Honorifics

She offered her honor; he honored her offer.

And all night long, it was honor and offer.

Sorry, I couldn’t help it. FLG has engaged in a bit of a scrap with one Laura Sjoberg, who is upset by (among other things) the fact that he referred to her as “Ms. Sjoberg,” rather that by the academic honorifics “Dr.” or “Professor”.

While the nuts and bolts of their argument is out of my field, I have to cop to some of the incredulity that FLG expresses, to wit:

FLG didn’t mean any offense by Ms. If FLG were in your class, then he’d call you professor, but he’s not and so he won’t. But holy fucking shit — “call me professor or doctor” — are you really one of those people?

The whole business of the academic honorific has always amused me. If I’m not in the classroom or otherwise “on the clock,” I find it nearly impossible to call myself “Doctor” without irony. I suppose that’s evident in the fact that I combined my title with a silly nickname in the blog title — ahh, bathos.

And that’s the case throughout my family as well. A couple of days after I defended the diss, the Spawn (then age 5) was playing in the living room, and she said “Daddy, come fix this.”

I laughed and said, “That’s Dr. Daddy,” and without even looking up from her dolls, she said, “You’re not a real doctor; you’re a book doctor.” Keeps me humble.

On the other hand, I’m never more tempted to bust out the post-nominal letters than when someone else drops their degree on me in civilian life. This seems to have happened most frequently when I’m dealing with folks in administrative positions in public ed, many of whom seem to have been the folks who, as my dad’s best friend once said, “hang their degree in the bathroom so visitors have to see it.” If I had a nickel for every vice-principal or assistant superintendent who has introduced him/herself to me as “Dr.” Whatever, I’d have a whole bunch of nickels. Folks like that remind me of Dave Barry’s line that “Ph.D.” has the virtue of being shorter than “G.S.G.,W.I.A.C.A.M.P.” (Graduate School Graduate, Which Is As Common As Milkweed Pollen.)

So no, FLG, I’m not one of those people. And if you ever drop by, Prof. Sjoberg, feel free to call me Mondo.

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About profmondo

Dad, husband, mostly free individual, medievalist, writer, and drummer. "Gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche."
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5 Responses to Honorifics

  1. Every individual is going to evaluate this according to their own frame of reference. Mine says that [insert proper salutation here] Sjoberg is correct. But that’s because my Dad got a Ph.D. when he was in his forties. On the other hand, I’ve been flabbergasted in recent years at some of the young Ph.D.s I’ve met, many of whom seem to offer very little by way of talents that would be associated with premature lifetime achievement. If degree inflation is underway, and I see very little reason to believe it is not, then title-deflation is the natural result.

    Sjoberg’s real crime is casting a net far & wide to collect transgressions to cite against a cyber-entity she perceives as inimical. Put in simpler terms, she isn’t engaging in an ad hom attack but she’s getting ready to. Put in even simpler terms, mark me down as extremely doubtful that she’d be stuck on the perceived slight, if the slighter were more in agreement with her. And this is where I get worried about the state of higher education: People who seem to be working with it just fine, making a lifestyle out of it in some cases, commit these transgressions of discourse that show they aren’t really ready or willing to genuinely exchange ideas. They’re only ready or willing to think the things they were always ready or willing to think.

    TIK #183.

  2. Jeff says:

    In the past year, I’ve had some dealings with university administrators, and I’ve noticed that they have a strong tendency to append “Ph.D” to their names in email signatures, official documents, etc. In that context, I wonder if it’s meant to suggest to faculty that yes, they’ve gone over to the other side, but they’ve veterans of the same gauntlet as the faculty? I don’t know.

    I do know that when students mistakenly call me “Dr.,” a degree I don’t have, I cringe at the thought that they assume I demand to be addressed by a title. I’m a part-time literature teacher, for heaven’s sake.

  3. dance says:

    Here via FLG.

    Sjoberg’s posts were made “on the clock”, so her demand is fine, as I just posted there.

    I venture to suggest that admin types append phd because professors are snobs and look down on administrators. And using phd in an email sig or in official documents is very different from introducing oneself as doctor.

  4. It’s “fine,” in that it is the appropriate salutation. Ph.D. is a doctorate. And speaking for myself just personally, I have to ask “when is the last time my Dad was called ‘Mr. Freeberg’?” And the answer is, never, not since he got the degree. So I can’t join in kicking [salutation] Sjoberg over that.

    However. And to me, this is what it all comes down to. I can’t imagine my Dad harping on someone on a blog, for pity Christ’s sake, for failing to use “Dr.” or failing to append the letters.

    God is my witness, I think I’d put him in a home if he did that.

    • profmondo says:

      Morgan, I think that’s the key for me as well. If you aren’t my student, and you call me Dr. or Prof. Mondo, I’ll think it’s nice, but I’m not going to get jacked out of shape over it if you don’t. And on a blog? Gee whiz.

      I tend to see my Ph.D. less as an accomplishment than as a union card. It didn’t change my intelligence or talent (or the lack thereof). It did make me more eligible to get a job I enjoy. I’m glad of that, but I don’t really see that as being that big a deal.

      An interesting side note — living in the Deep South, I often get (especially from kids and (honestly) folks from backgrounds like my own) called “Mr. Firstname.” I’ve been down here for nearly 8 years, and that still weirds me out — just a little too antebellum.

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