Esq. and Other Suffixes

A big shot of yore and his shield-bearing esquire

A big shot of yore and his shield-bearing esquire

The word “esquire” originally referred to a young man without a title such as duke or earl, whose job it was to hold a knight’s shield. Eventually, the term was applied to any young man, whether of so-called noble birth or not. Now it is associated entirely with lawyers and is supposed to give the caché equivalent to MD for medical doctors and Ph.D. for academics.

I can assume these professional appendages are meant only to impress. Why do we refer to so few people by their professions, e.g., “Dr. Smith” and “Judge Romero”? No one is called Dogcatcher Johnson or Middle Manager Chen. I also assume the magazine Esquire appeals to people other than attorneys.

I’m in favor of getting rid of all these suffixes. Thus says the wife of an Esq., who never, ever has used that pompous attachment.



Filed under All things having to do with the English language

2 responses to “Esq. and Other Suffixes

  1. In Britain Esquire has never been the preserve of the legal profession. When I first worked in a newspaper office in the early 1970s it was not uncommon to send or receive letters from John Smith Esq – it merely denoted male and was an alternative to Mr. And yes, it was a pompous way of doing it and I haven’t seen it for years


  2. I’m glad it’s evaporating in Britain. It’s still fairly pervasive in the US—but is used solely for attorneys. People seem to think it’s a way of flattering them. Ick.


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