Troyens

Troyens

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Somebody Caught This Before I Could Report It.

A correction posted at the NY Times, at the bottom of a fascinating story about the discovery of human remains at Jamestown, Virginia:
Correction: July 28, 2015 An earlier version of this article referred incorrectly, on second references, to Sir Ferdinando Wainman and Sir Thomas West. They are Sir Ferdinando and Sir Thomas, not Sir Wainman and Sir West.
I was surprised that "Sir Wainman" and "Sir West" got through. It is not common knowledge that certain British titles take the title holder's first name, not last, but I figured that the Times's copy-editors would know this. For example, Dame Gwyneth Jones is referred to as Dame Gwyneth, not Dame Jones.

6 comments:

kalimac said...

Oh, Americans get these things wrong all the time, most egregiously in novels, where bringing in British nobility is purely voluntary, so there's no excuse for getting it egregiously wrong.

The word to watch out for is "Lord", which may go either before the first name or before the title (which may be the same as the last name) but not both: not for the same person at the same time, because they mean different things. Thus Britten, after he got his title, is Lord Britten, not "Lord Benjamin Britten"; same with Lord Berners. I can't offhand think of any musical first-name lords, but Lord Peter Wimsey is Lord Peter, not "Lord Wimsey".

Lisa Hirsch said...

And after their marriage, Harriet Vane is Lady Peter.

Yes, "Lord" is a tricky one! But getting "Sir" wrong took me by surprise because Sir and Dame always take the first name of the person holding the title.

The tricky part of Sir is that the holder may be a knight or a baronet and they are not the same.

kalimac said...

True, and whether the holder is a knight or baronet doesn't affect the mode of address, so, as you say, "Sir Lastname" is wrong on any account. In fact, I've seen it used in fiction to indicate the complete ignorance of English custom on the part of the (foreign) character using that form.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Now that's clever use of misuse.

kalimac said...

"And after their marriage, Harriet Vane is Lady Peter."

Lady Peter Wimsey, yes. If it were otherwise, like her sister-in-law who after her marriage is Lady Mary Parker (not Lady Charles Parker), it would - as it does in Lady Mary's case - indicate an entirely different status.

In dealing with real people, I can understand confusion on these finer points, though not on "Sir Lastname". In fiction, either get it right, as Sayers does, or don't create characters who are English nobility. You have a choice.

Dr.B said...

The primary purpose for both having and citing a name is to identify the person to whom it belongs. I suggest that Lord Peter identifies a specific person only to mystery fans.