How did Old West pioneers acquire honorific titles?
An honorific is defined as a title that conveys esteem or respect for position or rank when addressing a person.
William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody was called “Colonel,” even though he never reached such a rank and was a civilian scout. Military officers were addressed by the highest rank they achieved, such as George Custer, who was brevetted to major general during the Civil War, but reverted to captain afterwards and rose only as high as lieutenant colonel.
During the Old West era, egotistical persons sometimes anointed themselves with a title or rank because they owned a large ranch or were wealthy.
Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and vice president of the Wild West History Association. His latest book is Arizona Outlaws and Lawmen; The History Press, 2015. If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.