A New Form of Address: Mx

When I was presenting at the dataMinds Connect conference, I called on someone in the audience. At the time, I called on someone raising their hand and said something like, “yes, miss.”.

I got dinged in feedback for assuming someone is a he or she.

At first I wasn’t sure how to take this, but like much of life, I decided to try and learn something. I set aside my feelings and started to look at how I’d address the individual in the future.

I should have asked then, but I didn’t think about it. I keep my “he/him” pronouns on my bio slide, and I’m happy to refer to someone as he, she, or they, as they prefer. It’s a simple thing and I look for the forms of address in other people’s slides and signatures.

However, I’ve grown up with sir, madam, miss, and other forms of addressing someone I don’t know well. I’ve always considered is polite to say sir or miss.

That’s not good enough for the current world and I learned there is a title: Mx. According to a few sources, this is pronounced mooks, as rhyming with books.

Something new for me to think about as I call on people. Certainly I should ask, though asking everyone seems like overkill. Certainly, however, if I’m not sure, I ought to ask.

About way0utwest

Editor, SQLServerCentral
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4 Responses to A New Form of Address: Mx

  1. Barbara Cooper says:

    I have never heard of Mx as a title and if you called on me with that I’d be confused and shocked and wouldn’t like it; you won’t be able to make everyone happy. It is good to be considerate of everyone’s wishes but in a large audience that must be hard. There is a reason I am an introvert I guess but I think people can be a bit sensitive these days. I guess you can point and call on them with a simple ‘Yes?’ or ‘Question?’, maybe that is a worthy approach.

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  2. way0utwest says:

    I should learn to not address people are sir or miss. It’s a 50yr habit I’m trying to break. Mx isn’t for everyone, but for those that prefer it, so I certainly wouldn’t use it indiscriminately.

    Hard to please everyone, but not too hard to try to please individuals.

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  3. JeffModen says:

    I was thinking the same as Barbara. I wouldn’t actually point at someone, though. People get offended at that, as well.

    There is one pronoun that you can use that has no implications of anything and that’s the word YOU. YOUR also works. If you reach out with your arm with the hand in a palm-up position as if beckoning someone to come but with no finger or other beckoning movement and say something like “Yes, you have a question?” or “Yes, what is your question?”, that seems like it works in most cultures, although you do need to read up on such gestures in the given culture of an audience in a different country. If multiple people in close proximity have their hand up, you may have to indicate that you’ll call people based on their shirt color and/or their position within the group of people that you’ve stretched your arm out to.

    This is one of the things I really like about remote presentations… you can call on people by the name they’ve posted.

    When I was teaching electronics and uProcessors in the Navy back in the ’70’s, I was teaching classes with between 20 and 30 people of all different cultures including those of many different countries. Every person was required to have a sign on their desk with their rank and last name so that we could call on people with no confusion and no offense by any possible gestures.

    It seems to me that should also be a courtesy that attendees could extend to their in-person instructors in classes small enough where the instructor can see the name especially if one takes offense to accidental gender specific pronouns, the words YOU or YOUR, or innocent beckoning gestures in your general direction along with the color of what ever top you’re wearing.

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  4. way0utwest says:

    In a crowded room, I usually point, so that everyone knows I’m indicating a particular person. I’m not sure I think “You” is that polite. More, I’m usually, “Yes, sir, what’s your question?”

    I should practice a “Yes, what’s your question”, as that’s likely the least problematic.

    More, I thought this was a good learning opportunity. If someone notes that their preference is “they/them”, I can ask about Mx, which I never knew about until this week.

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