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Dr. PhD

On the issue of honorifics for people with PhDs, I'm generally happy to call people whatever they want to be called. But my own preference is as follows. I lean toward reserving "Dr." for medical doctors, and I find it weird having that title applied to me, since I just have a PhD in a social science. I tend to prefer "Professor" as an honorific for PhD holders, though I realize that gets tricky when you're talking about PhD holders outside of academia, or at institutions where people are picky about academic ranks (recall the controversy over whether Obama lied in saying he was a "professor" of constitutional law since his job title was just "instructor"). I find it especially weird if I'm called "Dr." in a context where my advanced knowledge of Mary Douglas's cultural theory is not relevant. So for example, when I'm in for a checkup, the parties involved are "Dr. Chung" and "Mr. Danielson"/"Stentor." But if my physician were to decide to take a cultural geography class at Pima Community College, we'd be "Mr. Chung"/"Daniel" and "Prof. Danielson" in class.


Blogger James said...

Not me. I see no reason to privilege medical doctors above others. I have no problem calling doctors of just about anything doctor so long as it was actually earned or bestowed by a legitimate institution.

I was some years ago given a doctor of divinity degree by a shadowy institution that seemed to exist primarily within the imagination of its founder and president. I have not used that title.

So, I have some limits...

But I freely admit if such a degree were given by a legit or, hey, even a mostly legit school, I would proudly throw doctor on all my letterhead & most especially my business cards...

8:35 AM  
Blogger Alon Levy said...

James, I was under the impression that the proper title for someone with a Doctor of Divinity was "Reverend," just as the proper title for someone with a J.D. is "Esquire."

Stentor, a complicating factor for the title "Professor" is that it doesn't even need a Ph.D. When I taught calculus, my students referred to me as "Prof. Levy," even though I don't have a doctorate yet.

12:10 PM  
Blogger ogre said...

Whereas my take is that claiming--insisting on, expecting--the use of such honorifics outside of very narrow confines is wildly inappropriate and hideously classist.

A medical doctor, a professor, a minister, a computer programmer, a business owner and a truck driver at a social gathering--what purposes do the titles serve? I know a bunch of people who tote all kinds of alphabet soup, and if any of them expect me to introduce them to other human beings, in social settings, in ways other than, "this is John Chin. John, this is Jane Smith. Oh, you both ought to meet Elliot Doe...."

In context, in the right setting, sure. Dr. So-and-so's a great pediatrician; I recommend him. In fact, you met him last week at that gathering at the beach....

12:15 PM  
Blogger ogre said...

Alon, the title "Reverend" is actually not a privilege of an M.Div.--it's a title associated with ordination, which doesn't necessarily imply one has an M.Div. at all.

12:17 PM  

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