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Use of the word ‘honorary’


Editor: Perhaps it is due to our habit of playing fast and loose with the English language, using it too often as a toy rather than a tool, that we are having a problem understanding the use of the word “honorary.” Throughout the rest of the Anglophone world, the term is employed to mean an honour given without requirements or function. The person to whom the honour is bestowed has no attendant power, authority, or function; it is simply recognition.{{more}}

A boy who saves his little sister from a house fire is made an Honorary Fireman; a foreign visitor to a sister city is made Honorary Mayor; a businessman who helps a local Indian tribe in Canada or the US is made an Honorary Tribal Member; a college drop-out who goes on to become successful or prominent in a given field is awarded an Honorary Doctorate in that field. It’s a handshake and a pat on the back; a mark of respect and nothing more.

Winston Churchill was made an honorary citizen of the US by President John F Kennedy. Churchill was not thereby empowered to vote, hold elective office, serve on a jury or exercise any other right of a US citizen. It was “Honorary”: a recognition and appreciation for services rendered. It may be a “thank you” or may be simply a courtesy. Mr Eustace’s proposal to grant Honorary Citizenship to the Garinagu seems to be nothing more or less than that: it is symbolic, it grants no power or function, simply honour and recognition. What’s so complicated or difficult to understand about that?