MARIETTA, Ohio (TDB) -- If a female wins the U.S. presidency, what the heck will be the courtesy term for her spouse? Ohio's governor seems to have an idea. He barnstormed around the state with Bill Clinton as the two tried to drum up support for Hillary ahead of the March 4 primary. And Ted Strickland is here on YouTUBE introducing the former president under a new title -- "First Laddie." It's a punster's play on words, of course. But it does raise a matter of linguistic uncertainty. For obvious reasons, First Lady wouldn't do the job. And phrases such as First Gentleman, First Hubby, First Spouse, First Old Man or First One just don't seem to have the right feel -- indeed "first one" opens the door to all kinds of problems. And gentleman has a double meaning in the English language. One is a person of good breeding; the other is a valet or butler or personal servant, as in "gentleman's gentleman."
Bill Clinton suggested "first laddie" last September when he was on Oprah's show. The former president was punning when he quipped:
"My Scottish friends say I should be called first laddie because it's the closest thing to first lady."
A lad is a boy or youth in England, and a laddie is a young man in Scotland. A lady is a woman of good standng or social position. In Great Britain, however, it is the proper title of a female whose husband is higher in rank than a knight or baronet, or a woman who has proprietary rights over a manor. Oliver Goldsmith, an English poet and dramatist who died in 1774, had this to say on the knack of being a gentleman:
"To make a fine gentleman, several trades are required, but chiefly a barber."