Why Is There an R in Mrs.?
If weِ pronounce theِ title Mrs.
asِ “missus,” whyِ isِ there anِ r inِ it? Despite itsِ pronunciation, theِ abbreviation Mrs.
isِ derived fromِ the title mistress, whichِ accounts forِ that confusing extra letter.
Mistress isِ the counterpart ofِ master, which—you guessed it—is abbreviated toِ Mr.
(Of course, English speakers nowِ pronounce theِ title Mr.
While mistress mayِ haveِ distasteful connotations today, inِ the mid-18th century theِ title referred toِ a woman ofِ economic orِ social capital.
generally hadِ servants orِ was part ofِ anِ upper social echelon.
The useِ ofِ Mrs.
toِ refer toِ a married woman isِ linked toِ theِ history ofِ anotherِ title: Miss.
Miss becameِ a popular title inِ the late 18th century andِ specifically referred toِ anِ unmarried woman (often a schoolteacher) ofِ a high social status.
How theِ pronunciation ofِ mistress turned toِ “missus” isِ somewhat unclear.
Erickson cites John Walker’s A Critical Pronouncing Dictionary, andِ Expositor ofِ the English Language fromِ 1828: “The sameِ haste andِ necessity ofِ dispatch, whichِ hasِ corrupted Master intoِ Mister, has, whenِ a title ofِ civility only, contracted Mistress intoِ Missis.” The change inِ pronunciation wasِ essentially a colloquial andِ utilitarian shortening, andِ by theِ tail endِ of theِ 18th century, thisِ pronunciation wasِ theِ preferred one.