Created By: suedenim on July 7, 2012
Nuked

The Anachronistic Ms.

"Ms." used as an honorific instead of "Miss" or "Mrs." in stories set before 1971, when it was popularized.

Name Space:
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Page Type:
Trope
The modern usage of "Ms." as an English-language honorific for a woman of indeterminate marital status was coined in 1961, and not popularized until a decade later, when feminist Gloria Steinem used it as the title for her new magazine.

While there were some interesting antecedents ([[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ms. described here]] by The Other Wiki, the modern usage of "Ms." in fiction is generally anachronistic and inappropriate for stories set prior to the 1970s.

A lot of modern writers either forget this or are ignorant of the relatively recent origin of the honorific.
Community Feedback Replies: 6
  • July 7, 2012
    suedenim
    I happened to notice this just this week in an Atomic Robo comic. It stood out, because Brian Clevenger is usually quite good at period detail:

    • A story in Atomic Robo Real Science Adventures #3, "Tesla's Electric Sky Schooner," is set in 1895, with a cast of Historical Domain Characters including Annie Oakley. The characters refer to her as "Ms. Oakley." The way she's drawn in the story, she looks particularly petite and youthful, like a teenager[[note]]She would, in fact, have been 35 at the time of the story[[/note]], which even in ordinary 21st century usage might have her called "Miss."

    I know I've seen it used in lots of other period-set stories too, though none specifically come to mind at the moment.
  • July 7, 2012
    WackyMeetsPractical
    This is seriously too specific, and I would argue, too trivial to trope. This is a specific variant of Did Not Do The Research and Anachronism Stew. It may also simply be a Translation Convention. Most modern writers, and readers for that matter, are typically unaware, and simply don't care, about the particular quirks of language before they started speaking it. And in fact, the author may be intentionally using modern conventions to avoid alienating or confusing the audience, which hopefully includes primarily modern readers.
  • July 7, 2012
    suedenim
    None of which make it non-tropeable. I think in general we're missing a whole slew of "anachronism" tropes that should be more-specific subtropes of Anachronism Stew. Maybe The Anachronistic Ms is a bit too specific, but we don't even (I believe) have a trope like Anachronistic Language that examples would fit under.
  • July 7, 2012
    FerdinandtheBull
    Unless all of your examples are going to be in writing, the "interesting antecedents" Wikipedia points out are what you're hearing when you think you're hearing the modern "Ms."
  • July 7, 2012
    WackyMeetsPractical
    ^^ I would support Anachronistic Language, but we do not need a trope for every little quirk of the English language and how they're done wrong. But a much broader trope encompassing all anachronistic language quirks is something we might actually need.
  • July 7, 2012
    suedenim
    ^^ That's a good point, it is at least to some degree a written-only trope. The more I think about it, the more I think we need an overhaul of our "anachronism" tropes (or at the very least, a cataloguing - there isn't even an Anachronism Index.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=hkoh20na2d064tyh9ppadv4a&trope=DiscardedYKTTW