On that subject of Dr Jill Biden

38 thoughts on “On that subject of Dr Jill Biden”

  1. Funny how “Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford” was always “dr.”, but Ben Carson, a brain surgeon, is usually not.

    Because surgeons have their own conceit of not being regarded as “Dr”. A nod, I suppose, to their heritage as barbers.

  2. @ asiaseen American surgeons are ‘Dr’. It’s only British surgeons who are ‘Mr’. There were lines written into ‘ER’ about this for Alex Kingston, playing a British surgeon.

  3. How is it that the medical fraternity has, over the last 150 years or so, hijacked the title Dr for a job that requires a bachelor’s degree or two (MB BS in UK), not even a master’s degree, against a centuries-old tradition of academic doctorates?

    Maybe they should properly be designated MM or MW – medicine man/woman.

  4. asiaseen,

    I don’t know, but I think it’s stuck because it works. No one shouts “Is there a doctor on this plane” wanting someone who did a PhD in medieval literature.

  5. It’s interesting-and partly a cultural thing.
    I had a GP who insisted that I was a “proper doctor” and he was not. That’s historically accurate, since the root means teacher or scholar, but I guess it’s really not how it’s understood now in English-speaking countries.
    In Germany and Switzerland, I’d be addressed as Herr Professor Doktor, so I guess that meaning is preserved more, although the title overkill is somewhat daunting.
    Having seen the fuss, I’m going to de-emphasise my PhD more (except at my place of work, where it is a marker of competence [not necessarily justified]).

    And before anyone snarks, it’s in Maths.

  6. At least in the U.S., no one really calls PhDs “doctors” outside of the university campus. Even in academic literature, it’s usually written as “(Your Name Here), PhD.”

    Of course, we can also call her “Mrs. Joe Biden” or just resort to “Biden, Jr.” if we really want to trigger the triggerables.

  7. Also, it’s not like there aren’t any female medical doctors. Hell, I even go to one myself. So for Mrs. Joe Biden and her underlings to emphasize, and even have a chip on their shoulder, about a title is an exercise in insecurity. That’s a great way to promote the image of a “strong, empowered, independent woman.”

  8. Another criminally devalued term is Professor. Numerous porky munters protesting perceived injustice will noisily identify themselves as such when approached by law enforcement.

  9. John,

    This is the USian habit of calling senior lecturers and readers “Professor”. Our us commentators may be able to opine – is it anybody with tenure? I am aware that “Adjunct Professor” is a term of art.

    Although with the ex-Prof^3, the revolting Spud-you-loath, the UK ain’t setting any example.

    An ex-colleague of Mrs S-E came back from 2 years in the US and had her office name plate as “Prof …” Her colleagues (at an FE college) removed from the wall each time it was put up. (It was only laminated paper so financially trivial vandalism.)

  10. “And before anyone snarks, it’s in Maths.”

    Ah… theoretical science…
    Don’t tell me….Statistics?
    Does that “String Theory” thing refelct your budget?

    Sorry… Big Red Button… Couldn’t resist… 😛

  11. Bloke in North Dorset

    “Does that “String Theory” thing refelct your budget?”

    I’ve heard a couple more. Practical scientists moan that it isn’t a theory, only a hypothesis.

  12. My opinion:

    Only use Dr in public life if you’re an MD; doing otherwise is akin to fraud/plagiarism

    Dr Wick, PhD Candle Making

  13. So Much For Subtlety

    Dongguan John December 16, 2020 at 1:28 pm – “So what is someone with a PhD in medicine called? Still Dr?”

    German is, or used to be, very formal and people used their titles in their names. So we have had “Herr Doktor” mentioned here before.

    But one of the weird things about WW2 is that the people who carried out the Holocaust were often very well educated, ummm, very extensively educated perhaps. Of the four Einsatzgruppen, three were commanded by men with PhDs. One of them had two PhDs if I remember right. Probably Otto Ohlendorf.

    So what do you call him in German? Herr Doktor Doktor Obergruppenführer?

  14. @Grikath Ah… theoretical science…
    Don’t tell me….Statistics?
    Does that “String Theory” thing refelct your budget?

    I’m tempted to say `no, spelling’ but that would be cruel and tempting fate.

    Unlike Physics, Maths is not theoretical in that it doesn’t need to be tested by experiment. If you mean `thoroughly impractical’, that’s more debatable-most of it seems useless then something comes along which is devastatingly practical.

    As for the snark about Statistics, that is truly ignorant. Stats well done is the most useful subject around (since pretty well all data and situations involves uncertainty which most scientists have trouble coping with), stats badly done (usually by `scientists’ in other disciplines)is the most pernicious. Check out the `reproducibility crisis’.

    And don’t start about Neil (sp?) Ferguson-he’s not fit to tie a statistician’s bootlace.

  15. @SMFS Doktor Doktor
    It gets even worse. I met a German woman with two PhDs married to a a man with a PhD: Doktor Frau Doktor Doktor becuase you get to share your spouse’s titles.
    She only used it for comic effect.
    Thankfully she wasn’t a (full) professor, which BTW is how the US distinguishes between real professors and others…

  16. @TedS
    That’s stunning. The article gives him his titles (Prof. Dr Dr Dr h.c. mult) every time he’s mentioned.
    It’s extraordinarily reminiscent of Monty Python’s Johann Gambolputty sketch

  17. @Dr Wick Only use Dr in public life if you’re an MD; doing otherwise is akin to fraud/plagiarism

    I have sympathy with the spirit of what you say but what you actually said is bollocks. It’s the medical doctors who nicked the title to make themselves sound better (see my comment above about the etymology).

    Physician is the correct term (and yes, you could be a doctor of physic). If you still object, you might ask yourself what MD stands for and then recall that most medics don’t have one-they are MBBCh’s or MBBS’s.

    To get the MD they have to do a further, three year, research degree. So, to be consistent with what you said, most `doctors’ are committing (something akin to) fraud by calling themselves a doctor!

  18. @Clovis

    Historically it’s a fair point. But I’m afraid usage has shifted, to the extent that modern doctorate-holders might do better to find a title that distinguishes themselves from physicians rather than the other way round. I liked @bom4’s point about what people mean when they should out for a doctor in an emergency – perhaps they should really say “is there a physician/medic on this plane?” – and I think we’re stuck with what it is.

    “To get the MD they have to do a further, three year, research degree. So, to be consistent with what you said, most `doctors’ are committing (something akin to) fraud by calling themselves a doctor!”

    I suspect the majority of MDs in the UK are people who took the degree either in Europe or America, where it’s just a professional degree and essentially equivalent to MBBCh. Or even who studies in other Commonwealth countries like Australia which have switched from the British to American style. And how many people take a medical research degree called “MD” here rather than a “PhD”? I understand there’s some difference, e.g. that an MD may be undertaken with less supervision, but I’m sure I’ve come across more medical PhDs than (research) MDs.

  19. @MyBurningEars
    Absolutely agree with the usage shift-less so about the MD issue. Part of the reason for American terminology is that medicine in the US is always postgraduate training, whereas in the UK most medical degrees are undergraduate.

    Anyway, I’m largely getting to the pedantic point now (yeah, I know-what’s new). On the whole, I agree.

  20. So Much For Subtlety

    Ted S, Catskill Mtns, NY, USA December 17, 2020 at 9:49 am – “About two years ago I ran across the following obituary, in German, of a retired member of (if memory serves), the Bundesverfassungsgericht”

    I am impressed. So Prof. Dr. Dr. Dr. h. c. mult. The mult means mupltiple degrees? I googled it. And the h. c. means doctor honoris causa? An honourary doctorate? Two of them or just one? At least one of the Drs must be a PhD or the like. To which does the mult apply?

    It is just a pity he is not a titled professor. Then he could have a Von and even an Und in there somewhere. Like one of the more interesting German generals of WW2 Fridolin Rudolf Theodor Ritter und Edler von Senger und Etterlin.

    Called, and I am not joking, Fridolin von Senger und Etterlin for short.

  21. @Clovis

    “Part of the reason for American terminology is that medicine in the US is always postgraduate training”

    Indeed, a slightly funny one, rather like how law degrees are graduate-only admission in the US so taught as postgraduate-level degrees, whereas a British lawyer might have done essentially the same thing as an undergraduate degree. Since an MD isn’t necessarily postgraduate training done “on top of” an undergraduate degree but rather started from scratch (a lot of students take “pre-med” degrees beforehand, but others enter with entirely irrelevant ones) it really doesn’t seem much different in practice to “grad med” schemes in the UK whereby students who already have a degree go back to uni to do a BMBCh (and whose course is very carefully not called “postgraduate” medicine – they enter as previous graduates, but they’re just being undergraduates for a second time round).

    There’s a reason I hedged my bets by mentioning European and Commonwealth MDs though, who I suspect vastly outnumber US-trained MDs in Britain. These combine the US nomenclature of “MD” with the British style of being taught as first degrees. I’m sure medieval/early modern era academics would be a bit askance at the idea of a degree with “doctor” in the name being awarded for what is basically an undergraduate course, but usage can change even within academia.

    (A further note on the weirdness of the undergraduate/postgraduate/”doctor” thing. I took an MSc where the youngest person in my class was a 20-year-old BMBCh student who was intercalating. She was going to become a “doctor” based on her undergraduate degree – but she wasn’t going to finish that until after she’d done her “post”-graduate degree!)

  22. @Clovis Sangrail

    Yes, I know etymology and MDs are not PHds, but we must accept that public parlance is that a ‘Doctor’ is an MD, not some self-aggrandising twat with a PHd in Meghan & Harry.

    When someone is not at work, they don’t insist they’re referred to as Team Leader, Supervisor, Director…

    When Captain on plane/boat asks on PA “Anyway Doctors on board” he doesn’t want me

    Dr Wick, PhD Candle Making
    .

    Basil: You’re Doctor, Doctor?

    Basil: Three Doctors?

    The Psychiatrist ep

  23. @Dr Wick
    As I said, I largely agree but would not insist on the MD (as against MB) unless you are just using it as abbreviation for the profession and not the degree.

  24. On the point regarding US deviation from British practice, a friend of mine is an MEng (4-year undergrad direct masters) in chemical engineering at an oil major. Many of his US colleagues have PhD’s and 4+ years less professional experience.

    He puts this down to US undergrad programmes wasting time with the whole broad-baseline thing, which again flows from US highschool being a bit academically thin. So your 4 year undergrad in engineering also ends up rather thin compared to a UK one where you do half-decent A-levels then 4 years of non-stop engineering. So in professional terms, he graduated at 22 at least as useful to said oil major as a comparable US-ian after a PhD who’s 4-ish years older, the latter having a) wasted time at uni studying unrelated stuff like Angry Studies and Latin to the level of a prep school 11-year-old, and then b) spent a few years going absolutely balls-deep into something so specific it’s unlikely to be of actual interest to the employer (unless you get super lucky and it matches up exactly).

    So he used to get snippy comments from arrogant US PhD colleagues until he explained to them in words of 1 syllable that he came out of undergrad at 22 with more engineering knowledge than they had after PhD at 25 or 26 or so, AND had 4 years more professional experience than them as a result so would they awfully mind shutting the f*ck up and getting back in their little box while the big boys who know their sh*t fix the problem with the process thank you very much…

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