Arbitrary titles

Ronald Kephart (rkephart@OSPREY.UNF.EDU)
Sat, 2 Mar 1996 09:12:25 -0500

In message <> Amy
Ward writes:
> I know this is somewhat of an irrelevant topic but this apparently
> bothers many of you "professors" out there. I am an undergrad and call
> my professors what they wish to be called. On the first day the teacher
> usually tells us what he/she prefers to be called, whether it be Dr.,
> professor,or by their first names. Most of my professors prefer to be
> called by their first names because they think the term professor is just
> an arbritary title. The lack of formality really helps interaction

Linguistically, the term "professor" is indeed arbitrary in the sense that there
is no necessary iconic connection between its phonological shape and the concept
which it symbolizes.

On the other hand, and at the risk of sounding more elitist than I wish I were,
the right to have the term "professor" or "doctor" added to our name is not
(usually) arbitrary (forget about Newt Gingrich). Those of you who sweated as
much as I did know what I'm talking about. Even so, I too prefer that students
use my first name, especially those majoring in the program I teach in.

Ronald Kephart
Department of Language & Literature
University of North Florida
Jacksonville, FL 32224
ph: 904-646-2580