Talk of the Town

Talk of the Town is a blog about life in Atlanta. You’ll find features on people, places and events that local people (and the world) are talking about. Plus, you’ll find newsy scoops on things people should be talking about.

What should we call Bill if Hillary Clinton is elected president?


On Tuesday, Hillary Clinton officially became the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee   making her the first woman in American history to represent a major party in a presidential election.

Naturally, Americans began asking the tough issues like  how much did Clinton's Armani jacket cost (for the record, she wears jackets that are far less expensiveand what will we call her husband, Bill Clinton?

The latter is a topic that we've been concerned with for well over a year.

Back in January 2015, Bill Clinton, told Rachael Ray during an appearance on her show that "Adam," would be a good choice.

A few months later in November 2015, Hillary Clinton discussed it with Jimmy Kimmel on "Jimmy Kimmel Live."

“It’s a little bit more complicated with him because people still call former presidents ‘Mr. President,’ so I have to really work on this,” Clinton said.

“The first president lady would be a nice thing to call him,” Kimmel suggested.

“The first dude, first mate, first gentleman. I’m just not sure about it,” said Clinton.

First gentleman -- the unofficial term used for the spouses of the female U.S. governors in office -- has gained a lot of traction online among the American people, primarily because it is the male equivalent of a first lady. But since none of our first ladies has ever been president, it could seem a bit diminishing to refer to Bill Clinton in that manner.

As Hillary Clinton and several others in the political realm have noted, Americans have made practice of calling all of our former presidents, Mr. President. Bill Clinton is entitled to the same treatment.

"I have never seen anything like this," said Peggy Newfield, Atlanta's etiquette expert and founder of Personal Best Inc. and the American School of Protocol. Newfield was mentored by Letitia Baldridge, social secretary to Jacqueline Kennedy and one of America's foremost etiquette experts.

"If Hillary Clinton becomes President, then the White House will decide what the appropriate terminology for former President Bill Clinton will be," said Newfield. "Should this happen a new form of protocol will be introduced."

Because they share the same name, Newfield said it is most likely that the acceptable reference for Bill Clinton will be former President Clinton.

In print, things could get very confusing. Any story referring to President Clinton and former President Clinton would just be hard to read. And addressing an envelope to the pair will require a lot of space.

"You cannot lump them together," said Newfield. You would have to write President Hillary Clinton on the first line and on a second line you would write former President Bill Clinton, she said.

No doubt, we'll be talking about this right up until election results roll in -- at which point, we will either have to get serious about what to call the first male ex-president presidential spouse or just settle back into the more familiar term of first lady.


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About the Author

Nedra Rhone has been a features reporter with the AJC for 10 years. She’s written about everything from fashion to food to news.