The New York Department of State recently ruled that it's illegal to use corporate honorifics if you're not actually part of a corporation. Sounds logical, unless you're a real estate agent. Because it's long been the practice for real estate agents to use fancy titles like "Senior Executive Vice President" or "Managing Director," even though technically they work as independent contractors for firms. They're not on the staff.
Now all their business cards have to go in the shredder, or they face a fine of $1000 per violation. Naturally, they're not taking this change lying down. Instead, they're busy inventing new titles for themselves, such as Nikki Field who now calls herself a "Senior Global Real Estate Adviser." [nytimes.com
Of course, the love of important-sounding titles is nothing new. Here's a relevant passage from Paul Tabori's The Natural Science of Stupidity
The title the rulers of Burma wore proudly was "The King of Kings Whom all other princes obey; Regulator of the Seasons; the Almighty Director of Ebb and Flow; the Younger Brother of the Sun; the Proprietor of the Twenty Four Umbrellas."
The Malayan princes of Sumatra called themselves "The Master of the Universe Whose Body shines like the Sun; whom God hath created as perfect as the Full Moon; Whose Eyes shine like the North Star; Who, rising, casts a shadow upon His whole domain; Whose Feet smell sweetly" — and so on.…
The Shah of Persia, the Great Turk, or the Indian Maharajahs all demanded that their names should be followed by a flowery trail of pompous titles.
The mania for titles was Asia's gift to Europe. It flourished most luxuriantly in the courts of the German princelings. Strangely enough, it wasn't exactly the person of the ruler that promoted this obsessional fever; it fed most richly on the vanity of the lower nobility and the burghers. The ruling princes were satisfied with the title of Durchlaucht (Serene Highness), though later this developed into the more impressive Allerdurchlauchtigster (Most Serene Highness). Kings demanded in addition to be addressed as Grossmächtigster (Most All Powerful), which was somewhat tautological.
A Book of Titles (Titularbuch) published in the reign of the Hapsburg Emperor Leopold II declared that the Emperor of Austria was also entitled to be called Unüberwindlichster (Most Unconquerable). His Imperial Majesty enjoyed this title for a brief two years; since he died just before war was declared against revolutionary France he never saw his title made a mockery by the Corsican.
About the middle of the fifteenth century, counts were called Wohlgeboren (Well-born), but they had to wait two centuries before they advanced to Hochgeboren (High-born). Strangely enough, when the two titles were united in Hochwohlgeboren (High-and-well-born), they denoted a lower rank — that of the baron. But if he was an "imperial baron," his title was stretched to the more impressive Reichsfreyhochwohlgeborner (Imperial, free, high and well-born).
By the way, I've decided to change my
title. I used to be the Curator of the Museum of Hoaxes
. But henceforward my title will be the Senior Most Magnificent and Exalted Curator of the Museum of Hoaxes
. At least, that's what it'll say on my résumé.