Column Date 2008-02-24

A few words from Lord Tannen

See, I got your attention and you're now reading this column instead of trashing it.

And all because I gave myself the title of "Lord".

Which brings up a question that's bothered me for some time now: how come some people get to put titles after their names? 

Take lawyers, for instance.

For some obscure reason, every lawyer in America is entitled to use “Esq.” after his name. This, of course, stands for “Esquire,” a sign of stature and importance that goes back to the 15th century.

And a lawyer can continue to use "Esq." for the rest of his life -- in spite of the fact that he may have spent the last 10 years in a minimum security prison.

Same goes for Presidents of the United States – they get to be called "Mr. President" forever. Unfortunately, the same goes for indicted Congressmen, corrupt Aldermen, and Mayors being sued by the IRS for nonpayment of taxes.

People in the business world also invent important sounding titles for themselves: CEO, Senior Vice-President/Sales, Managing Director, Creative Director, Chief Information Officer. And even though the titles vanish when they leave their companies, they certainly feel more important while they're employed.

But what about the rest of us? Wouldn't a title give you a little more self-esteem? Raise your status with friends? Improve your odds of picking up that cute guy at a party?

Well, here's how to level the playing field: if you want the ultimate title after your name, nothing comes close to royalty.

And royalty can be bought.

Right now, for instance, there are hundreds of titles for sale in England.

Click a few keys on the internet and you can become a Baron, Baroness, Earl, Count, Countess, Viscount, Marquis, Marchioness, Duke or Duchess for only $400 (or $600 for a dual title, such as Lord and Lady).

Not only will your new title look great on your business card and passport, but just envision checking in at British Airways for your flight to London: "Hope you don't mind, my Lord, but we've upgraded you and Lady Tannen to First Class".

And don't forget that you can buy a title right here in America, too.

"Ambassador" has always been available. Put enough money in the eager hands of politicians and you could become the U.S. Ambassador to...uh...well...the island nation of Nauru has its charms. As does Palau, where the U.S. Embassy has a P.O. Box, but no street address.

Actually, maybe having a title fills some deep-seated, psychological human need.

So if you'll excuse me, I'd better get back to Google. I'm thinking of signing up to become a Viscount.

As soon as I find out what one is. Or does.

©2008 Peter Tannen