has a PhD in physics and has published a number of technical papers in the area.

  2. unity says

    Curiously, on our own domestic BBC news services, Chancellor Merkel is always referred to either by her given name or as Chancellor Merkel – I can’t recall an instance of her being referred to as Mrs Merkel over here.

    I do wonder if the World Service is just imitating the whole Mrs Clinton thing in the mistaken belief that this what American’s consider normal practice, in which case its probably worth shooting off an email to disabuse of that notion.

  3. Hamilton Jacobi says

    Well, obviously the fact that Mr Merkel — or indeed any man — has deigned to allow her to share his name is a much higher honor than being the Chancellor of a pipsqueak little country like Germany.

    Actually it turns out that she stopped being married to Mr Merkel in 1982.

  4. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    The proper form of address is Frau Doktor Bundeskanzlerin Merkel. That is, if my rusty German is any good.

  5. Josh Slocum says

    God damnit. That pisses me off, too (I haven’t weighed in on the Catholic Let Women Die threads not because I don’t think they’re more important, but because, what the fuck can I say? It was a topic of much tooth-gnashing at my office today).

    Related to that – I hate how I have to agonize over how to construct salutations for letters I send to members and donors of the organization I work for. By default, I address all women in writing as Ms. Doe, unless I know she’s an MD, or a Ph.D. who wants to be so acknowledged, or if she’s an elected official, and then it’s all The Honorable Muckity-Muck. Or, if I’m lucky, Madam Chairwoman — I do love that aesthetically.

    But when I get correspondence from a hetero married couple (bear in mind the majority of it is from people 60 to 90 years old), I find myself writing, “Dear. Mr. and Mrs. Doe.” Why? Because I’m afraid someone is going to take offense if I write “Dear Mr. and Ms. Doe.” Or, heaven forfend, if I don’t follow the salutation they bestow on themselves, the loathsome “Dr. and Mrs. Doe.” And no, addressing people by their first names is not an option—it’s cheeky and I won’t do it.

    Not infrequently an elderly woman will call my organization and identify herself as “Mrs. Doe,” so there’s a clear generational expectation. Then again, plenty of elderly men call and identify themselves as “Mr. Doe.” While I don’t like presumptive informality in business, I also find it extremely stuff and twee to call up someone and say “This is Mr. Slocum.” I simply say, “This is Josh Slocum,” and hope they won’t be so familiar as to take liberties with my first name.

    Sorry that’s rambling. Shorter me: what the hell is wrong with you BBC?

  6. says

    The funny thing is, Josh, by this time people who are at the younger end of your demographic have lived their adult lives with “Ms”…Nevertheless it still hasn’t sunk in. Marketers call all women Mrs. It drives me nuts.

  7. Josh Slocum says

    Marketers call all women Mrs. It drives me nuts.

    Cripes. Really? I wouldn’t know that unless you told me, for obvious reasons. That’s baffling. To ears my age (37) and younger, that sounds affected and archaic; it would provoke snorts of derisive laughter and not a little bit of annoyance. Arrrggh.

  8. Syd says

    Slightly off-topic but related to the ‘Ms’ references – I helped a colleague’s daughter do her tax return on line a couple of months ago. I typed ‘Ms” into the Title box and this young woman stopped me to tell me that I had spelled ‘Miss’ wrong! At 21 she had never heard of ‘Ms’. I still haven’t recovered from the shock.

  9. machintelligence says

    Josh, what do you do if she has the MD or PhD? Is it Mr. and Dr. Doe, or Dr. and Mr. Doe? If both have degrees is it Drs. Doe? Just curious…

  10. Kurt says

    I don’t listen to BBC much so I can’t comment on their usage, but I recall hearing a similar question come up on NPR once. They explained that NPR’s policy is to use a person’s title the first time his or her name is mentioned, and then to use Mr., Mrs., etc. on subsequent occurrences in the same story. I don’t remember if they described their policy on Mrs. and Miss versus Ms. usage.

  11. Nele says

    Interesting. In the German media, the “Herr” and “Frau” is normally left out, political titles are left out usually, if the politician is well known.

    “Merkel and Sarkozy trafen sich zu Gesprächen”, “Merkel and Sarkozy met for talks” would be the phrase in German news.

  12. Mark Mitchell says

    “Kurt” is on the right track. The style should be positional title first, thereafter Mr/Mrs/etc. So if Sarkozy had been mentioned first in the piece he’d have had his ‘President’ at that point, and his Mr thereafter. It may have been that Merkel had already had her ‘Chancellor’. Could scare up the Programme-as-Broadcasts to check this, given some decent info on Tx time, but can’t be arsed.

    It’s encouraging, in a slightly perverse way, that the BBC gets picked up on this kind of thing so regularly, whereas other broadcasters (much more scattergun in their approach) don’t. It’s as if we matter.

  13. Nele says

    P.S. Angela Merkel’s second husband is Prof. Dr. Joachim Sauer, a chemist, who never appears in public as “first husband”. 🙂

  14. says

    Interesting. In the German media, the “Herr” and “Frau” is normally left out, political titles are left out usually, if the politician is well known.

    Yep, they’re either referred to by their name only, or by their function only.
    “Die Bundeskanzlerin erklärte…” “The Chancellor declared…”
    Academic titles are mostly ignored, not only when the person is a politician.

    Angela Merkel’s second husband is Prof. Dr. Joachim Sauer, a chemist, who never appears in public as “first husband”.

    Fun fact: He more or less “missed” the meeting with the pope, because he claimed to have gotten “lost” in the building.

    I don’t like Merkel’s politics, but I think it’s noticable that during her government the sexism in Germany when talking about her has declined.
    At the beginning of her government you had lots of sexist jokes and remarks, her skirt length was analized in depth and so on.
    Well, she’s still being made fun of, which is a good old tradition in Germany, but the jokes are more generic.
    So, yes, a popular radio-comedy (one short 2 min episode every day) paints her as the stupid one every day while her husband is the smartass, but it must be noted that this is the standard you always get. You had it with Schröder, you had it with Kohl, they’re always losing against their spouses.
    Now she’s being made fun of for what she does and her character, not for her skirt-length and her make-up.

  15. julian says

    I always just stick to their title. Madam Secretary, Mr. President and such. Just seems more formal and respectful.

  16. Jon says

    I’m not saying the beeb definitely wasn’t being chauvinistic, but it could be that ‘Chancellor’ is analagous to ‘Prime Minister’ rather than ‘President’ and as such not actually a title. The BBC does not refer to David Cameron as ‘Prime Minister Cameron’ but either Mr Cameron or ‘the prime minister’.

  17. David Hart says

    Except, Julian, that that sounds potentially quite odd to non-Americans. Here in the UK, if someone were to address David Cameron as ‘Mr Prime Minister’, we’d probably think they were taking the piss. If we hear the title, we expect it to be immediately followed by the name, rather than the position.

  18. David Hart says

    Perhaps the answer is to import wholesale the Japanese gender-neutral honorific ‘san’. Thus: Merkel-san, Sarkozy-san, etc. Of course, this will take quite a bit of getting used to…

  19. says

    Problem I have with Ms. is that it can sound too much like Miss. In grad school, at a graduate conference at my school, I gave a reply to a talk and referred to the woman I was responding to as Ms. the whole way through, and later was talked to by one of my professors about having called her Miss. Fortunately prior to my remarks, I had given the woman I was replying to a written copy of the reply and she defended me.

  20. says

    # 13 – well the BBC does matter, and I’m glad local public radio now has it at certain times of day, and I plunder it for news and commentary all the time. But…it has some flaws. Mispronouncing “Obmama” and “Houston” and “Los Angeles”; using “Democrat” as an adjective; I could go on but won’t.

  21. julian says

    Perhaps the answer is to import wholesale the Japanese gender-neutral honorific ‘san’. -David Hart

    Holy crap!



    Someone needs to chibi them. The whole damn cabinet. Why, why! was I not born with artistic talent?

    Problem I have with Ms. is that it can sound too much like Miss. -CammelsWithHammers

    I’ve run into the same problem. Usually I say Miss with a clear ‘s’ and Ms. with a clear ‘z’ but it hasn’t in anyway shape way or form made it less ambiguous. (shocking, I know) One of the reasons I default to title, rank or position despite how awkward it makes some sentences.

  22. Marvin says

    Chancellor in the UK would refer to the chancellor of the Exchequer minister for fiscal matters so perhaps the BBC are trying to avoid accidentally demoting a prime minister / presidential position. I would think that as a Dr she should be addressed as Dr, a male UK prime minister with a Doctorate that was non-honorary so to speak I am fairly sure would be described as Dr example. The BBC with often credit theologians with the Dr prefix so I would think this is the least they should do for someone with a degree in quantum chemistry.

  23. Moderatating voice says

    I don’t think this is a gender thing.

    Chancellor, as has been pointed out above, doesn’t have the same meaning in English as it does in German. We have a chancellor, and he isn’t the head of state or head of government (as a matter of fact, he just a git, but that is another story.)

    Consider and alternative example:

    Herr Hitler
    President de Gaulle

    Its not a gender thing, its a weird historical disparity in the way the British refer to French and German leaders. Recall, last two times the shit really went down – the French were our allies and the Germans our enemies.

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