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Something is happening to Mr Jones

Recently an opinion piece in the Spectator magazine complained about the increasing use of people’s first names in the public sphere. Notably in broadcast interviews where the interviewee makes frequent reference to the interviewer by their first name. It’s probably got a lot to do with media training and you hear it on radio news programmes more and more. Nick Robinson, Sarah Montague, Nick Ferrari and their colleagues are routinely referred to as Nick, Sarah and Nick by politicians who want to come across as informal and unstuffy.

Is this such a bad thing? Guy Walters, the Spectator writer, thinks so and believes there should be less false intimacy and chumminess. The arch example is Boris Johnson whose first name alone identifies the prime minister to friends and foes alike. Let’s have more deference, detachment and distance, says Walters.

At Nameslink we’re on the first names side of the debate. We like and encourage the friendly informality of first names in most cases. In hospitals or opticians, when shopping online or booking a table, in the many instances when contact is with people we may not know there is a pleasant sense of common cause when first names are used.

There will always be problem areas such as when does it becomes socially acceptable for a daughter’s boyfriend to call you Joe and Michelle rather than Mr or Mrs Jones. But deference shouldn’t be confused with respect which is wholly admirable and can apply just as effectively through the use of first names as it can with surnames.

If you’ve got a view – let us know


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