polite academic adress

Gudrun Dahl (Gudrun.Dahl@TELE.SU.SE)
Mon, 4 Mar 1996 10:43:35 +0100

Responding to a thread from: Julia Clebsch and Peter D. Junger

Academic cultures vary as much culturally as other sets of how to behave.
When I left secondary school in Sweden in 1966 we formally were allowed to
adress our former teachers by first name. In the university I was surprised
to find that all teachers were adressed by first name and "du" the Swedish
informal second person singular adress. Later on, there was a general "du"
reform in Sweden and most people expected to adress each other and be
adressed in that way. In the 1980s some young yuppie style people
reintroduced the "ni", which is more formal, but it has never really changed
things back to where they were. As a professor today I would definitely be
embarrassed by being adressed as professor Dahl by my students - it happens,
but it signals that the student is kind of a peripheral person who has not
yet learnt the silent rules and perhaps a bit insecure. "Du" and first name
reigns, whether at undergraduate level or PhD students, and regardless of
genderI also expect to be adressed and adress colleagues by their first
name, at least if we have met more than once. This brings me into trouble in
contacts with French and German scholars in particular: to a Swede what
other sees as polite formality signals a strong marking of distance, usually
in the ironic mode. But the ambitious anthropologist of course has to try to
master even such foreign codes, at the risk of appearing extremely unpolite