What's in a Title?

As you likely know, the Caledon Blogs have been on fire for the last several days with many residents admitting that they are very frustrated with the lack of civility in Caledon now. One of the "points" that has been mentioned a lot is titles.

The topic of titles, and the use of them in Caledon, has made the rounds in the blogs before...but I have never said a word in response to any discussions regarding titles. Why? Because I had one. And because I was an Estate Manager. It still amazes me to this day that some people put such emphasis on "being a Duke or Duchess" in Caledon. Let me fill you in on a little secret..."being a Duke or Duchess" in Caledon means absolutely nothing.

*waits until the shocked gasps subside*

It means absolutely nothing...except for what you make of it. It means you pay more than some people for your land...however less than others.

I can say this, because I was 1/4 of the 4 people that were the "first Caledon Duchesses". "Peerage" in Caledon did not exist. We were all considered "Aristocrats". You still see this as your group tag when you wear it for the ISC Group. Part of Caledon's theme was that we were all basically landed gentry. The standard was to politely call each other "Mr. Pearse" and "Miss Bellambi". Among the ladies, if you had close friends, you called each other "Miss Eleanor". This "old" form of address lives on in one person...Serra Anansi, who is still called Miss Serra by her friends and residents.

When Des brought Duchies to Caledon, there was no "better than", or coveting of titles or bizarre simmering resentments about peerage. But what happened next was partly my fault, and Kami's and CoyoteAngel's and Eva's. The four of us ended up being the type of people that like to do things well. And because we had the Duchys, Des made us Estate Managers. Kami was already an EM, and I think CoyoteAngel was too. "Duchess" had no definition. It only meant that you had an Open Space Sim and that you were an Estate Manager. A technical and logistical "title", and nothing more.

Kami and CoyoteAngel both already had a great deal of respect in the community for their technical knowledge and expertise...and their complete willingness to share it. Eva and I had both already worked on several "social event" projects before we ended up with Duchys. The Duchys just ended up providing us with more space for a wider variety of events. And it turned out that in addition to events, we both had a flair for the dramatic and a love of writing. We both had a great deal of fun creating what we thought a Victorian Duchess would be.

So guess what? The four of us literally made it up as we went along. There was no "Duchess Handbook". It was all meant in good fun and light roleplay. But then, new residents arrived and saw us making up our rules as we went along...and they did not realize we were doing so! Eva and I were especially good as carrying the "roles" off in public sense...we are just natural actresses! ;-)

There was NEVER a "rule" that people had to call us "Your Grace". That was something that came about from two things: others participating in the light role play and some people using it as a term of respect for our work as Estate Managers. I have always accepted any form of address, and NEVER had issues with it. You like to play Victorian Society and want to call me "Your Grace"? Great. You have such an aversion to the concept of nobility that you break out into hives? Miss Riel is just fine. Gabi works too, especially in casual situations. I know for a fact that Eva feels exactly as I do, and Kami and CoyoteAngel have *never* cared a whit about titles.

I remember when it hit me...that our little fun, light role play, Victorian Duchess experiment had taken on a life of its own. The last week in June 2007. You can actually look at my Blog archives - it's all there in black and white. Up until that point, several people had said things to me like "everyone knows who you are - you are a DUCHESS". And I laughed. I thought they were being overly dramatic or exaggerating. From the inside, I could not see the big picture of what was happening in Caledon's culture in regards to the concept of "peerage". Some people were respecting it, some people were coveting it and some people were resenting it.

I also clearly remember when "Duchy-coveting" shot into the stratosphere. I bet I am surprising you by going here, but those of you that were around in mid 2007 and connected to the "social scene" know *exactly* what I am talking about.

The utter *frenzy* that ensued when Des announced he was going to be adding more Open Space sims to Caledon was quite the spectacle to behold. There was the infamous "Duchy Waiting List"..and *everyone* knew who was on it, and where they all were on the list. I watched it all with a mixture of guilt, horror and fascination. Lord Bardhaven had the perfect term for it at the time: Duchapalooza. All of a sudden there were 12 plus "peers" rolling around Caledon. Some were quiet. Some were not. Some worked themselves into a state every time someone did not call them "Your Grace" and some, like Carricre Wind, completely, vocally and publicly ditched the title.

I watched it all and just shook my head. There were several times when I wanted to shake people and scream: "BEING A DUKE OR DUCHESS IN CALEDON IS MEANINGLESS - GET A GRIP!" I could not believe that people had assigned such meaning and importance to something that so....silly!! Something that Eva and I had played with simply for fun and entertainment value.

This is SL...you write your own ticket. The beauty of SL is that YOU create your own virtual reality. You write your own story. You can call yourself The High Grand Poobah of Steampunk. It's your experience to have! There are no boundaries here, so if you go about whining that you can't do this and that because you are not a Caledon Duke or Duchess? You have just set your own limitations. It is no one's fault but your own.

Now, I can already hear the Haters among you getting all sniffy and self righteous: "Well, Gabrielle Riel is just saying this now because she is no longer a Duchess, and she just wants to put it down!"

Guess what? I am still a Duchess. I am no longer the Duchess of Caledon Carntaigh, because it no longer exists. I did however purchase the equivalent of a Duchy in Winterfell, and Serra has approved my title "Duchess of Winterfell Carntaigh". However, I probably could have asked Serra if I could have called myself "Goddess of Winterfell Anodyne", and she probably would have been fine with it. :-) My title of Duchess has to do with me honoring the backstory that I created for myself over the last two years. Legend. History. "Story continuity". I'm a Duchess because I say I am. I own a sim now, and I call myself "Prim Minister", thanks to Eva! I am creating my SL as I see fit.

I must state one truth I know deep in my heart. I would have still been active in events and I would have still founded Radio Riel with Red, Edward and Mitsu even if I had never become a "Caledon Duchess". Having Coughton Court helped a lot...but there were plenty of other venues in Caledon...and believe me, I would have had no qualms about approaching people to use them.

"Gabi Riel gets special treatment because she is a Duchess". "Radio Riel is a success because Gabi Riel is a Duchess." Excuses. Falacies. Radio Riel is what it is due to my, and my staff's, love and vision. I garner respect for my work and for the way I treat people. I live by a very simple code: treat people in a friendly and polite manner. Listen to others. Keep an open mind. Do unto others as you would have done unto you.

I am NOT denying that Caledon and Radio Riel have had a nice, mutually beneficial relationship. Caledon gave RR a home base and instant market...but RR gave Caledon entertainment and another way to define and communicate Caledon's culture. Win-win across the board. Caledon definitely helped RR grow...but RR helped attract people to Caledon.

I have some questions about "peerage" in Caledon. Maybe some of you can help me understand some things. Why do people (especially newer residents) become wildly fearful of misusing titles? Have people been reprimanded or harassed for not addressing someone correctly? Why is it that I have had a steady stream of 4-5 people come to me over the last year in a state of terror that their life in Caledon was over because they had "angered a Duke/Duchess"? Where on *earth* is this impression that Dukes/Duchesses have more power coming from?

It's simply not true. The only "power" was that of being an Estate Manager...and the only Global Estate Managers were Kami, CoyoteAngel, Eva and me. And that power was technical. We could ban griefers. We could reboot sims. Woo hoo. And there were 6 others who had that power as well who did not have "titles".

Caledon is huge now. There are new Duchies, consolidated Duchies, and therefore "peerage"coming out of Caledon's ears! I don't even know who has Duchies now! I have not checked the Wiki - it would be lovely if someone could update a list of all current Dukes and Duchesses, if they have not done so. Direct new people to that for a reference.

And to those of you that are new, or to those of you that hate the concept of peerage...just use Mr. for gentlemen and Miss for ladies and call it good. If titles are important to you, find out who the "peerage" are and then use their appropriate titles. Titles can be a lot of fun in light or heavy role play...but it gets *really* nasty when people take them too seriously and apply meaning to something that is essentially meaningless. Meaningless in terms of the wider SL world and the actual world. They are fun to add spice or history to your Avatar.

And if one of the "peerage" *ever* gives you grief about not using their title or bowing and scraping to them? Tell them to get a Third Life...and tell them Gabi Riel told you to tell them that. :-)

~ The Nightingale

Comments

Diva Regina said…
I was never deep (or high) enough in the social scene to know or care about Duchy-coveting. But I observed a shift when social strata began to emerge. The establishment of Duchies was part of it, but when activities, committees, etc. began to be formed (especially the "by invitation" ones), people made a point of wearing whatever titles made them look the most "in the loop". Like a flash, some were 'in' and some were 'out'.

When Caledon was smaller and you could meet most people by spending an evening genteelly sipping ales at the Anvil, there was a natural collegiality and understanding that it was a game and we should all help others pitch in.

As it got bigger, Caledon got less user-friendly IMO. People at social events would tend to talk to their friends rather than new folks. ISC chat has always been fast-paced, but it became a little harder for some to join into without a pre-existing sense of belonging. I'm not complaining -- I'm observing the natural evolution of things.

So I guess it's not too surprising that kerfuffles might arise as people struggled to establish a place in what was becoming a society. I've been around for over 2 years, but there's always a lot going on in conversation that I don't understand. When I'm online and hear the latest news, that's helpful, but if I'm offline, I only catch up through rumors.

No problem. But it took so much energy to stay fully engaged in Caledon that I found myself building niches elsewhere. So this works for me - a good friend of Caledon who enjoys being there from time to time. I like Caledonians very much, but I look in vain for gatherings that are (1) fun, (2) friendly and (3) not so laggy that I can't move. Any suggestions?
Azul said…
Diva,
At the risk of sounding like a shill for Radio Riel, are you in the Radio Riel group? Might help you find what you are looking for.

Gabi,
*sighs* Are you trying to write a thesis on the dynamics of communities before I do? You haven't even finished your comps yet! :)
Elrik Merlin said…
My attitude to and behaviour in Caledon was originally formed by two people, both of whom I am pleased to consider great friends and colleagues: Mr Peccable, who taught me how one went about acquiring land in Caledon, and other matters of an exceeding practical and helpful nature; and Mr Pearse (though he may not know it), who was the first Caledonian whose blog I read regularly and for me set standards about modes of address and such.

My view on the latter became that whatever I personally felt about it, there were people to whom it did matter and it was possible to behave normally and meet those relatively light criteria.

As for me... when I acquired land in Caledon I decided to refer to myself as "Laird" - which simply means "landowner", nothing more. After over a year, I've moved on to a position where I am now theoretically a "Duke", as I acquired Murdann which was then consolidated into a quarter of Rothesay, where Brideswell Hall now stands. However, I made it known that I was not taking on the mantle of "Duke". "Laird" is quite enough for me.

My position on titles is fairly straightforward: I will answer to most (polite) things, but when it comes to other people, I will try to address them as they would like to be addressed, if I know what that is.

-Brideswell, Caledon Rothesay SE
I was going to write a reply post in here, but it became so long I'll have to post it in my own blog.

All I will say is that I agree with you Gabi and these are all--for good or bad--constructive dialogues we are currently having.
Something I said at Erasmus' Knighting. "Anyone can buy a duchy, but there are only four Knights of Caledon. Soon to be five."
Rhianon Jameson said…
Speaking as a relative newcomer, Your Grace *smile*, there have always been Duchies in my world and, therefore, Dukes and Duchesses. However, I always understood them to be...not exactly jokes, but part of the fun of light role-playing.

At the same time, there is a serious aspect to the title. Sure, anyone can theoretically buy a duchy. However, as a practical matter, those who did purchase duchies were, by and large, (some of) the movers and shakers in Caledon. It makes sense that the people who invest heavily in Caledon in other ways - Radio Riel, hosting events, and so on - were also the people to invest heavily in land, and to want the space in which to stretch out. Consequently, I respect the people behind the titles, even if the titles themselves are part of the play-acting.

I don't find the titles intimidating, but I do find that I am forever forgetting the appropriate form of address (Lord Argylle has helped immensely on that front), and as part of the role-playing aspect of Caledon I try to get it right. Still, no one has ever suggested to me that he or she has taken offense to my use of "Miss Riel" or the equivalent.

As for me, I much prefer being one of the common people. I don't look good in a tiara. :)
Anonymous said…
I must say I tend to agree with you on the tiles issue, Although I usually address 'The Duchies' by 'Your grace' unless I know them really well. I never set too much store by titles, I usually use them to avoid over familiarity if I am unsure of how it might be recieved, but usually I get by with Mr or Miss. I also agree with Kami's comment about the Knighthoods, they are earned the hard way, never let that be forgotten.

As to the power aspect of being an EM, well from what I have seen it appears to be a hard (and sometimes thankless)task and that people overlook that it means being available to clean up litter etc. It should also be considered that Des would not hand out that kind of responsiblity to anyone he did not have utter trust in.

I was granted EM powers for ST Kitt's (not a full occupied Caledon Sim - but scary none the less) and my first thought was not 'oooh this could be fun' but 'OMG I'm going to have to be really careful here'. It was several days of careful study of the options before I tried anything, so EM's have my utmost respect because they have to think before they do anything in a region, so I believe they are worthy of respect for that, respect - not fear or awe, because they tend not to be people who would do anything to warrant those feelings.

Denver Hax
Have people been reprimanded or harassed for not addressing someone correctly?

I know I've sent IMs to people correcting them on title use. It's never *intended* as a reprimand but I know from experience that text can always be misinterpreted.

I've never forced anyone to use my title and will answer to many of its variants. But I've had some people in the past say they were embarrassed that no-one had had told them the proper way. I remember Otenth deciding to use Jarl, the old Norse name for an Earl, and styling the form of address as "Your Serenity". Since we have no historical records of how Jarls were addressed, this is a fine thing. So is making up your own.

If people want to use existing titles that have a defined social format then I'm happy to help people use them correctly too.

Titles are what you make them. Antiquity has a glut of them, but it's how the person acts that gives them respect.

I remember a a friend telling me her partner had told her I was the only one he respected enough to call me "Lord". It's a nice feeling when the respect goes both ways.
Hotspur O'Toole said…
Well said indeed, Miss Riel. I was going to reply at length, but I, too, waxed prolix and made it into a blog post.

H.
Rhianon Jameson said…
One thing about titles is that they create a tension, or appear to create a tension, with the otherwise egalitarian world of Caledon. One of the myriad of blog posts I've read in the last few days noted that Caledon is the Victorian Era without the unpleasant parts - the misogyny, racism, homophobia, and so on. All of which is good, mind you. But the titles - the actual titles, of actual nobility - create and reinforce a class system, which runs counter to the rest of the "Victorianism without the yucky parts" worldview.

Of course, Caledon (or Antiquity, or whatever) titles are not the same as historical titles, and it's all roleplay anyway. Furthermore, societies develop classes more or less automatically - it's just that in Caledon, the classes are divided more by who does what - see Mr. O'Toole's delightful taxonomy - than who was born where.

Nonetheless, I can see why some people are uncomfortable with the whole title business. I find it all part of the role-playing, and all in good fun. Still, the echoes of the "in" clique in high school might trouble some.
Fogwoman Gray said…
I would like to say that I have both been personally corrected in state chat and seen many others corrected in state chat on proper forms of address. No matter what the intent of the poster, the message coming from one with a title - Whether Duke, Earl, Baron or whatever - is that there is a "proper" way to address folk in Caledon. And new people want to fit in and are afraid of offending someone. A private correction is a completely different message than one delivered in state chat.
Gabi, it was with interest that I read your post. When I first discovered Caledon on April 12th, 2006, I had already been rp'ing the Baroness of Bauerhoff, along with my "brother" Gott (Gottfried, for those who remember my alt). There were only two sims in Caledon at that time.I believe the only actual Des-approved "peerage" at the time, was Kami, as Vicerine, and I believe one or two official Knights, Geremi Fizz and Ordinal Malaoprop, if my memory serves me correctly. I believe Serra might have been a Princess of the realm. These were all the current or former Stewards (precursors to Estate Managers), with the exception of Ordinal, who I believe devised the first working trolley system (that was a *big* thing back in the day)! Now there were already several rp'ing nobility at the time... India Ingersoll and Christyn Hathor were Countesses...they owned the shoppe east of Silver Rose across the north-south main street at the Caledon Prime Telehub, and north of the Yakety Yak Cafe across the east-west main street at the hub, of course, catty-corner of Steinbeck and Son's Bookseller.
As well, Puck Goodliffe at the time was rp'ing a Duke displaced from his homeland. Exrexx Somme was rp'ing a Colonel. That was about the extent of the Caledon "peerage" when I arrived. Des accepted my rp, and when I acquired my first land in Tamrannoch, the Barony of Bauerhoff de Caledon was born, and grew in holdings in On Sea, the Highlands, and the Moors, and Victoria City. Before there were even Duchies, Des "legitimatized" my Barony by naming one of the streets in Vic City, where my former townhouse stood (now owned by Mako Magellan, I beleive), "Bauerhoff". I had knighted Alexx Chadbourne, for alot of services he had rendered for me, making him the first "rp" knight in Caledon.

Shortly after Vic City was rezzed, the Duchies came into existence. It was around this time that Des revised the Covenant, and in the "History" section, made mention of three basic types of peerage...those awarded by Des himself, namely the Vicreine (Kami),and the Caledon Knights. Second were the Duchies. And thirdly were the "historical" nobility in Caledon, such as myself and Pym Sarte. (I would recommend reading the "History" section of the Caledon Covenant, for those of you who have not yet done so...alot of excellent background is there for the early days).

Now at that time, the four Duchesses were Kamillah Hauptmann, more correctly, the Vicereine; Gabrielle Riel, CoyoteAngel Dimsum, and Shenlei Flasheart. After a few months, Shenlei left Loch Avi (for reasons which will not be gone into here), and Eva took over. Before that point, I believe Eva and Kate Nicholas were rp'ing as Countesses.

Up to this point, the "peerage" was mostly rp. Everybody knew who the "movers and shakers" really were... Des, Kami, Serra, and Jun Kurudo were the real big names, along with Ordinal Malaprop, Shaunathan Sprocket, and a few others. With the arrival of the Duchies, Caledon society started to transform. I believe it was Shenlei Flasheart who really started the push in a new direction, in regards to peerage and social standings. Whereas some, like myself, saw it more as rp, the "peerage" actually started to take a life of its own. This was due to many factors, of which there is neither time nor inclination on my part to go into.

Actually, the period between the rezzing of Vic City and Mayfaire was the first major transitional phase of Caledon and its society, marking the end of "Old Caledon", and the emergence of "New Caledon". Steam Sky City and Tanglewood saw an infusion of new blood into Caledon, and the nature of Caledon from these newcomers, coupled with a growing peerage, forever changed the societal landscape of Caledon. Zealot Benmergui entered the scene with Caledon's second rp Barony, Bardhaven. This began the "heyday" of Caledon "nobility".

Soon alliances were formed, and Carntaigh and Loch Avie had "courts". Edward Pearce and Exrexx Somme were teaching others about proper usage of titles. This was all good rp fun. The Ladies' Society of Caledon (pre-Vic City days), became the Caledon Boosters, led by Shenlei, and then the Social Season Group was born, headed by some Duchesses and some "historical" nobility such as myself. Realizing that my "nobility" was more rp than anything, and that while I might be a great idea person, as far as organizational skills, and actually setting down to accomplish them I am rather more than insufficient, I gladly took a back seat, letting the others lead, while I added my support. Many of us enjoyed the rp, while some felt there was a "take-over" by the big names, and many newcomers were bewildered, or jumped right in the mix!

As Caledon progressed, the "peerage" became rather fixed, in the sense it was now an established part of Caledon. While a few disdained the uses of titles, many, especially the newcomers, took it as almost a necessity in Caledon.

As for me, it's just rp. Call me Miss Amber, I'm happy. Call me Lady Amber, I'm happy. Call me Amber, I'm happy. Call me Mrs. Amber, I'm happy. Some even call me Ambs, and I'm happy. Mrs. Raymaker-Palowakski is ok, but way too much to type. Lady Bauerhoff is ok in formal social settings. I'll tolerate Miss/Mrs. Palowakski, but it's definitely not my preference (if you wish to know why, IM me inworld, and I will tell you!).

In any event, the "peerage" in Caledon is essentially rp, no more, no less. No one should be forced to follow it, no one should be condemned for not following it.

What is most important is that we all treat each other as real humans, with the dignity, respect, and honour that should be accorded to all humanity!
@ Mrs. Raymaker-Palowakski - there is, of course, a habit in England (initially among U speakers, but later adopted by certain TV writers) of addressing people with long or double barrelled surnames by their initials - which would make you Mrs R-P and your wife Mrs P-R. That would certainly save on the typing, if you were agreeable to that form of address.

~~~~~~~~~

In general, the use of titles per se affects me very little. The use of titles to re-enforce social parameters I find distasteful when done in such as way that it humiliates the unwary. But Caledon is very, very far from being the worst offender in this way. I have encountered other sims where, unless one had a grand and glorious title, one is not permitted to speak unless addressed by someone of higher social rank. One can spend hours in such sims waiting for someone to say, "Hello."

After all, noblesse oblige.
Palabra said…
My dear Miss Riel,

It was with great interest that I read your post. As a relative newcomer to Caledon, I am relatively ignorant on the topic of titles. I only know that they are granted for fun and in recognition of contributions to Caledon as a whole, some of those being financial contributions in the form of large land holdings. Mostly, I feel like the use of titles reinforces the idea of a Victorian/Steampunk setting.

You asked if anyone has ever been reprimanded for improper use of titles, and I must say that I have not found that to be the case. I often call peers and other titled types Miss or Mr. simply because I do not know they are peers. Other times, I accidentally bungle the proper terms of address. For example, I might call the knight Sir Zenmodo by Sir Wormser, instead. Although I try to keep track of titles and proper terms of address just for a bit of fun, no one has ever taken it seriously enough to correct my mistakes.

If alienating newcomers is an issue, I think it to be an exaggerated one at best. As a newcomer, I found Caledon to be incredibly welcoming. The peers of the realm and other key figures in Caledon society have been extremely friendly. Chat, too, usually proves fun and open to newbies like myself. To me, the peerage system seems fun and harmless and the peers themselves seen open, friendly, and highly accessible - especially our esteemed Guvnah, himself.

Sincerely,

--Miss Palabra Puddlegum--