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Chris Christie, yesterday:

I spoke to General Samson on Jan. 8 and asked him what he knew about this.  Had he any involvement, if he authorized it, if he had any idea of the planning. And he said absolutely not.
Aside from the careful use of language (what about knowledge after the lane closing started, Gov.?), Christie once again indulged in the incorrect usage of "General" for a pompous and diversionary purpose.

And if there's one thing that annoys me almost as much as bullying, lying, sexism and venomous retaliation, it's incorrect usage for a pompous and diversionary purpose.

How do I know it's incorrect?

As with so many things, I turned for the answer to The Protocol School of Washington's Honor and Respect: The Official Guide to Names, Titles and Forms of Address.

Honor and Respect's page on How to Address and Attorney General, by Robert Hickey "addresses" the issue.

Hickey found that although here have been instances of usage in Georgia and in some Supreme Court oral arguments, the "general" use is incorrect:

Several state's attorneys general weighed in against the use, and one, from Montana, wrote: "General” is rarely used, and then by those who are not aware of our customary practice."

A few bios on the National Association of Attorneys General used it -- the worst offender apparently was former AG Ken Cuchinelli.  (Why am I not suprised?)  And as for Cuch's entry, "its style (and multiple use of “general”) doesn’t parallel most of the other bios on the site," according to a retired Judge Advocate General Corps brigadier general and now a law professor, i.e., an actual General.  

This real General also wrote:

The use of “general” started with US Attorney General Janet Reno, when some in the media hung the title on her as a result of her role in “the defeat of Branch Davidian forces at the 1993 Battle of Waco.” Over the years there have been increasing cases of misuse of the title by those who don’t realize that “general” in attorney general is not a title but an adjective used to modify/describe the noun attorney.   If true, I’m sure most AGs would want to distance themselves from the title “general."
The clincher is grammar, based on the plural: attorneys general.  There, "general" is clearly an adjective, referring to the many and varied duties of an AG.

So enough, Governor.  Samson may be and may have been a lot of things, but he's not a "General" and never was.

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