Is it OK to address a person "Mr. Balagopal, Esq."?
(M. Ratnasabapathi, Madurai)
No, it isn't. The short form of the word "Esquire" is normally used after a man's name. For example, we can say T. Sriraman, Esq, L. Balagopal, Esq., etc. The word "Esq" is considered to be rather old fashioned and is not frequently used by native speakers of English. The word comes from the Old French "esquier" which means "shield bearer". An "esquire" was originally someone who carried a Knight's shield. Becoming a Knight was no simple matter. One started at a very young age; as a boy one served as a page in a nobleman' s household. Later, as one entered one's teens, one became a Knight's personal attendant; and one of the duties of a personal attendant was to carry the Knight's shield. The personal attendant was called "Esquire" and in the old days he was considered to be higher in status than an ordinary man.
In other words, "Esquire" ranked above "Mr.". Nowadays, in Britain at least, "Esq." can be used with any man. Some scholars argue that the words "Mr." and "Esq." are being used synonymously. One cannot, however, use both words at the same time. It would be wrong to say, "Mr. L. Balagopal, Esq.". You can either say, "Mr. L. Balagopal", or "L. Balagopal, Esq."
In America, the word "Esq." is normally used after the names of lawyers. What is interesting is that the term is used with women lawyers as well. It is not uncommon to find an envelope addressed to "Sally Field, Esq.".
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