We human beings seem to be keen on beautifying ourselves in many ways, with makeup, hair dye, clothes, jewellery, and so on. Nothing wrong with that, although some conservative groups are against some of these things, claiming that we should be satisfied with the way God created us. But then our looks are not enough; we are also keen on getting status, being acknowledged and acclaimed, wearing own and borrowed feathers. That is also not wrong, as such, but we may go too far, step on others and distinguish ourselves from the others using heavy-handed and unfair ways. In my home country, Norway, where we have a royal family, many people find it wrong that it is heritage that decides who will be in the job as King and Head of State, no less, with all the pomp, pageantry and privilege that go with it. In principle, it is an undemocratic institution, but we still keep it in a mature democracy like Norway. So, maybe we should allow some leeway for people having inherited and borrowed feathers elsewhere, too? And maybe we have to address some people Your Excellency, Your Highness, Your Holiness, and so on? Obviously, all is a bit ridiculous. Besides, such worldly attributes, probably, are against most religions principles, emphasising that we are all equal before God. But then, titles do enhance the authority of those who carry them, helping stability if not autocracy to prevail. In Pakistan, there are age-old titles of many types; the Brits only added more snobbishness. The feudal lords and ladies are more or less gone by now, but Syed, which is a title and a name, is still widely used. When we Christian say that Jesus was the Son of God that should probably not be understood literally. It should, perhaps, be understood as a way of honouring an extraordinary human being, who lived in Gods light, doing his will, and being an example to all of us. Being on a religious note, let me mention that the Christian Church, or at least the Catholic branch of it, awards titles to particularly deserving religious men and women, but only posthumously, after they have passed away. There are several titles, the highest being Saint (St). The former Pope John Paul and Mother Theresa are both being considered for the title. And I hope they get it. On a lighter note, it is said to be a fact that about three-quarters of all Saints are Italians, and then we should note that the Catholic Churchs headquarters, the Vatican, is in Rome, Italys capital. It was, probably, always easier to be noticed for your good deeds, if you lived in the vicinity of the Vatican and the Churchs leaders. But then, a friend of mine, who was himself a Catholic Priest, was joking about it all, saying that when you meet so many Italians you wonder why their country would have produced so holy men and women. Arent Italians also known for tricks, jokes, cheating, and all kinds of human attributes, the Irish Priest thought Maybe, Italian women are better? But gender equality was never seen as important in the Church; hence, there are only a small number of women Saints. What would you expect when it was all decided by a group of men, who basically wanted to honour their peers? And then, a few words about the titles we use in secular life. Academic titles are not least important, and they get more prestigious the longer it takes to obtain them. In Norway, though, you are not allowed to add, for example, the doctoral title, i.e. PhD or other such advanced degrees, in front of the name of a medical doctor, who can treat people for illnesses. A doctor in engineering, for example, must put the title behind the name, and you would not address him or her as Doctor. I think that is good. Why dont we do the same in Pakistan, so we could get on talking about something else, rather than about whether politicians and civil servants really have obtained their doctorates fairly, as honorary titles or by achievement? This reminds me of another story: A head of a UN agency in Pakistan enquired about a Minister, who wanted to have 'Dr mentioned in front of her name. She asked her staff if the Minister really held a Doctors degree. No, the staff didnt think so, but then they said that she liked to be addressed that way. Good and well - and ridiculous. Quite harmless, probably, unless the Minister would claim an academic post or use the title to perform certain professional or vocational tasks If we allow people to use fake titles, and even feel intimidated by such title holders, we are also responsible for allowing the farce to go on. Then, let me move to the different ways of addressing adults, notably with Mr, Miss, or Mrs. In front of the persons name. This is no more common in my Norwegian mother tongue, but still required in many other languages such as English, French, and German. And in American English, if a woman who has been married gets divorced, she again is addressed Miss In writing, though, today, we are supposed to write Ms. We should not specify a womans civil status, but then orally, we still often cling to the old ways. Furthermore, I think it is a common rule to address any woman looking to be above say 25 or so as Mrs. In Norway, all female civil servants must be addressed Mrs, even if they are younger. If we use Miss, it is considered bad manners and close to sexual harassment. A generation ago, we still used the polite forms of the pronoun when we talking to strangers, especially if they were more senior. That habit has now almost vanished. It is, probably, good and a way of democratising the language, although I must admit I find the old way more respectful and correct. But then I am, perhaps, just old-fashioned. Many other languages still keep such forms. In older days, in some languages, children had to use the polite form when addressing their parents, and even the wife used the polite form when addressing her husband in public, or with others present., and use his surname and title when speaking about him to others. All this had to do with power and control. Maybe, all the titles we are so concerned about in Pakistan today, and whether degrees are real and deserving, has to do with this? This is, probably, part of our democratisation debate. That leads me to state that we should be more concerned about gender and class aspects related to titles and the way we address each other, rather than finding out if a person has the degrees he or she claims to have, or whether it was deserved or not. And if we all walk about and call ourselves doctors, that would devalue the whole title, so everyone would stop bothering about it That isnt likely to happen though. But within academic institutions such titles still have relevance. In the end, though, the only thing that is important is that we talk to, and about one another with respect. And we should also allow real achievement and good people to be acknowledged and honoured. Then we would sometimes rank an illiterate peasant woman much higher than a professor, political or religious leader, irrespective of academic titles and other ornaments. The writer is a senior Norwegian social scientist based in Islamabad. He has served as United Nations Specialist in the United States, as well as various countries in Africa and Asia. He has also spent a decade dealing with the Afghan refugee crisis and university education in Pakistan. Email: atlehetland@yahoo.com