Zelophehad’s Daughters

(The) Bishop

Posted by Lynnette

When I was a teenager, one of my good friends omitted the use of an article when talking about the bishop: for example, “I’m going to talk to bishop” as opposed to “I’m going to talk to the bishop.” I figured it was simply a language quirk of her family (and since I come from a family where people use “clo” for the singular of “clothes,” and have invented verbs like “loonify,” I’m hardly in a position to judge anyone else’s use of language as strange.)

I’ve since realized, however, that this way of talking is not actually that uncommon. My impression is that it’s maybe even become more common in recent years, though I’ve moved around so much that this might simply be a function of where I’ve lived. Today I listened to someone bear her testimony of how she was encouraged to “contact bishop,” and how “meeting with bishop” had helped her. The construction still sounds a bit odd to my ears, but I’ve gotten much more used to it, and with enough exposure I can imagine that I might start saying it myself someday.

So I’m curious: how do people talk in your ward? Do you see the bishop at church, or do you see bishop there?

23 Responses to “(The) Bishop”

  1. 1.

    Secondary question. Are the people who “see bishop” the same people who when they visit Bob and Mary Brown refer to that as “seeing Browns” rather than “seeing the Browns”? I had never heard anyone say that without “the” until I went to BYU, where omitting “the” was very common.

    I would use a definite article with regard to the bishop and to the Browns.

  2. 2.

    Wow — I’m entirely amazed. I’ve never heard these very strange grammatical constructions. Until our bishop changes his first name to “bishop,” I’m retaining the article…

  3. 3.

    I never ran into that use either. Interesting.

  4. 4.

    The only way I’ve ever heard this usage is as a (all right, my mind blanked on the word I really want to use) kind of nickname or more familiar form of address. As in “Hi Bishop,” rather than “Hi Bishop Johnson.” And this is the only case where I’ve heard it used by adults.

    Teenagers occasionally take it a little farther, as in, “Bishop said we could play basketball.” I did similar things as a teenager — two of my high school teachers were Koehl and Frau (as opposed to Mr. Koehl or Frau Dickinson). I think it’s a mix between respecting an adult (not using their first name), but seeing them as a friend (and not wanting to use a formal form of address).

    In this case I think it’s a really good thing, because that type of informal form of address means that the teenager is comfortable with that adult, and trusts them. Koehl and Frau were certainly two of the teachers I respected most, and ones I would go to for advice. I think if youth see the bishop this way it can only be a good thing.

    That being said, the only time I omit the article is when I say, “Hi Bishop,” and I don’t see that changing. Just my $.02.

  5. 5.

    It’s all over in Idaho. I take it not as a missing article, but as a shortening of “Bishop X.” At least in these parts, it’s like when you address the bishop without his last name, as in “Bishop, do you have time to see me?” So then it doesn’t seem weird to call him Bishop when talking about him. ‘Leastways that’s how usn’s do it round here.

  6. 6.

    What do you call the bishop’s misbehaving son?
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    Son of a BISHop. (Did I spell that correctly?)

  7. 7.

    We call our bishop, “Bishop Dan.”

  8. 8.

    it sounds wierd to me but I have heard it- talking to the bishop’s wife she called him “bishop” as if it were his first name.

  9. 9.

    I’ve never really heard it. I think one of my friends from YW may have called the Bishop “Bishop,” but she mumbled a lot and had really bad grammar so I never noticed (I tried not to pay attention to her phrasing to avoid correcting her all the time). I wonder if it’s somehow related to the British style “She went to hospital.”

  10. 10.

    I’ve never, ever heard this usage (except for the variations mentioned by Vada). It seems very strange to me.

  11. 11.

    How about the opposite–adding articles? For example, Nibley used to refer to “the” BYU. Not “the” BYU library, bookstore, football team, etc., just “the” BYU as in:

    I had never heard anyone say that without “the” until I went to [the]BYU, where omitting “the” was very common.

    (Adapted without permission from Beijing)

  12. 12.

    peter,
    lots of old people call it “the BYU” because it used to be The Brigham Young Academy. So, for them, it really was the BYU (or A, before it changed). But I think that’s funny too.

    I haven’t heard anyone refer to the bishop just as Bishop (except in the obvious cases mentioned above, as in, “Bishop, do you have time to see me?”) And I think that it is very funny. It seems almost like talking in third person. I mean, I know that’s not what they’re doing, but it sounds funny in the same way. Maybe I’m just weird.

  13. 13.

    I have heard that usage, fairly frequently. I live in California, and trying to think of examples, and any common thread among them, as to place of birth of the speaker or something like that, I’m stumped. It’s not common, but I don’t think I would give it a second thought now, if I heard it. I remember thinking it was odd the first few times I did. Our bishop’s wife refers to him as bishop all the time in conversation, when you’d think that his first name might be more normal, or less victorian, or something.

  14. 14.

    Like many of the others, I’ve often heard it in the second person (likewise for stake / branch presidents) but never in the third person. (I’ve lived in Utah and Illinois, for whoever’s drawing the dialect map.)

  15. 15.

    I think “bishop” implies a more personal relationship. I have also used this in other titles such as “President” from the mission president’s wife.

  16. 16.

    I’ve heard it a lot in the places I’ve lived in the western states. People use it (omit the article, that is) with “President,” too, as if the title were a name. It seems to be used mostly often by a wife who doesn’t want to call her own husband “Bishop Smith” in front of ward members but thinks that calling him “Harry” is too informal.

    “The BYU” is still used in my Salt Lake ward by people in their 80s. No matter which direction I glance when somebody says “the BYU,” I invariably catch someone smiling indulgently, like the younger person is thinking “We know Bro. Jones is a funny old man — listen to what he just said — but we love him for that.”

  17. 17.

    Lynnette,

    I realize it’s a longshot, but have you considered the possibility that the priesthood leader in question is actually a time-traveling X-Man from an alternate future universe?

    Because that would, you know, provide a perfectly legitimate explanation for what might otherwise be seen as a grammatical oddity.

  18. 18.

    This is a funny quirk. Some of it might be regional. For instance, my wife always says, “he’s going on mission.” Whenever she talks about a mission, she drops the indefinite article. I keep wanting to go to her hometown to see if other people say it that way, or if she just does it.

  19. 19.

    Thanks for all the responses; that’s really interesting that some of you have never heard the usage. I’ve lived in Utah, the Midwest, and now California, and I do think I’ve heard it more in the West.

    Kaimi, that’s a possibility I must confess I hadn’t considered. And that reminds me that I had a junior high teacher named Mr. Bishop (though as far as I know he wasn’t one of the X-Men.) We often called our teachers by just their last names, so we might well have said things like “Bishop wants to know where your homework is.”

  20. 20.

    In Ohio we have THE Ohio State. Listen, you’ll hear it on ESPN. It’s because we know we are so wonderful. In the YSA Branch here I have heard third person President without an article only from western lifetime members.

  21. 21.

    Our Bishops Name is Bishop Wayne Doller. Most of us call him Bishop – One of the men in our ward calls him (now imagine saying this with a very bad chineese accent)

    “Won Dollar” ie $1 … it is very hard for me to see him in the same light now.

  22. 22.

    I heard this growing up in Utah, not in MA or AL, again in OH. It seems too formal for many to use his full name+title with our bishop (a very fun-loving, genial man) or to say “The Bishop”, so it gets shortened to “Bishop said . . .” or “I was talking with Bishop . . . ” a lot here.

    Otoh, our most recently released bishop has a more reserved, “professional” demeanor, and he generally was called “Bishop __________” or “The Bishop”. He was one of the best bishops I have ever had, and he helped created an amazing ward, but he was not referred to in an “unofficial” way.

    I also think in the West, it is harder to call someone by name+title in unofficial settings when everyone lives in the same neighborhood, he is seen daily and he has been “Joe” for years.

  23. 23.

    I have heard that usage, fairly frequently. I live in California, and trying to think of examples, and any common thread among them, as to place of birth of the speaker or something like that, I’m stumped. It’s not common, but I don’t think I would give it a second thought now, if I heard it. I remember thinking it was odd the first few times I did. Our bishop’s wife refers to him as bishop all the time in conversation, when you’d think that his first name might be more normal, or less victorian, or something.

Leave a Reply