Some of my friends are devotees of alphabet soup. Not the kind they eat, mind you, but the sort that litters the space following their names.
They pattern themselves, perhaps, after Sir Winston Churchill, wartime leader of Great Britain, whose alphabet soup looked something like this: KG, OM, CH, TD, PC, FRS, Hon. RA. These stand for, respectively: Knight of the Garter, Order of Merit, Companion of Honour, Territorial Decoration, Her Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council, Fellow of the Royal Society, and Royal Academician.
Grand titles all, redolent of Empire, conquest, and victory. And I have no doubt there were others he could have added.
My friends’ titles, of course, are somewhat more modest. Not for them the Order of the British Empire (OBE), Order of Canada (OC), Royal Victorian Order (GCVO), or other such high-falutin’ honours. Theirs are somewhat more pedestrian, though all respectable and praiseworthy.
Unfortunately, I can’t lay claim to any of them.
My brother, for instance, followed his name with UELD, denoting United Empire Loyalist Descendant. Loyalists were people living in the original Thirteen Colonies when the American Revolution separated them from England. Many fled to what is now Canada, loyal to the Crown, and my brother believed himself descended from them.
If he’s right, I, too, must be one. However, a loyalist to the British was a scurrilous traitor to the Americans, so, with a nod to my many years of residence in the U.S. during Canadian winters, I have eschewed using the designation.
A close friend includes CSPWC behind his name—member of the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour. Unlike some, this is an appellation that must be earned, not merely tacked on. Membership is bestowed only upon artists whose submitted works are judged worthy by a distinguished jury of their peers, and many who aspire to it fall short.
That’s because the primary criterion is talent, of which I am in scant supply. My watercolour experiences began and ended with mixing Kool-Aid.
Several of my friends hold academic honours, the most distinguished of which is a Ph. D, Doctor of Philosophy. Another holds an Ed. D, Doctor of Education, and I even know one person who can boast an LL. D, Doctor of Laws, although she is not a practicing lawyer. A number of others merit M.A. after their names, Master of Arts, or M.Sc., Master of Science. And a whole passel has earned the right to display B.A., Bachelor of Arts, and B.Sc., Bachelor of Science, on their letterheads.
More than a few of these learned folks graduated either cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude, Latin for “with honour”, “with great honour”, and “with highest honour”. The latter is generally reserved for students who graduate with a perfect academic record. I can’t imagine such a thing! On a provincial math exam many years ago, I scored a derisory 11%—probably for spelling my name correctly.
My paltry post-nominals, were I to use them, would be B.Ed. (Bachelor of Education) and B.A. (Hons). The abbreviation in parentheses would be justified only because I submitted a full thesis prior to graduation. As for honours, I should probably include summa cum fortuna, “with the greatest of luck”. When you compare my credentials to those of my friends, you can see why I generally choose not to sprinkle addenda after my signature.
Mind you, once upon a time there were two such acronyms I could rightfully claim. I held an OTC, Ontario Teacher’s Certificate, during my working career, and was entitled to use OCT, Member of the Ontario College of Teachers, until my retirement. I never printed these on my letterhead, however, since my ‘clients’ were children in an elementary school classroom. They already knew I was the teacher!
I flatter myself in one regard, though, by positioning myself alongside the aforementioned Winston Churchill. We are, both of us, writers—men of letters, articulate and erudite, authors of several published works. Our titles reside (perhaps not side-by-side, but equivalently) in the files of the Library of Congress. I like to think the biggest difference between us is that, while he wrote non-fiction, I stick to making up stories.
That doesn’t make him a truth-teller and me a fantasist, of course; after all, much of his work was the writing of history, a genre known for notorious exercises in revisionism. Unlike many historians, I don’t alter the facts; I merely invent them.
As for honours, forget for a moment that Churchill won a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953, whereas I did not. That was not a fair competition for I was but ten years old at the time, still struggling to master cursive writing.
I am much older now, but it would appear my own Nobel Prize is still likely some way off in the future. Way, way off, some would say.
In any event, there is one post-nominal you’ll see me proudly using if you ever receive one of my calling cards. After my name, boldly printed on the front, is the singular word author.
That will have to do. I hate alphabet soup!