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Tilting at Windmills

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February 28, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

HONORIFICS....Eszter Hargittai (BA Smith, MA/PhD Princeton) thinks that female academics are less likely to be addressed as "Doctor" or "Professor" than their male colleagues:

Another related anecdote underscores the importance of gender in all this. I was presenting at a conference (in the U.S.) a few months ago. It was not necessarily clear who on the panel was a student vs a faculty member, we all looked fairly young. There were two women on the panel and a man. In the end, it turned out that I was the only faculty member, the other woman was a Ph.D. student, the man a Masters student.

The discussant (seemingly American) stood up to give his comments. He started mine with Miss Eszter. I dont remember how he addressed the other woman. I do, however, remember that he addressed the man the Masters student as Professor X. While I realize that my last name may be a challenge to pronounce, everyone on the panel had hard-to-pronounce foreign names so that doesnt quite explain the distinction in how we were addressed.

On a related note, the sport I watch most often is tennis, probably the most gender integrated major sport in the world. Announcers, however, very clearly refer to male players by their last name far more often than they do female players. It's Federer, Sampras, and Agassi, but Lindsey, Monica, and Steffi. I've never counted up the references or anything, but the difference is so noticeable that I'd be shocked if I were mistaken about this.

Kevin Drum 12:09 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (134)

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Professor X? Did he bring the rest of the School for Gifted Youngsters with him? I"ve always wanted to meet Storm.

Posted by: Rob Staeger on February 28, 2006 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

My wife is working on her doctorate right now. I plan to address her as "Doctor" at every opportunity. :)

(The grammar pedant in me can't help but notice several minor errors in Professor Hargittay's excerpt. Hope she's not an English professor.)

Posted by: Alek Hidell on February 28, 2006 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

I have noticed this too, and it's one of the reasons why, for example, I make a conscious effort to refer to Senator Clinton as, well, Senator Clinton. (I do usually throw in the the "Senator", to distinguish her from her husband.) She isn't a child or a personal friend of mine, so using a first name isn't appropriate.

Posted by: Matt Austern on February 28, 2006 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

Oh Ezster baby, loosen up! Man I hate it when these frosty teacher-types get their panties in a wad. Must be that time of the month.

Posted by: Mr Damage on February 28, 2006 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

We've given up on both modesty and having a sense of humor as desirable traits, have we?

Posted by: Ace Franze on February 28, 2006 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with everything here, but one quick question: Is it possible that the tennis announcers refer to the women by their first names because they got in the habit of using first names to distinguish between the Williams sisters?

Posted by: MDS on February 28, 2006 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

Compare the frequency by which Senator Frist is referred to as Dr. Frist to that by which Chairman Dean is referred to as Dr. Dean. Frist is much more frequently referred to as "Dr.".

Posted by: smiley on February 28, 2006 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

Billy Jean v Bobby Riggs

Posted by: CFShep on February 28, 2006 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, but look at how much more often Frist is referred to as "Shithead."

Posted by: Ace Franze on February 28, 2006 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

Check out today's wanker:
http://tinyurl.com/s58ng

Posted by: Freedom Phukher on February 28, 2006 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

I was trying to think of male counter-examples of the Hillary phenomenon. The main one that comes to mind is "Arnold" and to a lesser degree "Rudy" and "Jeb" (which, like Hillary, is the result of their being multiple prominent politicians with the same last name).

In terms of politics, I can't think of another female off the top of my head.

Posted by: Steven Taylor on February 28, 2006 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

It's Federer, Sampras, and Agassi, but Lindsey, Monica, and Steffi. I've never counted up the references or anything, but the difference is so noticeable that I'd be shocked if I were mistaken about this.

When I got promoted to my first management position (25+ years ago), I supervised a group of some three men and eight women. As a service department for a large aerospace firm, we did a lot of business over the phone. I was initially perceived as an old fuddy duddy (I was almost 30) because I insisted that everyone answer the phone with their full first and last name. Most of them just didn't get it that answering the phone with, "Hi, this is Lynnie!" put them at any sort of a disadvantage.

Posted by: Jim Strain on February 28, 2006 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

MDS: I cut the announcers some slack on Venus and Serena for the obvious reason. (The Bryan brothers are usually referred to by their first names too.) But that's not it. They've been calling women by their first names since long before the Williams sisters came on the stage.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on February 28, 2006 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

I always referred to all my profs as Dr. So-and-so, male or female, even the profs that were my friends ( I just couldn't call them by their first name, even if asked to).

Never made a distinction for man vs. woman.

Twice I was corrected by women in the English dept. who were profs but not PhDs. But I'd rather err up than down.

(And at the Olympics, the female figure skaters were all Sasha, Kimmie, etc...)

Posted by: teece on February 28, 2006 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

My personal favorite isn't, in fact, in the professoriate, although I agree (and I have 40 years of experience) with Prof. Hargitai. It's "Condi." Jeez, I hate that! The NYT and the WaPo are always quoting guys calling our Secretary of State "Condi." "Dr. Rice" to you, buddy. And may I note that I can't remember a single time I have ever agreed with Dr. Rice about anything.

Posted by: jhill on February 28, 2006 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

Is it possible that the tennis announcers refer to the women by their first names because they got in the habit of using first names to distinguish between the Williams sisters?

I'd have to say: no, it's not possible.

Now what happens when we get some female PhDs playing tennis? That should cause some consternation.

Posted by: craigie on February 28, 2006 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

I think equestrian sports are the most integrated.

Not too sure about keeping count of honorifics at all outside of one's field. Why call someone Dr. when Senator or Secretary will do? Isn't every lawyer a Doctor too?

And yet we go too far with the coziness with which we refer to accomplished women. I have to salute the recognition that females are called by given names in the press way too much. Condi, Hillary, etc. It was especially grating when Jessica Lynch was in the news. Why wasn't she Pfc. Lynch in every broadcast? I found that to be disrespectful.

Posted by: drowsy on February 28, 2006 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

(The grammar pedant in me can't help but notice several minor errors in Professor Hargittay's excerpt. Hope she's not an English professor.)

Alek, did you realize you misspelled the professor's name?

Posted by: Grammar Pedant on February 28, 2006 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

Having attended the University of Virginia (where NONE of our professors were referred to as "doctors" in deference to Thomas Jefferson, who never earned a PhD) we (as students) referred to almost everyone by their last names. (Except for those that we had pet names for. Although not to their faces. Of course.)

The bigotry still existed, only in another way. I'll never forget one of my Theory of Popular Culture 400-level English Class, where the female professor talked about her first day on the job. All the new hires were welcomed by the head of the department who said, "You'll know you've arrived at the University when you are first addressed as 'Mr.'"

Her audible response in the full room: "Sh!t."

Postscript: She never made tenure (after two reviews) and eventually left to teach at the University of Illinois.

Posted by: DC1974 on February 28, 2006 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

Happens in literature, too--I still remember that Sartre in No Exit references the women by their first names, the man by his last name.

Posted by: j on February 28, 2006 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

My wife and I are both Ph.D.'s - she is in academia while I work in industry. Her university's developement department received a rude response when they addressed a fund raising letter to "Dr. and Mrs."

Posted by: fafner1 on February 28, 2006 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

@Alek:

(The grammar pedant in me can't help but notice several minor errors in Professor Hargittay's excerpt. Hope she's not an English professor.)

No, she's not. Neither is she a native English speaker: she's Hungarian. She also speaks French and German. And her surname is "Hargittai."

Posted by: Kieran on February 28, 2006 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

My wife is a PhD-holding professor and I'm not, but we still get a lot of letters addressed to Dr. and Mrs. Steen. Even my wife will let it go when it's my 97-year-old grandfather writing, but it really took the cake when the letter was from Vanderbilt University: an invitation to the dinner celebrating her being hired there as a professor!

Posted by: Dug on February 28, 2006 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

DC1974, i grew up in c'ville and can tell you that sexism at the university is pretty wide spread. a friend went to grad school there and wanted to do her thesis on something pertaining to "women's history" and her professor (who, unfortunately, was my next door neighbor) said that wasn't a legitimate subject. that there was no such thing because women hadn't done anything of value in american history. and this was only two or three years ago. scary.

Posted by: EM on February 28, 2006 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

Most of them just didn't get it that answering the phone with, "Hi, this is Lynnie!" put them at any sort of a disadvantage.
Posted by: Jim Strain

One the first things you realize is that any woman who answers any phone, ever, for any reason, anywhere is going to be presumed to be a secretary.

"This is so-and-so. Honey, I need to talk to the Trust Officer who prepared my return?"

"Good morning, Mr. So-and-so. This is Ms. _____.
I prepared your return and I'd be glad to discuss it with you."

"No, honey. I want to talk to the *real* Trust Officer."

Posted by: CFShep on February 28, 2006 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

Not all that long ago, when the NYT was doing a story on some members of an Ivy-league english department, a copy-editor called to ask one of the subjects whether she preferred to be referred to as "Ms." or "Mrs." X. The idea that she, like the rest of the people quoted, should be referred to as "Professor" had never crossed the Grey Lady's collective mind.

So maybe things have advanced, maybe they haven't.

Posted by: paul on February 28, 2006 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, the parents of my Ph.D.-toting wife had to be scolded when they mailed us a letter addressed to

Dr. and Mrs.

We can laugh about it now, but it was no joke at the time. Her own parents!

Female academics have lots of barriers to advancement, subtle and not, and this is one of them.

Posted by: troglodyte on February 28, 2006 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

i'd also like to note that when i got married, i hyphenated my last name, and in my work life have kept my birth name (sorry, hate the term "maiden name"). yet i still get a lot of my mail addressed to Mr. and Mrs. my-husband's-last-name. or even just Mrs. and then his last name. mail has NEVER come to my husband with MY last name on it.
and in the art world, you'll hardly ever hear women referred to at all. most women these days sign their paintings with just a first initial and their last name so as to be taken seriously.

Posted by: EM on February 28, 2006 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

It was especially grating when Jessica Lynch was in the news. Why wasn't she Pfc. Lynch in every broadcast? I found that to be disrespectful.

Christ, yes. If it had been "Joe Lynch" they never would have called him "Private Joe" -- it would have been "Private Lynch" all the way.

Posted by: Stefan on February 28, 2006 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

My wife is an MD, and she has the same problem.

The same issue takes place with African Americans, who are more likely to be called by their first names or full names than whites.

Posted by: reino on February 28, 2006 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

Postscript: She never made tenure (after two reviews) and eventually left to teach at the University of Illinois.

Hey, we don't want your uppity female castoffs!

Just kidding, of course.

A lot of trouble could be saved if Ph.D.s, Ed.D.s and so on would recognize that M.D. is the only degree the Etiquette Old Bats say it's acceptable to use socially. If you're Mr. and Dr. Smith on a non-work-related invitation, the doctor in the pair better be able to call code blue or prescribe medication.

I'm a little more egalitarian. My work puts me in constant contact with both academics and medical types, and I find it hilarious that anyone would use Ph.D. or M.D. in a social situation, or sign "Short Stop, Ph.D." in any but a directly professional situation. Even funnier are the pompous goofs who introduce themselves as "Dr. Smith" with no given name, as though they sprang from their mothers' uteri with terminal degrees.

And for the person who said her husband is never addressed as "Mr. Her Surname," my husband and I both kept our birth names, and he frequently gets mail or phone calls for "Mr. Shortstop." It just helps separate the sales pitches from the interesting stuff.

Posted by: shortstop on February 28, 2006 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

On the golf tours the first name seems to be gender-neutral. Phil, Tiger, Freddie, Hale, Jack, Arnold...rarely do I hear Mickelsen, Woods, Couples, Irwin, Nicklaus or Palmer. On the LPGA tour there are enough Koreans named Park and Lee that first names are almost a requirement.

Posted by: Linkmeister on February 28, 2006 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

The same issue takes place with African Americans, who are more likely to be called by their first names or full names than whites.
Posted by: reino

Down here we see the usuage "Mr. Joe" - honorific with first name.

And it goes both ways and across all racial barriers. My neighbor's kids call me "Mizz C______".

This is an accepted way to address persons where there are differences in status, perceived or actual, involved.

Posted by: CFShep on February 28, 2006 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

To the person who was trying to think of another political figure commonly referred to by first name only - Condi?

I hear about the possibility of a Condi-Hillary match-up all the time. No one ever talked about the George-John showdown.

Posted by: kjwldn on February 28, 2006 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

While the situation is worse for women, I find Americans to be far too ready to use first names in general. Nothing puts my teeth on edge more than calling somewhere, introducing myself by my full name, and then hearing "Great, Stefan, how can I help you"? Well, you can start by adressing me as "Mr." along with my last name....

Posted by: Stefan on February 28, 2006 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

To continue my rambling, because I find this topic really interesting: What is with the docs who think they should be Dr. So-and-So while you're just a first name?

I recently saw a particular physician for the first time and he bounded in all, "Hi, Short, I'm Dr. Smith." He was 8-10 years younger than I am. I mustered up all the dignity I could find while wearing a paper smock and replied politely, "Hi, Dr. Smith, I'm Ms. Stop." Totally lost on him, but it made me smile.

If I were an 80-year-old granny being seen by a young pup of a resident, I might have been pretty offended instead of amused.

Posted by: shortstop on February 28, 2006 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

A lot of trouble could be saved if Ph.D.s, Ed.D.s and so on would recognize that M.D. is the only degree the Etiquette Old Bats say it's acceptable to use socially. If you're Mr. and Dr. Smith on a non-work-related invitation, the doctor in the pair better be able to call code blue or prescribe medication.

Well, there are cultural and social considerations that come into play here. The European in me insists that every Ph.D be addressed as Dr. or Professor.

Posted by: Stefan on February 28, 2006 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

While the situation is worse for women, I find Americans to be far too ready to use first names in general. Nothing puts my teeth on edge more than calling somewhere, introducing myself by my full name, and then hearing "Great, Stefan, how can I help you"? Well, you can start by adressing me as "Mr." along with my last name....

I love you for this post. No one else seems to get this. I'm not THAT old, either.

Posted by: shortstop on February 28, 2006 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

Note that the original post isn't about being called "Dr." but about being called "Professor" -- the M.D. vs. Ph.D. thing is a red herring.

I think it's about equal parts sexism and cluelessness about the way academia works. My students usually call me Dr. or Prof. or Mr. Lastname. I think it's usually because they just don't know, and I don't really care what they call me as long as it's relatively respectful. But my wife, who also has a Ph.D. and is a tenure-track professor in the same department, gets all sorts of things -- Mrs., Miss, firstname, or, my favorite, Miss Teacher.

Posted by: rfs on February 28, 2006 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

My grandmother (a woman ahead of her time) has a PhD and she used to get really snippy about not being called "Doctor" professionally. We always joked about this affectation, but this article makes me think there was something real behind her defensiveness.

I'm sure it didn't help that she was a tiny woman competing in a solidly male world. I have always said she had a Napoleonic complex. (Fiesty, too -- I pity anyone who confused her with the department secretary.)

Posted by: snarktini on February 28, 2006 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

Note that the original post isn't about being called "Dr." but about being called "Professor" -- the M.D. vs. Ph.D. thing is a red herring.

Nah, it's not a red herring; it's a tangent.

Posted by: shortstop on February 28, 2006 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

"Twice I was corrected by women in the English dept. who were profs but not PhDs. But I'd rather err up than down."

My grandfather (a pediatrician) made a similar observation on this idea in the medical profession, and I found it to be very true back when I worked in a hospital. If you see someone in scrubs and/or lab coat and you aren't sure what their title is, refer to them as "Doctor". A nurse won't be insulted by being mistaken for a doctor, but a doctor will damn sure be insulted at being called "nurse".

Posted by: MJ Memphis on February 28, 2006 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

To continue my rambling, because I find this topic really interesting: What is with the docs who think they should be Dr. So-and-So while you're just a first name? I recently saw a particular physician for the first time and he bounded in all, "Hi, Short, I'm Dr. Smith." He was 8-10 years younger than I am. I mustered up all the dignity I could find while wearing a paper smock and replied politely, "Hi, Dr. Smith, I'm Ms. Stop." Totally lost on him, but it made me smile.

I was just about to write almost the exact same thing! Though I use a different tack -- the second someone such as a doctor uses my first name, I use their first name right back. If I don't know it, I ask. So when Dr. Smith says "Hi, Stefan, I'm Doctor Smith" I answer "Hi, Bob, how do you do?" It always gives them pause. But if they want their honorific, they better give me mine.

Posted by: Stefan on February 28, 2006 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

In my recent grad school experience, age rather than gender seemed to determine which profs got called by first name. I think it's because at my school the younger profs were often close in age or sometimes younger than the grad students. I know if I were a 33 y.o. professor, I'd feel weird being called Dr/Prof X by a 33 y.o. grad student. Of course, I would still expect an 18 y.o. freshman to address me as Dr/Prof, which AFAIK is still common practice.

On a different note, I used to have a female primary physician. I often had to correct people who assumed my doctor was male (for example, a pharmicist referring to "his prescription"). The funny part was, the person I'd have to correct was usually a woman!

Posted by: drs on February 28, 2006 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

I love you for this post. No one else seems to get this. I'm not THAT old, either.

No, nor I -- I'm only in my thirties. But it's not a matter of age, just of simple respect and common courtesy. Standards, people, standards!

Posted by: Stefan on February 28, 2006 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

Where can we find your blog, Pat?

Posted by: shortstop on February 28, 2006 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

Our country is faced with some of the most pressing challenges in its history, and Kevin and guest posters here are focusing on the question

Too true, Pat. So what are you doing here wasting time commenting on a blog? Shouldn't you be out rebuilding America or something? Or are you on a break from that?

Posted by: Kieran on February 28, 2006 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

he addressed the man the Masters student as Professor X.

Maybe he was just a big comics nerd?

But seriously, folks, the first advice I got when I got my Ph.D. was "everyone's got one [meaning faculty], so don't go calling yourself 'doctor.'"
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on February 28, 2006 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

One of the many things I disliked about The DaVinci Code when I read it was the habit of referring to males by the last names and females by their first names. But then again, it's a venerable practice. I'm currently about a third of the way through War and Peace and have come across quite a few instances of male last-naming and female first-naming (it may not be Tolstoy's doing, but rather from the early 20th Century translation).
As for the use of "Doctor," I may be old-fashioned but it just doesn't sound right when used for Ph.D.'s other than in the health care field. There's no logical basis for thinking this way, it's just something I do.

Posted by: Peter on February 28, 2006 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

Can we commission someone to do a Nexis search on Rice and Kissenger, each together with doctor?

Posted by: Hedley Lamarr on February 28, 2006 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK
DROWSY: I have to salute the recognition that females are called by given names in the press way too much. Condi, Hillary, etc.
No. Condi is called "Dr. Rice" way too much--much more than Howard is called "Dr. Dean."
CFSHEP: One the first things you realize is that any woman who answers any phone, ever, for any reason, anywhere is going to be presumed to be a secretary.

"This is so-and-so. Honey, I need to talk to the Trust Officer who prepared my return?"

"Good morning, Mr. So-and-so. This is Ms. _____. I prepared your return and I'd be glad to discuss it with you."

"No, honey. I want to talk to the *real* Trust Officer."


But presumedly it'd be just fine to reference her as "honey" if she actually were a secretary, eh?

Doctor, schmoctor. They're people doing their fucking jobs. While addressing physicians as "Dr." may have served a useful purpose in some bygone days when they actually regularly mingled in public with the huddled masses, it is now for them--and particularly for Ph.D. holders--nothing but an elitist demand for deference.

The sad thing is that many of the women bemoaning a double standard in this custom are quite aware of its inherently classist bigotry. But most are simply unable to resist whining, "I want mine too!"


Posted by: jayarbee on February 28, 2006 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

Though I'm sure there is some cultural sexism, remember also that teenage boys call each other by their last names all the time and teenage girls rarely do that w/ their friends.

"Yo, Sullivan, what's up?" You'd never hear that if it were Becky Sullivan, only if it's John.

Posted by: Joel W on February 28, 2006 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

On tennis, you might consider an alternate hypothesis--that female announcers tend to use first names. And you picked a couple of bad examples--"Roger" and "Andre" are pretty common. But I'll bet you'll find that Mary Carillo uses first names more than Dick Enberg does, no matter who's playing.

But I think you're right about academics. It gets complicated, though. The first class (a math class) I walked into in college (there's a shopping period) this guy who looked no older than the freshmen in the room came in, tossed his knapsack on the table and said "I'm Neal Koblitz. Call me Neal." I don't recall whether he was tenured at that point, but he may well have been.

In this case, his youth made him uncomfortable with the "Professor" reference. OTOH, I could never get myself to call my grad school adviser by his first name, even though he asked me to.

Posted by: JayAckroyd on February 28, 2006 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK
DROWSY: I have to salute the recognition that females are called by given names in the press way too much. Condi, Hillary, etc.
No. Condi is called "Dr. Rice" way too much--much more than Howard is called "Dr. Dean."
CFSHEP: One the first things you realize is that any woman who answers any phone, ever, for any reason, anywhere is going to be presumed to be a secretary.

"This is so-and-so. Honey, I need to talk to the Trust Officer who prepared my return?"

"Good morning, Mr. So-and-so. This is Ms. _____. I prepared your return and I'd be glad to discuss it with you."

"No, honey. I want to talk to the *real* Trust Officer."


But presumedly it'd be just fine to reference her as "honey" if she actually were a secretary, eh?

Doctor, schmoctor. They're people doing their fucking jobs. While addressing physicians as "Dr." may have served a useful purpose in some bygone days when they actually regularly mingled in public with the huddled masses, it is now for them--and particularly for Ph.D. holders--nothing but an elitist demand for deference.

The sad thing is that many of the women bemoaning a double standard in this custom are quite aware of its inherently classist bigotry. But most are simply unable to resist whining, "I want mine too!"


Posted by: jayarbee on February 28, 2006 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

The plague of excessive informality is indeed everywhere. I'm a journalist, and I get tons of unsolicited PR pitches that start "Hi, John" from people I've never met. Bye, Flack!

I've also noticed the tendency to call female tennis players by their first names, but I also recall plenty of first-name use regarding male players. A lot of Pete and Andre, certainly. Still, it's clearly not an even distribution.

And Pat? Even though your name is Pat, I have to go with Sgt. Hulka's words of wisdom in "Stripes": Lighten up, Francis.

Posted by: John on February 28, 2006 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

@Shortstop

If you add DO (Doctor of Osteopathy, basically equivalent to an MD) to the list, they can do code blues, I'll agree with everything in your post.

Posted by: Zach on February 28, 2006 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

But presumedly it'd be just fine to reference her as "honey" if she actually were a secretary, eh?

It was Dallas. And if Mr. So-and-so had been less of an arrogant, bigoted, prick and had been a client I dealt with a lot, I wouldn't have turned a hair to be adressed in the course of a conversation as 'Sugar' or 'Honey'.

It's the norm.

I was a trifle taken aback, after I'd been in NOLA for a couple of years, to have a 5 year old call me 'Baby'.

Posted by: CFShep on February 28, 2006 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

I take it, then, that "old lady" would be an inappropriate term for one's wife? As in, "Hey man, my old lady said you can't crash on the couch no more, dude."

Posted by: Matt on February 28, 2006 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

I'd always assumed it was more related to the personality/charisma of the athlete. NBA players are much more likely to be referred by their first names than NFL players, because the marketing of that sport is more personality-driven.

The same is probably true for tennis. The females are more marketable as celebrities than males. I'm sure it has a lot to do with the ease of portraying female sex appeal as actual charisma, although Pete Sampras' lack of marketability made the case that true charisma counts.

Posted by: PapaJijo on February 28, 2006 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

Okay, Zach, you got it.

I missed this post of Stefan's till now:

Well, there are cultural and social considerations that come into play here. The European in me insists that every Ph.D be addressed as Dr. or Professor.

There's no pan-European norm here, though; depending on where you are in Europe, the custom can be to refer to a male academic as "Mr." or the feminine equivalent, even in the classroom.

I'm really talking about social situations, and even more about people who refer to themselves as Dr. Surname in social settings. I can buy the desire to follow certain traditions when addressing others in academic and health care, but how we refer to ourselves is pretty telling.

Posted by: shortstop on February 28, 2006 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

Monica and Steffi have been out of tennis for years. Generally, it depends on the player. Clijsters, Sharapova, Pierce, and Mauresmo are often referred to by their last names. Henin-Hardenne, the Williams sisters, and Davenport are usually referred to by their first names. Less well-known players below the top ten are usually referred to by their first and last names or just last name.

Posted by: shnooky on February 28, 2006 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

my other question is why is it always Mr. and Dr. Smith, and never Dr. and Mr. Smith? just wondering why the male title always comes first.

Posted by: EM on February 28, 2006 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK
As for the use of "Doctor," I may be old-fashioned but it just doesn't sound right when used for Ph.D.'s other than in the health care field.

Ironically, though, the naming of the qualifying medical degree in the US (and the later change in the name of the qualifying legal degree) as a doctorate rather than a bachelor's degree, as both are, as I understand, still in the UK, was professional puffery seeking equal status for those professions to the Ph.D. research doctorates.

Though "medical doctor" for physician without regard to degree -- and the no longer current "civil doctor" for lawyers -- usages existed for quite some time, regardless of degrees.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 28, 2006 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK
my other question is why is it always Mr. and Dr. Smith, and never Dr. and Mr. Smith? just wondering why the male title always comes first.

Traditionally, the male title came first because the male was the head of the household, both in law and tradition. While it is no longer so in law, and decreasingly so in substantive tradition, formal etiquette is slow to adapt (and, perhaps, more the province of those people for whom the substantive tradition has evolved least, compared to society at large.)

Posted by: cmdicely on February 28, 2006 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK


CFSHEP: It was Dallas. And if Mr. So-and-so had been less of an arrogant, bigoted, prick and had been a client I dealt with a lot, I wouldn't have turned a hair to be adressed in the course of a conversation as 'Sugar' or 'Honey'. It's the norm.

I'm a native Texan. I know about the norms there. Men are also often, particularly in casual commerce, addressed as "Sugar" or "Honey."

But that doesn't negate my point about elitism. The usage you are clarifying now is egalitarian, applied across class and gender. Even snobs endure it, if reluctantly, because not to would prove too time consuming. But give them a moment and they won't hesitate to let you know "who" they are. Did you happen to count the number of Ph.D.s gracing these pages, by the way? Certainly gives more weight to their opinions, don't you think?

Posted by: jayarbee on February 28, 2006 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with Zach, though I'm a bit more inclusive-- I'd add dentists and psychologists. In Britain, MDs are called doctor. But if they train as a surgeon, they revert back to Mister (or Miss, Mrs., Ms.).

As for calling a doctor by his title (even if he's younger), I think folks here are missing the point.

Its a sign of respect,just as you would might call a minister younger than yourself, Reverend or Father.

If you don't trust and respect the knowledge of your physician enough to at least call him Doc, perhaps its time to go doctor shopping.

Posted by: beowulf on February 28, 2006 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

Lot of Ph. D. envy here.

Ph. D. is a Doctor damnit.

(By the way, D.O., the pretend medical doctorate, in Osteopathy or Optometry, doesn't cut it. Otherwise you will have to call the Pharm. D. in the local grocery store as Doctor as well.)

Posted by: lib on February 28, 2006 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

I love you for this post. No one else seems to get this. I'm not THAT old, either.

No, I get it - sign me up for the "list of petty hates" club. This one drives me crazy. Of course, I am getting to be that old...

Posted by: craigie on February 28, 2006 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

CFSHEP: It was Dallas. And if Mr. So-and-so had been less of an arrogant, bigoted, prick and had been a client I dealt with a lot, I wouldn't have turned a hair to be adressed in the course of a conversation as 'Sugar' or 'Honey'. It's the norm.

Ugh. I cringe any time I get called honey, baby, sugar, sweetie, etc in the workplace. I generally call them whatever endearment they just bestowed upon me right back, as in:

"Sweetie, let's see if we can't work out some sort of arrangement."
"Sweetie, no."

Maybe I wouldn't if I lived in Texas...no, I'd still hate it.

Posted by: EM on February 28, 2006 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

As for calling a doctor by his title (even if he's younger), I think folks here are missing the point.

Actually, beowulf, I think you're missing the point. I always respect my doctor enough to call her "Doctor." What grinds Stefan and me--and many others--is when physicians don't respect their patients enough to call us Ms. Jones or Mr. Smith. In other words, courtesy cuts both ways.

The age thing isn't the final guideline, but it is a factor. Traditional courtesy--and this is practically worldwide--has dictated that we don't call older people by their given names until asked or until we know each other well; this was especially true in my family, which observes southern American social customs (to some extent). It's not at all strange that an elderly person would be offended by having a physician call him or her by a given name without invitation. At my age, I just find it eye-roll-inducing.

Posted by: shortstop on February 28, 2006 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

Why are you assuming it's Ph.D. envy, lib? Are you really sure that those of us laughing at the "Call me Doctor!" crowd don't have doctorates ourselves?

Posted by: shortstop's coffee cup and nearby documents on February 28, 2006 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry about the weird signature. Switched browsers and that must have been left over from some long-ago attempted joke.

Posted by: shortstop on February 28, 2006 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

Beowolf wrote:"Its a sign of respect,just as you would might call a minister younger than yourself, Reverend or Father.

If you don't trust and respect the knowledge of your physician enough to at least call him Doc, perhaps its time to go doctor shopping. "

This is where so many people get into trouble. They're taught to "respect" doctors and trust them blindly, and so many physicians have god-complexes because of it. They (and we) forget that they're fallible. Question your doctor the next time he or she presribes a treatment and see what kind of response you get. And you'll find if you ever become chronically ill, that most doctors don't have time to keep up with the current literature about your condition the way that you do. I've had to do a lot of educating doctors who are supposed to know more than me. And with that, March is Endometriosis Awareness Month. Visit the Endometriosis Research Center and participate in the Adopt a Doctor Program.

Posted by: EM on February 28, 2006 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

I'm a doctor of economics, young and female, and I run into this all the time. I'm actually mostly informal (very American, and very Gen-X) and prefer people do not refer to me as Dr. Matilde. I didn't even insist that my students refer to me as Professor Matilde.

There is still one case where this burns me, however -- professional settings with older male collegues. Typically, they get introduced as "Dr. So-and-So" and I get introduced as "Matilde". This especially happens when the person introducing us is male and Asian or Latin American, and not a Ph.D. themselves. It happened to me just last week, in fact. I don't care if someone refers to me as 'Dr. Matilde' or not, but damn it, if you are going to make introductions using the honorific, you should apply it to everyone who has it, not just old men.

Posted by: That's Dr. Matilde to you on February 28, 2006 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

An issue related to honorifics is deciding when it's appropriate to address people by their first names. Sometimes it's not at all clear. For instance, several months ago I had some brief commercial dealings with the father of my stepdaughter's closest college friend. Do I call him "John" or "Mr. Smith?" We are contemporaries of sorts via our connections through our (step)daughters, but on the other hand he is about 15 years older than me, in other words almost a generation apart. I ended up weaseling out of the situation by not calling him anything at all. Come to think of it, he did the same with me, even though from his standpoint use of my first name would have been natural.

Getting back to honorifics, I will use "doctor" for a physician, dentist, veterinarian, optometrist, or other health-care professional with a doctoral level degree. I will _not_ use it for chiropractors as I consider them charlatans. I'll also use "doctor" when addressing a college professor, especially one of tenure level. Use of the appropriate honorific also is called for with respect to members of the clergy or judges.

Posted by: Peter on February 28, 2006 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

Why are you assuming it's Ph.D. envy, lib? Are you really sure that those of us laughing at the "Call me Doctor!" crowd don't have doctorates ourselves?

Of course it depends on the source of the laughter!

I have never heard any Ph. D. except those from the local University of Holistic Humanistic Psychology insisting that they be called a Doctor.

May be the phenomenon is more common in humanities. I definitely don't see it among my colleagues in engineering.

Posted by: lib on February 28, 2006 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

My mother, who didn't finish her PhD, was often called Dr. or Professor by her students. She was the one who taught me that you do not refer to a PhD as Doctor, and those who do it themselves are pretentious... which I still believe. I do call my chiro a Doctor, though he is a charlatan, because at least I can stand without pain after seeing him and that counts for something. :)

I think there is a double standard, though these examples seem weird to me. My mother was in a largey female profession, and I think they all referred to each other by title, though doctors (i.e. medicine), probably didn't. The women in tennis thing is longer lived than Venus/Serena - remember how they called Evert "Chrissie"? - but I think it's a mixed bag and has led to more informality referring to men (rather then the formality of calling women by their last names).

And I think most men would be fine with being called Sugar, Honey or Baby... which just shows you how the problem evolved. :)

Posted by: weboy on February 28, 2006 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

There's no pan-European norm here, though; depending on where you are in Europe, the custom can be to refer to a male academic as "Mr." or the feminine equivalent, even in the classroom.

In Germany, where I'm partly from, the custom is to use honorifics and last names far more than in other countries. It's different among the younger generation, but among my mother and her circle first names are used only among friends, everyone else is "Herr Schmidt" or "Frau von Rammstor", for example. Even people who've known each other for twenty plus years will not use first names with each other.

Posted by: Stefan on February 28, 2006 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

No, she's not. Neither is she a native English speaker: she's Hungarian. She also speaks French and German. And her surname is "Hargittai."

Touch. I'm taking my medicine as we speak.

Posted by: Alek Hidell on February 28, 2006 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK


LIB: Of course it depends on the source of the laughter!

Hah! The source of my laughter now is your obliviousness. If it's a fellow Ph.D. laughing, they're entitled, eh? If not, well, then it can only be envy.

MATILDE: I don't care if someone refers to me as 'Dr. Matilde' or not, but damn it, if you are going to make introductions using the honorific, you should apply it to everyone who has it, not just old men.
If they're going to get their ingratiating, fawning, deferential, elitist treatment, you want yours too, damn it!
EM: Question your doctor the next time he or she presribes a treatment and see what kind of response you get.
My favorite is this classic: Which one of us went to medical school?


Posted by: jayarbee on February 28, 2006 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

When my husband and I were both in grad school and t.a.s, everyone of my students called me by my first name, and he said quite a few of his called him Mr. or even Prof. (though he taught his own class and I worked under a professor). I always just assumed it was because I was friendlier to my students so they felt comfortable calling me by my first name.

Now he is a professor, and he has a few students who are substantially older than him. They have taken to calling him Dr. Jack which cracks me up.

Having watched how hard one has to work to get a PhD I will always call PhDs Dr. So and So. They have earned the respect (and they certainly aren't going to get the money of a medical doctor, so at least give 'em the damn title!).

Posted by: J.B. on February 28, 2006 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

Its a sign of respect,just as you would might call a minister younger than yourself, Reverend or Father.

Aaargh! You've hit upon a bete noire of mine. While priests should certainly be addressed as "Father," it's improper to address Protestant clergymen as "Reverend." "Reverend" is an adjective indicating the person's state of being, not a title, similar to "Honorable" in the legal profession.

You wouldn't call "the Honorable Justice Breyer" Honorable Breyer, and so similarly you should not address "the Reverend Mr. Smith" as "Reverend Smith." The correct usage is, simply, "Mr. Smith." See, e.g., Jane Austen, George Eliot or Anthony Trollope for examples.

Obligatory caveat: yes, yes, I know common usage is otherwise, and that if everyone does it it becomes the way to do it, but it's still technically incorrect.

Posted by: Stefan on February 28, 2006 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

When I first got my PhD I had Dr. smiley put on my checks. That embarrassed me after a while (don't really know why) and I had it removed subsequently.

I insist that my students call me doctor or professor. If for no other reason than to remind them that they are no longer in high school (I know, some high school teachers have doctorates). I also remind them when they call me a/the teacher, that teaching is only part of what I do and, arguably, not even the most important.

In my experience, MDs are the the most reluctant to call a PhD doctor. Except when I was on the faculty of a medical school, I've never had an MD call me doctor even though they know I have a PhD.

Posted by: smiley on February 28, 2006 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

Re Protestant clergymen:
As an alternative to the (incorrect) Reverend Smith, how about "Pastor Smith?"

Posted by: Peter on February 28, 2006 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

I am a psychologist and I insist on the title "Dr." from everyone except students, as a sign of respect. My daughter, who is a physician, has fewer years of training than I do (counting postdocs and fellowships respectively).

When I worked at IBM Research, where everyone has a doctorate as a precondition of professional employment, no one used the title Dr. and I didn't insist on it either.

When I worked at Mass. General Hospital, neuropsychologists had Ph.Ds and neurologists had M.Ds. All were called Dr. but people's badges had Ph.D. or M.D. appended to the name because there were different implications about what someone could do in a medical setting where emergencies might arise. It made life easier for the rest of the staff.

I do not consider it an affectation or pretentiousness to ask for acknowledgement of my doctorate. I consider it rude and even bigotted to suggest that someone who has earned an honor should be mocked for thinking their effort was important. Further, mocking the doctorate in front of students suggests to them that their own aspirations might be silly or not worth pursuing.

Our society is anti-intellectual enough without those with the training to be intellectual attacking the contribution of those who think for a living. I can understand someone not wanting to be taken seriously, but I don't believe they should extend that to everyone else, indiscriminately or discriminately.

Women find that if they don't take themselves seriously, no one else will. How can one make a meaningful contribution to a field of knowledge when others don't listen? This is about being heard, not about being socially acknowledged or getting mail addressed a particular way.

Posted by: Nancy on February 28, 2006 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

Compare the frequency by which Senator Frist is referred to as Dr. Frist to that by which Chairman Dean is referred to as Dr. Dean. Frist is much more frequently referred to as "Dr.".

Actually, the honorific Dean uses is "Gov." If you deal with his staff, they call him "the Governor." I didn't know you got to take the title with you, but there you go.

He's said he'll never be able to go back to medicine, because he'd have so much catching up to do. Maybe he doesn't think it's appropriate to use the title if he's no longer doing the work.

Posted by: hamletta on February 28, 2006 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK


J.B.: Having watched how hard one has to work to get a PhD I will always call PhDs Dr. So and So.

I've also watched the work entailed to earn Ph.D.s. It consists mostly of figuring out the little games they insist you play and then conforming to them. Afterward, many of them, to combat their beaten and submissive shame, and their guilt over having learned virtually nothing beneficial to the positions they will fill or to the public at large, will exact revenge by insisting that the rest of the world conforms to their delusions of superiority.


Posted by: jayarbee on February 28, 2006 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

Getting a big kick out of this thread...

With a PhD in the physical sciences, you either work somewhere where everyone's got one, so using it as a title is sorta pointless. Or, you work where nobody else has one, so using it just comes off as pompous. Socially, it's always pompous. (I'd say that goes for MD's too, but convention wins out in that case...) We still get plenty of things addressed to "Dr. and Mrs. Einsten" (we're both PhDs. I kept my name.)

I don't have any major complaints about my current coworkers. Our customers (various government defense entities) are another matter. Back when I was in a large engineering company, I was always the one who was expected to take notes, make copies, etc. One of the reasons I left that company...

Posted by: Drinker Nisti on February 28, 2006 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

jayarbee wrote: My favorite is this classic: Which one of us went to medical school?

In this day and age you don't have to go to medical school to have pertinent information. As I said, most doctors don't have time to read all the current journals on any one condition, unless they focus solely on that one condition. I, however, do have the time, and so, often find myself referencing studies my doctor has never heard of. I provide him with current literature and clinical trials regularly, for which he thanks me, saying he would never have had time to go hunting for them himself. Now I do refer to him as "Dr." out of respect for the fact that he did attend medical school, but he's also responsible for prescribing a medication to me that a pharmaceutical rep recommended that disabled me. Had he had the time or inclination to do a little investigative work, he would have discovered that this drug is ruining millions of people lives. Had I not trusted him so thoroughly, I would have investigated myself and perhaps chosen not to take the drug, thus avoiding disability. Going to medical school does not make you a god.

Posted by: EM on February 28, 2006 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

Re Protestant clergymen:
As an alternative to the (incorrect) Reverend Smith, how about "Pastor Smith?"

That's what we Lutherans use. But it gets dropped if they're between callings, as an acknowledgement of the "priesthood of all believers." They revert to "Mr./Ms." or "Dr." My pastor has a doctorate, so his formal title is "The Reverend Dr. Joe Blow," but we address him as "Pastor Joe."

Posted by: hamletta on February 28, 2006 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

jayarbee, And when companies like TAP Pharmaceuticals are fined $850 million for essentially bribing doctors to prescribe their drugs, yeah, i'd say it wouldn't hurt to question your doctor now and then.

Posted by: EM on February 28, 2006 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe I wouldn't if I lived in Texas...no, I'd still hate it.
Posted by: EM

Jack's son has the gout.

The honey/baby/sweetie thing down here is so entrenched that a jackhammer wouldn't make a dent. Throw in the Acadie fondness for 'cher/cheri'.

In NOLA other preferred form is 'dahlin'. This works across gender/social/political and all other lines.

Posted by: CFShep on February 28, 2006 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

There's an unwritten rule of protocol that people are entitled to lifetime use of their highest-ranking earned titles, even if they later take on other titles. Other rules of protocol determine the rankings. Howard Dean can keep using "Governor" rather than "Doctor" or "Chairman" because "Governor" is the highest-ranking of the three.
"Governor" is not always the highest-ranking term, however. Averill Harriman was Governor of New York in the 1950's and an Ambassador-at-Large in the 1960's. Following his retirement from public life he was known as Ambassador Harriman, that title having superceded "Governor."

Posted by: Peter on February 28, 2006 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

"A lot of trouble could be saved if Ph.D.s, Ed.D.s and so on would recognize that M.D. is the only degree the Etiquette Old Bats say it's acceptable to use socially. If you're Mr. and Dr. Smith on a non-work-related invitation, the doctor in the pair better be able to call code blue or prescribe medication."

Uh-oh. I'm an M.D., the only thing I "prescribe" is formalin, and the only useful function I serve in an emergency is to run blood gasses to the lab.

Posted by: NotScully on February 28, 2006 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

What's wrong with licensed osteopaths? They have essentially the same classes and training as general practice M.D.s, and are very popular in the Midwest and in rural areas. Occasionally they go into specialties, and I have trained a few - indistinguishable from M.D.s of that training level. Call D.O.s "Doctor"!

NotScully (a pathologist)

Posted by: NotScully on February 28, 2006 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

That's what we Lutherans use. But it gets dropped if they're between callings, as an acknowledgement of the "priesthood of all believers."

Heretic! Heretic!

*muttering darkly* I thought we burned all you people at the stake years ago....

Posted by: Stefan on February 28, 2006 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK


NANCY: I do not consider it an affectation or pretentiousness to ask for acknowledgement of my doctorate.

Do you suppose Queen Elizabeth considers it an affectation or pretentiousness to ask for acknowledgment of her royalty? Do you think slave holders actually thought it was an affectation or pretentious when they insisted that their property address them as "Master?"

Congrats on all your accomplishments, doc. Let me ask you something, though. Take away your title, take away whatever salary you earn, and whatever grand digs you may reside in, and keep just the activities that fill your work day, along with the efforts you put forth to attain your position. Now, tell me, would you trade places with, say, the woman who dry cleans your suits? Ah, but not everyone could have achieved what you have, right? But doesn't that mean you were pre-rewarded with gifts others are lacking? And aren't you also now being rewarded for your "hard work" in preparing yourself for your career with days occupied with pursuits that are challenging and absorbing, as opposed to odious drudgery? From where does this third reward--this entitlement--in the form of deference and material goods, spring? Oh, silly me. It's the market, of course. You win!

Posted by: jayarbee on February 28, 2006 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

Nancy wrote: This is about being heard, not about being socially acknowledged or getting mail addressed a particular way.

Of course not having your mail addressed a particular way or having being socially acknowledged aren't real problems, but they are indications of underlying problems. Thus the complaint.

Posted by: EM on February 28, 2006 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

Scully: Point taken about prescriptions and emergencies. I was speaking generally to make a point.

Posted by: shortstop on February 28, 2006 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

jayarbee: It's really hard not to just tune you out with this Angry Young Man act you have going all the time. Of course, you'll likely just chalk that up to bourgeois oppression of passionate genius, so there we are.

Posted by: shortstop on February 28, 2006 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

Shortstop,

Point taken, maybe its a generational thing. Excepting government officials, medical doctors and clergymen, I can't remember the last time I used an honorific when addressing another adult. For that matter, I don't mind if anyone from children on up call me by my Christian name.

EM, thanks for the info. So what title would you use to address a Protestant clergyman of indeterminate denomination if not Reverend?

Posted by: beowulf on February 28, 2006 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

Oh forgot to add I was wrong when I said above that British MDs are called Dr. In fact, British medical schools are a six year bachelor degree program-- there aren't MDs issued in Britain.

So in Britain, you can be a doctor without a doctorate and be a PhD and not be called doctor.
I find that oddly satisfying.

Posted by: beowulf on February 28, 2006 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

As an undergrad in biochemistry at Berkeley in the late 60's, we had one truly radical faculty member (he spent some time investigating in N. Vietnam). He heartily refused to consider himself as "Doctor N". When any undergrad referred to him as Dr. N, hew would retort by calling us as Dr. Studentname. Caused a lot of double takes.

Posted by: natural cynic on February 28, 2006 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

On the tennis front, I'm sure that if Kevin will think about it that it is not a gender based phenomenon, but an announcer based one.

See, for example, Brad Gilbert, who doesn't use a players' first or last name when one of his bizarrely made up nicknames will suffice.

Posted by: hank on February 28, 2006 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK


SHORTSTOP: It's really hard not to just tune you out with this Angry Young Man act you have going all the time. Of course, you'll likely just chalk that up to bourgeois oppression of passionate genius, so there we are.

You're funny! First, angry: I can't type when I'm angry. Second, young: Not immune to compliments from persons in authority, I was flattered when once in open court a judge said that I was "an intelligent young man." That was in 1988. Third, passionate: Cialis is amazing! Fourth, genius: I'm far short of genius. Well, four points short, last I checked.

As to your prediction that I might think of you as a bourgeois oppressor, the notion hadn't entered my head (until now, at least). Rather, since your appearance here a year or so ago, I've seen you as generally like-minded compared to me, albeit less acutely aware and more given to social banter in this setting. You seem very interested in creating a harmonious environment for liberals to join together in fighting the good fight against the right and their pesky little scouts who troll these pages. Yours seems a noble calling to me.

You mentioned tuning me out, something I'm sure many have done and it's an option open to one and all. Still, if my personal email is any judge (keep in mind that for every person who posts here there are at least dozens who lurk), there is a sizeable number of comment readers who share my views. I have groupies! Why, some of them claim to agree me 100%! From one day to the next, not even I agree with me 100%.

Nah, you're not a bourgeois oppressor, shortstop. I think you're far closer to being one of my groupies..:) Write again soon!

P.S. Fifth, act: If it's an act, it's at least consistent. As the child of generally apolitical parents, I was referring to Nixon as a Nazi before I turned ten. I was right then and I'm right now.


Posted by: jayarbee on February 28, 2006 at 5:56 PM | PERMALINK

If I remember correctly, when dealing with a police officer in Germany, honorific inflation was called for. "Herr Inspector", who replied "Herr Doctor".

Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech on February 28, 2006 at 6:47 PM | PERMALINK

Just to add more fuel to the fire, I'll observe that in business I make it a custom to use first names only, even to people decades older than me. While in a social setting I would refer to someone in their sixties as "Mr. Smith" on first meeting, if I'm dealing with them in a business setting I'll call them "Bob" or whatever their first name is. Started doing this as a young lawyer when I didn't want to reinforce my power disparity and figured that clients would be more inclined to give me weight if I addressed than as an equal rather than an inferior.

Posted by: Stefan on February 28, 2006 at 6:48 PM | PERMALINK

If I remember correctly, when dealing with a police officer in Germany, honorific inflation was called for. "Herr Inspector", who replied "Herr Doctor".

Claus von Bulow told a story about going out to lunch at a restaurant in Manhattan during the Sunny von Bulow trial with his girlfriend, who was a Hungarian countess, and Alan Dershowitz. The maitre'd ushered them to their seats and, as befitting the very proper Vienneese he was, addressed them all by their titles, "Your Ladyship, please, sit here, how good to see, ach, Herr Professor Dershowitz, how good to see you again, please, allow me...."

The maitre'd then turned to Bulow; he didn't know his title, but, figuring that he'd just seated a countess and a professor, decided to play it safe by upgrading and, with only the slightest flicker of hesitation, decided to address him thus: "And Herr Doktor von Bulow, how nice of you to honor us...."

Von Bulow turned to Dershowitz and said, with an absolute deadpan: "One shot of insulin and suddenly I'm a doctor."

Posted by: Stefan on February 28, 2006 at 6:58 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't this the same phenomenon as Sen. Schumer being called "Schumer" in the press while Sen. Clinton is call "Hillary?"

Posted by: DBL on February 28, 2006 at 6:58 PM | PERMALINK

I stand by my sentiment, along with jayarbee - while I appreciate people with PhDs for the expertise they have attained, Condoleeza Rice is not a Doctor, nor is Henry Kissinger, nor is Bill Cosby. The appropriate way to reference your PhD is to use the initials after your name, and people should refer to you as Mr./ Miss/ Mrs./ Ms. and your name. (My favorite example of this right now is The Washington Times, which charmingly refers to the Secretary of State as "Miss Rice". There is such a thing as going too far with this.) There's far too much of this "call me Doctor" thing, and it's meaningless.... as well as pretentious.

Posted by: weboy on February 28, 2006 at 7:07 PM | PERMALINK

To quote Ray Charles, if you have a Ph. D. its hould be assumed that you shit marbles.

Posted by: lib on February 28, 2006 at 7:13 PM | PERMALINK

Here in Taiwan titles are used much more than in North American society, i.e. you always use "Teacher Lee" or "Supervisor Chen".

And we get a lot of Mormon missionaries; while I'm willing to use "Father" or "Pastor", no way I'm going for a kid who's still got pimples introducing himself as "Elder Smith".

Posted by: MikeN on February 28, 2006 at 7:42 PM | PERMALINK

"Is it possible that the tennis announcers refer to the women by their first names because they got in the habit of using first names to distinguish between the Williams sisters?"

I agree with Craigie it is not possible. Remember "Chrissie" Evert?

From my personal experience, the only place women are addressed solely by their last names is in some single-sex schools.

As an aside, I'll note that one of my old law profs always addresses me as "Dr." because of my J.D. I just love it when he does that, although I never use the honorific.

Posted by: Cal Gal on February 28, 2006 at 7:48 PM | PERMALINK

"we still get a lot of letters addressed to Dr. and Mrs. Steen."

Hey, Doug, it's you who should resent being addressed as "Mrs. Steen." You can bet they know who the professor is, they just don't know who the spouse is!!!

Posted by: Cal Gal on February 28, 2006 at 7:52 PM | PERMALINK

"Would it be inappropriate to say, "Who gives a fuck?"

Yes, Pat, it would. If you don't like the topic, just don't read it, and especially don't comment on it.

After all, there are much more pressing problems you should be spending your attention on.

Me, I like a diversion now and then, just to keep me balanced.

Posted by: Cal Gal on February 28, 2006 at 7:57 PM | PERMALINK

"...D.O., the pretend medical doctorate, in Osteopathy..."

A D.O. (osteopathy) is less a doctor than a Ph.D.? You've got to be kidding me.

In some states, osteopaths have the same license to practice medicine as M.D.s

Posted by: Cal Gal on February 28, 2006 at 8:29 PM | PERMALINK

That's Mr. Pat to you, dear.

Posted by: Pat on February 28, 2006 at 9:30 PM | PERMALINK

For the record, no one has to call me 'Mr. Grape'.

You may now return to you regularly scheduled blog commenting. Thank you.

Posted by: grape_crush on February 28, 2006 at 9:48 PM | PERMALINK

I make it a point to oh-so-casually drop a respectfully-toned "Little Missy" into the conversation every chance I get.

Actually, I refuse to use the "Dr." in any and all circumstances. Fuck that nonsense.

It's either "Chris," or "Pat," no matter what their name really is. That way they can't get all huffy and flounce outta the room, because they can't tell if it's a male or female name I'm usin'.

See.

Posted by: SombreroFallout on February 28, 2006 at 9:55 PM | PERMALINK

"the WaPo are always quoting guys calling our Secretary of State "Condi."

Seems to me the most frequent person calling her "Condi" is the Preznit himself.

Regarding the Ph.D thing --

I'm daughter to one, married to one, sister to two, daughter-in-law to another, and sister-in-law to another.

It seems to me that amongst Ph.D's, few people call one another "Doctor." Perhaps when introduced at conferences, but more frequently it's "Professor."

My father was a Ph.D. working in the corporate world. He was much more sensitive about being called "Doctor" than anyone I know within academia. This also could have been a product of his generation, there having been few Ph.D's within his family in his time.

I'd feel foolish if I had to "Doctor" every person I met socially who had a degree.

Posted by: g on February 28, 2006 at 10:05 PM | PERMALINK

when the New York Times was doing a story on some members of an Ivy-league english department, a copy-editor called to ask one of the subjects whether she preferred to be referred to as ...Ms." or "Mrs." X. The idea that she, like the rest of the people quoted, should be referred to as "Professor" had never crossed the Grey Lady's collective mind.
...
Posted by: paul @ 12:53 PM

The Grey Lady is an idiot.

As her grammatic fetish has long made amply clear.

I use Ms. when I have way of knowing if it's Miss or Mrs. They got an issue, they can interject their personal life into the conversation.

My wife and I are both Ph.D.'s - she is in academia while I work in industry. Her university's developement department received a rude response when they addressed a fund raising letter to "Dr. and Mrs."

Posted by: fafner1 @ 12:49 PM

From which one of you?

Virginia ...Postscript: She never made tenure (after two reviews) and eventually left to teach at the University of Illinois.

Posted by: DC1974 @ 12:44 PM

Clearly a step up. And I mean that substantively, as well as socially-enlightenedly.

Yes, that's right.

Posted by: SombreroFallout on February 28, 2006 at 10:13 PM | PERMALINK

Just to complete the thought:

Actually, I refuse to use the "Dr." in any and all circumstances. Fuck that nonsense.

Really. It is nonsense. They're not doctors. They're not philosophers. Get over it. They're professors.

Side note, I'd typed 'grammatical' above, missed the keystrokes. You know -- for what it's worth!

Actually, I just call em Bill and Bob and Jane and Jill. Unless I really want to stick it to 'em. Or, if I want to maintain that neutral, zero-valence, can't-get-a-handle-on-my-interlocutor social ground, then I use "Professor." Teh dangerous ones are oblivious to it.

Posted by: SombreroFallout on February 28, 2006 at 10:21 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, and isn't it cool the way they call them "honorifics"?

This dignified aspect of dignified higher education underscores the dignified and respectful "life of the mind," lived as it is, by collegial types yearning to be a-learning in a community of like-minded, tweed-swaddled, text-addled Seekers of Knowledge.

The grammaricity of the honorific-less

remains beholden to its terrific-ness!


Honorifics is Soo terrifics: deans'll gladly tear adverbs asunder;
angry drunken grads libraries plunder; (quoth the maven, quaver yore:

For such a word is 'honorific'
seems a tad too non specific

ought we supplement prolific
living words signifyin' chic
my stature, jah, c'est magnifique

So deconstruct and reassemble
Tha Noun that I most now resemble

I've got my newly-minted rubric
Free verse dubs me Professorific

Poe and cummings pneumismatic
stamp my cerebrum tenure-ific!

Such Doggerel, writ specific
to note the trend from honorific
traces blazed trail o'logic
straight Professorific
thence subverting Canon picnic
Here's to mine! I'm tenurific!

Posted by: SombreroFallout on February 28, 2006 at 11:20 PM | PERMALINK

What, no word from semi-frequent poster "Rebecca Allen, RN, Ph.D."?

Posted by: CheapShotter on March 1, 2006 at 12:52 AM | PERMALINK
A D.O. (osteopathy) is less a doctor than a Ph.D.? You've got to be kidding me.

In some states, osteopaths have the same license to practice medicine as M.D.s

Yeah, but M.D.s are also less "doctors" than Ph.D.s, the M.D. being jumped up from a professional bachelor's degree in medicine and surgery because physicians had status-envy of Ph.D.s (and the J.D. later displacing the LL.B. because lawyers figured if the profession historically referred to as "medical doctors" that hadn't previously had doctoral degrees could jump themselves up to try to match Ph.D.s, the "civil doctors" could play the same game.)

Posted by: cmdicely on March 1, 2006 at 3:31 AM | PERMALINK
Aaargh! You've hit upon a bete noire of mine. While priests should certainly be addressed as "Father," it's improper to address Protestant clergymen as "Reverend."

Or, for that matter, Catholic clergymen, who also have the style "Reverend", including deacons, who are also not "Father".

Though, apparently, it is correct for "ministers" in one place -- the Church of Scientology.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 1, 2006 at 3:39 AM | PERMALINK
It seems to me that amongst Ph.D's, few people call one another "Doctor." Perhaps when introduced at conferences, but more frequently it's "Professor."

"Professor", I think, supercedes "doctor" if an honorific is to be used and both are applicable, in most contexts. Though you can be a Ph.D. and not a professor, and vice versa.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 1, 2006 at 3:41 AM | PERMALINK

"Hey Fathead!" is also appropriate and legal in almost every social circumstance.

Sometimes pomp and circumstance isn't more than circumstantial evidence that pomp is misguided 180 degrees, or worse, colossal lack of judgement. It doesn't confer the right to giant gasbags blundering about the social landscape competing to be the most vainglorious bovine in the department, lacking all social graces, nor any sense of proportion regarding what's important in general, in life, etc.

You gotta rememnber: shit flows downhill. And if the pomp and circumstance is mistaken for the Goal or valued as just purpose, is inflated, bovine, at best misunderstood -- then those on the receiving end will pay an undeserving price.

Those deluded about the actual level of prestige granted - and why - won't be cluing in or snapping out of it through reasoning or the marketplace of ideas. Harvard's misperceptions of itself is case in point.

'My title! My tiara! Some rude swain hath dragged my title through the muck! I fain wouldst swoon! Blind mouths!

Great stories on this thread.

But, damn, Drum has some overeducated readers.

Posted by: SombreroFallout on March 1, 2006 at 8:16 AM | PERMALINK

btw, I glom the titular distinctions more accurately than (virtually) any; grok the learning more than any; but is that the point? Is this really a means to anything significant? Is it the purpose? (In some cases, unfortunately, yes.)

This is a case in which the point has been made by Winston Churchill: "There are some things up with which I will not put."

btw, I'm the Least disrespectful- and most respectful - of most profs in any clump of students you could survey. 4 in the family; 3 tenured; 2 on the way.

But half the drive is at the cost of other values. There's a desperation for respect, a stuntedness of social intelligence, that can eliminate granting it to non-profs, and to ordinary folks who may well be smarter than the over-literate, over-specialized, mis-apprehending and perhaps obsolete tenure-seeker. Control over Truth or Knowledge at the expense of respect for peers or students, at the cost of any and all proportion, and the loss of teh best part: the fruit of a dialog engaged between equals -- regardless of job title or life station. Think, Janitor, Esq. OF Course, I exaggerate n stereotype, a bit -- just for the sake of getting something more than anecdote outta the discussion.

Posted by: SombreroFallout on March 1, 2006 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

Sombrero 'grok's!

>>>offering him/her a glass of water and battered copy of "Stranger in a Strange Land".

Posted by: CFShep on March 1, 2006 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

Did you know that Lois Weisberg had Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein sitting in her living room 'til very late in the evening? She introduced 'em.

"There's somebody you really should meet..."

Posted by: SombreroFallout on March 1, 2006 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

anyway, this stuff is real.

You see it all the time. Men -- some oblivous, and some knowing exactly what they're doing -- cross normal social boundaries to overly-familiar behavior / or down-putting comments in just about any situation.

Sports & academia are disparate arenas...

It just never ends...

Posted by: SombreroFallout on March 1, 2006 at 11:37 PM | PERMALINK

I went to Stanford in the 90s, and it was pretty usual for the university's president and provost to be referred to as Gerhard and Condi, rather than President Casper and Provost Rice-- in both casual conversation among students and in the school paper. I don't know if it's just a West Coast informality sort of thing, but I would think that if Rice minded the nickname being her public identity she would have put a stop to it a while ago.

Posted by: Beat Cal on March 2, 2006 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

When I was a child in the 70s, I addressed my parents' friends (and every other adult) as Mr. Blah or Mrs. Blah. The kids I babysat for called my parents by their first names, which for them was the common way to address adults (at least some adults - probably not their teachers, but who knows).

I'm 40 now, but to this day I want to call any adult that I knew as a child by his/her surname, but some of them find that weird, so I tend to avoid using names in those cases (hey you!)

Posted by: Ms Something on March 3, 2006 at 7:40 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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