The big news over the weekend that the actor Ben Kingsley apparently insists on including his title "Sir" in his movie billing has of course caused a spate of letters to the paper about how non-British people mistook various titles for first names, etc. Today a correspondent reminded us of Sir Cedric Hardwicke and Sir C Aubrey Smith, "without at least one of whom no Hollywood epic of the Thirties or Forties would have been conisdered complete." Hmmmm.
But I found another letter on the topic more poignant. In full, it reads:
"Sir, The most risible example known to me of a title mistaken for a name occurred in the racially segregated prewar American South.
A popular brand of rolling tobacco was called Prince Albert. As the face on the tin was unmistakeably white, shopkeepers required their black customers to refer to it as "Mr Prince Albert".
Shame. Profound shame.