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Suppose Mr. Parker is a brigadier general in the army. could we simply refer to him as "General Parker". In other words, can "General" be used as a generic title for anyone with a high rank in the army?

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General can be used as a generic title for anyone in the Army of rank O-7 or above. In the cases of 1-, 2-, and 3-star generals, their formal titles are Brigadier, Major, and Lieutenant General, but just plain General can be used, particularly verbally. "We need to clean up around here; General Parker is paying us a visit this afternoon" is a legitimate way to refer to the 1-star. In writing, shorthand is often used to prevent ambiguity, so the same remark in an email might read:

We need to clean up around here; BGen Parker is paying us a visit this afternoon.

When saluting BGen Parker in the parking lot, "Good morning, General" would be an appropriate verbal greeting – assuming the local time hasn't passed 1200 hrs.

From a Marine Corps customs and courtesies guide (p. 9):

In written correspondence, both formal and social, full rank precedes the name and is written out. In conversation, all generals are General...

  • General is in fact short for general officer, and that phrase gets used in certain formal situations in the American military. But general is now a noun as well as an adjective. – John Lawler Sep 24 '14 at 14:18
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    Is it Marine Corps regulation to say "Good afternoon" after 1200 hours? – Azor Ahai Oct 22 '15 at 21:33
  • @Press - No, but it's regulation to give a respectful greeting. – J.R. Oct 22 '15 at 22:57
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You didn't say which army, and in the British Army things are slightly different from the rules J.R. gives for the US Army. The NATO equivalent to US Army O-7 is OF-6, one-star general; the British Army equivalent to this rank is Brigadier, and

While the corresponding rank of brigadier general in many other nations is a general officer rank, the British Army considers it a field officer rank.

(Wikipedia)

Perhaps as a consequence, British Army brigadiers are addressed not as 'General', but as 'Brigadier':

How to Address a Brigadier

The recommended social style of address is as follows:

Verbal communication: Brigadier Jones*

*A younger man, or a more junior officer in any of the Armed Forces, addresses him as 'Sir'.

(Debrett's)

You have to be a Major General or above to get addressed as General (Debrett's again)

So the answer to your question depends on which army Mr Parker is in.

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In the U.S. Army (50 years ago, anyway, when I was a service member), a general officer was so called because he could be assigned to command Army forces of any type; hence, generals' uniforms did not indicate a corps affiliation (Engineers, Signal, etc.). "Generalist" was the idea.

  • You need a source for this answer. Personal anecdotes are usually not enough. – dwjohnston Oct 22 '15 at 22:50

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