Re: Doctor, professor, whatever...

Ralph L Holloway (rlh2@COLUMBIA.EDU)
Tue, 5 Mar 1996 11:12:28 -0500

students to use whatever form of address they feel comfortable with. And
it always depends on context what that might be. When I was a graduate
student at Berkeley, I honestly can't remember what form of address was
used. It varied with the person. Washburn preferred to be called Sherry,
anmd I always called him Dr. or Professor Washburn. I never called him
Sherry, even though invited to do so early in the relationship. I always
called Ted McCown Dr. McCown. Robert Murphy, on the other hand, was Bob,
and Dick Salisbury was Dr. Salisbury, ditto Professor Laura Nader, and I
worked closely with her on a research project on aggression during
Ramadan. My mentor, Dr. Marian diamond was always Dr. Diamond to me. I
remember seeing her a few years back and believe I actually called her
Marian. Some of my students call me Ralph, some Holloway,
some Professor, and as my 14 year old son would say, "...whatever...".
Medical people (including dentists) are called Doctor by me (and I
agree thoroughly with Mike about people with drills in one's mouth...),
but I am on the verge of a first-name basis with my doctor. My wife's
doctor, I call by his first name because that is how he wants it, and it
is appropriate given the circumstances. As a general rule of thumb, I try
to start with polite recognition of the degree, and always give the
benefit of the doubt. I've addressed many a graduate student "Dr.", until
corrected. If you are detecting some lack of consistency in my resposne
here that's right, I'm totally inconsistent, and have a hard time taking
these titles seriously. I have found no evidence for sexism in the use of
titles, at least not here at Columbia. On the other hand, I am not above
using "doctor" or "professor" when getting appointments, and snippy,
pompous, responses by secretaries (female and male) will often result in
my responding with a title, such as.."tell so-and-so Dr. Holloway
returned his call...". In sum, title usage varies enormously with the
individual's ego, the social situation, the structure of conversation and
the environment, the structure of the dyadic or group involved, past
history, and just plain mood, as determined by the day's menu of
activities, the limbic lobe, hypothalamus, and whether one has been awake
long enough to function fully, and whether the dog did its business
Ladies and Gentlemen, can we move to another topic...?
Ralph Holloway