The prefix “The Honorable”, abbreviated to “The Hon.”, or formerly “The Hon’ble”, a term still used in India, is a ‘style’ used before the names of certain classes of persons. It is considered to be an honorific. As an adjective, “honorific” means “given as a mark of respect but having few or no duties”, which might be seen by some to describe those who populate Houses of Assembly in countries where one-man-leadership is in place. As a noun the word is a title implying or expressing respect, which should of course mean that our representatives, if they really mean what they say, should address each other as “My honourable friend, the thief from …” or “The honourable embezzler from …” , etc. instead of throwing out wild accusations that are seldom if ever brought to court.
In May 2013, the Queen approved the style to the Governor General of Australia both retrospectively and for current and future holders of the office, to be used in the form “His/Her Excellency the Honourable” while holding office and as merely “The Honourable” in retirement. Clearly you need a real job to be an “Excellency” in Australia where the style “The Honourable” is not acquired through membership of either the House of Representatives or the Senate. A member or senator may have the style if they have acquired it separately by being a current or former minister. During proceedings within the chambers, forms such as “the honourable Member for Dungby”, “the honourable the Leader of the Opposition” are used as a parliamentary courtesy and do not imply any right to the style.
Closer to home, Members of the Order of the Caribbean Community are entitled to be styled The Honourable for life, though who these members are, what the Order is, and how they got to be members is a mystery to most. A member of the Order is entitled by the way to be styled “The Honourable” before that member’s name and to have the suffix “O.C.C.” placed after, wear as a decoration on appropriate occasions the insignia – struck in gold – and the ribbon of the Order, reside and engage in gainful occupation in any Member State and to acquire and dispose of property in the same manner in all respects as citizens of any Member State, and be issued with a travel document designed to facilitate travel within the Caribbean Community and which would enjoy in every Member State a like status as a diplomatic passport issued by or on behalf of the Government of any such State – and that’s about it!
In Barbados, members of the Parliament carry two titles: members of the House of Assembly are styled “The Honourable”, while members of the Senate are styled “Senator”. Persons appointed to Her Majesty’s Privy Council are styled “The Right Honourable”. Males accorded with the Order of Barbados are styled “Sir”, while females are styled “Dame” as a Knight or Dame of St Andrew, or “The Honourable” as Companion of Honour. National Heroes of Barbados are styled “The Right Excellent”.
In Puerto Rico, much like the continental United States, the term “Honorable” is used, but not required by law, to address Puerto Rican governors as well as city mayors, members of state and municipal legislatures, judges and property registrars. In Jamaica, those awarded the Order of Jamaica, which is considered Jamaica’s equivalent to a British knighthood, are likewise styled “The Honourable”.
On the other side of the Atlantic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo the prefix “Honourable” is used for members of both chambers. Informally, senators are sometimes given the higher title of ‘Venerable’. In Pakistan, judicial officers are addressed as “Honourable” while presiding in the courts of law. Diplomats are addressed as “Your Excellency”. The head of state and prime minister is addressed “Her/His Excellency”. UNESCO conferred the title of “Honourable” upon a Pakistani educationist, Dr. Malik, in recognition of his leadership and meritorious services, for the promotion of education, adult literacy and vocational skill development, but whether this award binds the rest of the world to addressing him as “Honourable”, though honourable he might well be, is doubtful.
In the United Kingdom, all sons and daughters of viscounts and the younger sons of earls are styled with this prefix, while the daughters and younger sons of dukes and marquesses and the daughters of earls have the higher style of Lord or Lady before their first names. And on it goes …
If you ever feel the urge to write to one of these people, the style The Honourable is usually used in addressing envelopes, where it is abbreviated to The Hon, in which case Mr. or Esquire are omitted. In speech, however, The Honourable John Smith is usually referred to simply as Mr. John Smith. In the House of Commons in London, as in other lower houses in other legislatures, members refer to each other as honourable members etc. out of courtesy, but they are not entitled to the style in writing.
And that’s all for today, Honourable Readers!