Monday, April 16, 2012

Pet peeve: "M.I. Self, Esquire"

At some point in law school, students should be informed that, should they ever practice law, "Esquire" is not something one calls oneself. Cue Bryan Garner:
"Esq. is ... not used on oneself, e.g. neither on a card (which bears Mr. [sic]) nor on a stamped-and-addressed envelope enclosed for a reply * * *" Alan S.C. Ross, "U and Non-U: An Essay in Sociological Linguistics," in Noblesse Oblige (Nancy Mitford ed., 1956). But somehow, the idea has gotten out that Esq. is something you put after your own name ....
—Garner, A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage (2d ed.). Don't do this, folks. Not every reader will infer that you are ignorant, naive, or self-important, but in a profession where image counts, it's a silly mistake to make.

... Nancy Mitford? Yes, Nancy Mitford.


  1. I agree.


    Philip Thomas, Esq.

  2. Phil Stone's father, James Stone, was a quite prominent lawyer in both Batesville and Oxford. Someone in Batesville, pleased with the legal work done for him, named his son James Stone Esquire Lawyer Smith. When J.S.E.L. Smith was a small child, folks who toss him a dime to say his name when Mr. Stone was passing on the sidewalk.

    Even more dislikable was the bizzarre business of addressing lawyers as "Honorable," which was used more often than not when I started practicing law at least by some segments of the bar.

  3. I still see "Honorable" attached to lawyers; I reserve it for judges and clerks.

  4. Even undead, incompetent clerks, Anderson?

  5. Churchill made a remark about its costing nothing to be polite.

    Tho the idea of addressing the Hinds Circuit Clerk's office in a letter with "Listen up, Fools" is attractive.

  6. Great. Now I have to paint over all the signs and get new business cards. My "ESQUIRE" license plate can probably be sold, at least. -PMS

  7. No, the license plate will probably just make people think you read the magazine.