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Titles and Formalities
Old 06-09-2010, 04:31 PM   #1
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Titles and Formalities

A few years back, I went to see a doctor. It was my first visit to him. After initial introductions, I called him Dr. Y and he called me Scott. But during our conversation, we came to realize that he was once a student of mine in a senior-level biochemistry class. Spontaneously, the titles switched; I started calling him John and he started calling me Dr. Z.

I asked him kindly to call me Scott--then and several times later--but he never did. It was always Dr. Z.

So, now I'm retired, I feel that life should be more casual. I don't want to call anyone by a formal title (except maybe Mr. President Barack Obama and others of that stature, if for some miracle I happen to meet them face to face) and I don't want to be called by a formal title.

Has retirement made you less formal? (Or less respectful?)
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Old 06-09-2010, 04:40 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by ScottFromUtah View Post
A few years back, I went to see a doctor. It was my first visit to him. After initial introductions, I called him Dr. Y and he called me Scott. But during our conversation, we came to realize that he was once a student of mine in a senior-level biochemistry class. Spontaneously, the titles switched; I started calling him John and he started calling me Dr. Z.

I asked him kindly to call me Scott--then and several times later--but he never did. It was always Dr. Z.

So, now I'm retired, I feel that life should be more casual. I don't want to call anyone by a formal title (except maybe Mr. President Barack Obama and others of that stature, if for some miracle I happen to meet them face to face) and I don't want to be called by a formal title.

Has retirement made you less formal? (Or less respectful?)
I call physicians and dentists doctor; I have not once in my life called a PhD doctor. In my Ivy university they were called Mr., as were the students. I call judges Your honor. I call police Officer, or Detective, or Sergeant as the case may be. If you are in a position to make life difficult for me, I'll call you Lord if you want me to. And if I have something I'd like to sell you, you can even be a Duke or Duchess.

I am somewhat puzzled about tu and usted in Spanish. It appears to me that among the people I have met, usted is gone. Everyone is tu. Suits me fine, but I am trying to be sure I will not step on someone's toes.

I sometimes call women 30 years younger than I M'am. If I am passing a young woman on the sidewalk, I might say Excuse me Mm . I call no one Miss. I do use Sir, if I want to ask someone a question say, or to pass by on the sidewalk. Usually even a pretty rough guy will not be difficult if he is called sir without irony.

Mosat people on the West Coast are first-namers, which can be good since you might be harder to locate should lawsuits be contemplated.

As far as respect, as distinct from titles, I think I have profound respect for everyone.

Ha
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Old 06-09-2010, 04:46 PM   #3
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I am not retired yet but I only expect people to use my formal title during formal introductions in a professional setting. I would feel awkward if anyone called me Dr. outside of work and/or continued to call me Dr. after having been formally introduced. So my title will probably retire with me.
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Old 06-09-2010, 04:47 PM   #4
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.....

Has retirement made you less formal? (Or less respectful?)
Less formal, absolutely. Now I make sure to find my cleanest jeans to wear to the opera instead of a suit; clean jeans, clean hair, recent bath, I'm ready for anything. Less respectful, no, your royal Scott sir! I have an increased awareness and awe for those who work, especially the baristas at the coffee shop.
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Old 06-09-2010, 04:52 PM   #5
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As long as I escape such salutations as "hey, @sshole!" I figure I am ahead of the game.
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Old 06-09-2010, 05:01 PM   #6
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A few years back, I went to see a doctor. It was my first visit to him. After initial introductions, I called him Dr. Y and he called me Scott.
While I'm not obsessive about it, generally speaking I prefer to take my lead from the physician and address him or her as they address me. If we are on a (mutual) first name basis, fine. If not, s/he is Dr. X and I am Mr. Y.

The physician-patient relationship should not be an excuse to infantize or patronize the patient, and most intelligent physicians understand that.

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So, now I'm retired, I feel that life should be more casual.
Makes sense to me!

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I don't want to call anyone by a formal title (except maybe Mr. President Barack Obama and others of that stature, if for some miracle I happen to meet them face to face).
You live in a republic and elected officials are working for you, so there's no need to be overly deferential. It is good manners to respect a person's position, but that doesn't translate into servility. And informality is not synomyous with disrespect.

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If you are in a position to make life difficult for me, I'll call you Lord if you want me to.
If dealing with a stupid person equipped with a badge and a firearm, subservient behaviour is usually prudent!

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I do use Sir, if I want to ask someone a question say, or to pass by on the sidewalk. Usually even a pretty rough guy will not be difficult if he is called sir without irony.
Excellent advice.
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Old 06-09-2010, 05:05 PM   #7
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I have developed a tendency to ask up front how people want to be addressed, as I have never figured out the social/personal clues and other minutia.
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Old 06-09-2010, 07:04 PM   #8
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I am an Engineer, but we don't get a fancy title just a few initials. I never used them outside of work, though. I mean, who cares? I call almost all my doctors, "doc". Never met one that seemed to be bothered by it. I probably couldn't get much more casual in retirement than I am now.
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Old 06-09-2010, 11:57 PM   #9
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A few years back, I went to see a doctor. It was my first visit to him. After initial introductions, I called him Dr. Y and he called me Scott.
The medical clinic I visit is filled with interns and residents. When I address an intern as "doctor" they occasionally look over their shoulders or blush. Kinda like an ensign being called "Sir" or "Ma'am" for the first time.

But after they check my age, it takes a long time for everyone in that clinic to stop referring to me as "sir."

I find that the formalities can be a useful social lubricant. I personally don't care what I'm called, but I'm aware of when they're being used on me in an attempt to exert the psychology of influence. The more they're used to influence me, the more resistant I become. However I'm certainly not above using them on someone else to influence their behavior to rise to the standards of the customer-service image that I'm expecting them to uphold.

After 20 years of active duty and a few more years of reflective retirement, I'm more convinced than ever that the formal naval correspondence closing phrase of "Warm regards" is usually meant as a code phrase for "F$%^ off and die"... and lately I've begun to wonder about the phrase "Oh, thank you so much!"
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Old 06-10-2010, 02:31 AM   #10
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I often call friends and colleagues with PHd "doctor", even woman I've dated. I am generally teasing about but hey you worked for a long time to get a PHd you should get some recognition.
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Old 06-10-2010, 06:43 AM   #11
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I totally agree with ha's thinking. Then after reading the post by clifp, I wanted to differ with that thought. While in college, some professors were called doctor; however, later in life I thought this unnecessary. Lets say I have a PHd in engineering in a corporate setting and not some college professor. I would never expect anyone to address me as doctor, just because I reached that level in education. Same for a college professor. Maybe it's tradition, but I call all physicians by the "doctor" title.
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Old 06-10-2010, 09:07 AM   #12
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The only ones that I ever w*rked with (engineering) that were obsessed with titles were the Germans. Much to the amusement of the Brits and Americans, I might add.
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Old 06-10-2010, 09:46 AM   #13
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The real losers are those lawyers who want to be called "doctor" (it used to be that law school graduates earned an LL.B. degree, but thanks to Americanization many Canadian law schools now grant a "J.D.").

Give me a break!
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Old 06-10-2010, 09:53 AM   #14
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All my doctors are younger than me - some by quite a bit. I find they don't really address me by my name (I'm a long-time patient) so I never know what to call them. You would think they'd say "Call me Peter" or whatever but they usually don't. So I mostly don't call them anything. If I am referring to them when speaking to their staff, I say "Doctor xxx". I think the whole doctor/patient relationship needs shaking up, anyhow.
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Old 06-10-2010, 09:56 AM   #15
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I personally don't care what I'm called, but I'm aware of when they're being used on me in an attempt to exert the psychology of influence.
I agree. Several years ago I was involved in a fender-bender. In the process of resolving it, the other driver called me at home once and called me by my first name, and identified himself as Mr. "xxx". This gentleman was a few years older than me, but not enough to make a significant difference. I am always happy to be called by my first name, but if someone is more formal than I am and wants us to go by "Ms." and "Mr.", that's fine too. But in this case I felt myself stiffen up and realized that he was (perhaps subconsciously) trying to gain the upper-hand, and I didn't care for that tactic at all.
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Old 06-10-2010, 09:59 AM   #16
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Scott,

I had a good friendship with a college professor while in undergrad. I ended up working for a company where he sits on the board of directors. It's a small company, and so we have 1-2 social events per year where I find myself hanging out with this professor. At first it was awkward to call him by his first name (as I'm sure he felt most comfortable), but after six years I can do so with no problem. He would make a point to tell us to call him by his first name and I could tell he got a little uncomfortable being called Dr. ___ in a more social or business setting vs. a strictly academic setting. Thinking back, we would also address professors by saying "Professor Smith" as often as "Dr Smith". Or as Professor Smith if they didn't hold a doctorate.
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Old 06-10-2010, 09:59 AM   #17
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After 20 years of active duty and a few more years of reflective retirement, I'm more convinced than ever that the formal naval correspondence closing phrase of "Warm regards" is usually meant as a code phrase for "F$%^ off and die"... and lately I've begun to wonder about the phrase "Oh, thank you so much!"
Yes, and "sincerely" means you better believe it buddy.

I quit putting salutations on correspondence many years ago in my law practice. I saw a work out lawyer send demand lettesr that started "dear" and ended "yours truly" and the dissonance was a bit much.
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Old 06-10-2010, 09:59 AM   #18
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My wife was a faculty member in the English Department at our university. There, many students call the Ph.D. professors "Dr." but many, maybe most, don't. In fact, they often use first names. I think that in general, English departments have a less formal environment that chemistry departments. Virtually all the chemistry departments with which I have been associated (including Ivy League and others) or know about have the tradition of their Ph.D. faculty being addressed as "Dr." by their students (certainly not by other faculty and staff).
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Old 06-10-2010, 10:02 AM   #19
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The real losers are those lawyers who want to be called "doctor" (it used to be that law school graduates earned an LL.B. degree, but thanks to Americanization many Canadian law schools now grant a "J.D.").
You can call me Dr. Fuego from now on! I paid a lot for that sheepskin, and it says "Doctor" on it!!
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Old 06-10-2010, 10:03 AM   #20
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The real losers are those lawyers who want to be called "doctor" (it used to be that law school graduates earned an LL.B. degree, but thanks to Americanization many Canadian law schools now grant a "J.D.").

Give me a break!
Never met a lawyer who wanted to be called doctor.

When I first practiced law the staff where I worked was pretty formal, calling the lawyers by Mr. or Ms. so and so. That practice gradually vanished over the years, with my generation far less formal than the prior generation and the current generation not formal at all.
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