Of COURSE Jill Biden Calling Herself “Dr.” Is Pompous And Misleading, But The Mainstream Media Will Defend Her Anyway


Let me stipulate that I detest titles, and I distrust people who insist on using titles. My father was particularly contemptuous of non-medical doctors who used the appellation “Dr”. I had a history professor in high school who made us call him “Dr. Arthur,” because he had a PhD in history. My father was so annoyed when he heard that that my mother wouldn’t let him go to the parent-teacher meeting with the “Dr.” for fear Dad would say something. I have a number of friends with PhDs, and none call themselves “doctors.” Who would they be trying to impress? Who would they be trying to fool?

I guess I could call myself “doctor”; I have a juris doctor degree, after all. As arrogant and smug as so many lawyers are, I have never known any who dared put “Dr.” before their name. It’s bad enough that so many put “Esquire” after it. The incoming First Lady, however, feels compelled to call herself “Dr.” and have others do so, and she isn’t a PhD: at most, she’s as much of a doctor as I am. Her degree is an Ed.D., a doctor of education, earned at the University of Delaware. I’m so impressed.

Actually, I couldn’t care less. If someone is so determined to put on airs or be deferred to that they insist on being called “Dr.,” I’ll accommodate them, though they might not like what I’m thinking. I even called “Judge Napolitano” “judge” when I met him, though he’s not a judge.

Northwestern University lecturer Joseph Epstein wrote a harsh op-ed for the Wall Street Journal chiding Jill and suggesting she drop the “Dr.,” saying that it sounds and feels fraudulent, which it does. (Other misleading “doctors”: Dr. Phil, who lost his license, Dr. Laura, who had a PhD in physiology, and Dr. Teeth, who was a Muppet.) After all, it fooled Whoopie Goldberg! In one episode of “The View’ after the election, Goldberg blurted out, “I’m hoping Dr. Jill becomes the surgeon general, his wife….She would never do it but, yeah, she’s a hell of a doctor. She’s an amazing doctor.”

So, so many facts don’t matter to Biden fans! Epstein also called Biden’s use of “Dr.” comical. Well, Whoopie declaring that Jill was a “hell of a doctor” because of it sure was funny.

For the crime of pointing out the truth about Jill Biden’s use of the title—it is, or should be, embarrassing—Epstein was removed as a Northwestern University “emeritus lecturer,” a post he had held for more than twenty years. Then the Washington Post’s reliably silly “gender” writer, Monica Hesse, defended the indefensible with this series of lame justifications and rationalizations:

1) There is nothing “comical” about toiling for years to achieve a credential that is technically and socially correct for Jill Biden to use.

2) The fact that she accomplished this later in life, after having raised three children and worked another career, is admirable. The title of her dissertation — “Student Retention at the Community College Level” — sounds important and not, as Epstein writes, “unpromising.”

3) The premise that only medical doctors should get to hold the Dr. title is etymologically specious because, as Merriam-Webster dictionary pointed out on Twitter, “doctor” comes from the Latin word for “teacher”; it was scholars and theologians who, back in the 14th century, used the title well before medical practitioners.

4) Absolutely nobody is worried that if a pilot gets on the intercom and asks, “Is there a doctor on this flight?” Jill Biden is going to leap from her seat and try to perform a tracheotomy.

Now THAT’s fraudulent and comical.

Re: #1: If it’s so socially and and technically acceptable, why do so few people with that degree insist on calling themselves “doctor”? They don’t use it because its misleading, and makes them look like insecure, preening fools who want to proclaim that they are smarter and better educated than everyone else, when insisting on the title suggests the opposite.

Re: #2: I guess Jill should have a special title then, like “Mommy Doctor.” What does the point in life when someone earns a degree have to do with anything? Does the fact that my father earned his juris doctor later in life, after becoming a father, and after going through World War II and getting his foot blown up mean that he had special leave to call himself “doctor”? As for the title of Jill Biden’s dissertation, who cares? The greatest title in the history of dissertations wouldn’t make her use of “doctor” less silly.

Re #3: Then I guess Dr. Arthur was right, and every lawyer should also call himself and herself “doctor,” and every teacher too, because we’re still in the 14th Century. Or something. What was Hesse’s argument again?

Re #4: Well, hello, Rationalization 22, “It’s not the worst thing!”

And so it begins: just as Melania Trump could do nothing right in the eyes of the media, Jill Biden can do no wrong.

78 thoughts on “Of COURSE Jill Biden Calling Herself “Dr.” Is Pompous And Misleading, But The Mainstream Media Will Defend Her Anyway

  1. Surely there’s nothing wrong with addressing someone as The Honorable Reverend Doctor Sir Saint Martin Luther KING!”

  2. Random thoughts in no particular order:

    Picking up on the JD argument, neither Michelle Obama or Hilary Clinton went by Dr.

    Continuing with the JD line, neither Barack nor Bill (and, presumably, Biden) went by Dr. President.

    The Judge I worked for after law school would often greet me in the morning with either “Doctor” or “Counselor.” I always understood his address to be a little tongue-in-cheek.

    I no longer refer to myself as “Esquire.” It was my understanding that it is an honorific one gives others, not one you properly give yourself. That’s fortunate, as my mother likes to brag; having an Esquire in the family makes her feel proud.

    It was pointed out to me early in my career that “ESQ.” Is a title, like Mr. Or Ms. If you use one, you don’t use the other.

    In my Junior Year of high school, my chemistry teacher insisted on being addressed as Dr., as she had worked very hard to get her degree in chemistry. Even at 16, we saw how silly it was.

    Outside of medical and quasi-medical fields (MD, DDS, DVM, Psychology, maybe physical therapy, etc.) the Dr. title seems appropriate in 2 contexts: 1) an academic environment where the Dr. is the educator (in grad school, we referred to all of the philosophy professors as Dr.); or 2) where the education is connected to a particular position (e.g. if Jill Biden were the superintendent of a school district or someone with a Ph.D. In Music ran a Conservatory, or a Ph.D. In History was the Director of a Museum).

    Bad joke: Jill Biden wants to prove she did not go to college to get her Mrs.


    • How sad that your chemistry teacher wanted to be called “doctor” because she “worked so hard.” She belongs in therapy, not in a classroom.

    • And what have you done that can match what she has accomplished? She has earned it. Doctor means teacher. What are you teaching, other than misogyny and hate. No way to win respect.

        • Jack. Seems to me this ‘conversation’ has gone seriously off the rails and I thought you might usefully redirect it. I can’t imagine you started this with the intention simply of sneering at Jill Biden?? Why would you do this on an ethics blog? You have many far more deserving and appropriate targets for criticism. Surely your relevant point was ‘But the mainstream media will defend her anyway’, like they wouldn’t do if she were a Trump?

          You are probably right to assert that much of the media is inconsistent. Whether this is ‘unfair’ or unethical, and whether and how this could be addressed are very relevant questions.

          To my mind it is quite understandable that Tee and others will read (misread?) comments here as a personal and quite uncalled for attack on Jill Biden.

          • The comments have attacked Jill Biden. The post was not “about” her but about the general topic pf 1) people using titles and honorifics gratuitously, which is, as I said and believe, misleading and arrogant (the ethics virtue here is “humility”) and 2) the predictable piranha-like attack and “academic canceling” of a distinguished essayist and lecturer for daring to criticize the First Lady.

            And I got to recount how the smartest member of “The View” panel said on national television that Jill was a great medical Dr. knowing nothing, indeed less than nothing, about her actual qualifications, because she is a Democratic First Lady and no other reason—which is a bit of evidence supporting both my points and Epstein’s.

            As for Tee. if someone wants to address the point of the blog post, do it with substance. If someone wants to counter a Jill Biden critic, I expect something better than the hoary and desperate “what have you done” jibe. For one thing, that silly defense compels a direct comparison, Like “I’ll tell you what I haven’t done: I haven’t been partially responsible for allowing a man in some stage of dementia to run for President because I want to ride along with him to fame and celebrity!” Or examine, as some have here, the dissertation that earned her that misleading “doctor.” Critics have never needed to nor been expected to somehow match the CV’s of the people they criticize. Tee’s logic was essentially the President’s point when he chided his critics with, “I’m President and you’re not.” In this country and culture, claiming superior status, real or imagined. puts a target on your back to justify it, and good.

            Not “inconsistent”–biased. Using double standards. unprofessional. “Probably” right?

  3. I was brought up Catholic, with many encounters with men called “Father,” “Your Grace,” or “Your Excellency,” and on one occasion “Your Eminence” (so far no chance for “Your Holiness”). I also work for a municipality, so I occasionally have to deal with department heads called “Director” and emergency services people with paramilitary ranks (sergeant, lieutenant, captain, chief). Of course a judge is always “Judge” or “Your honor” when on the bench, and off the bench as well unless you are personal friends with him or her (I can think of about 6-8 judges like that, classmates or former coworkers). It is also usual to keep calling them “judge” as an honorific after they leave the bench, unless they did so in disgrace. Once I exchanged a few words with one of the UK royals (not a particularly senior one), and even in that case you only say “Your Highness” the first time out, and “sir” or “ma’am” after. I am comfortable with titles, but only the proper use of them.

    “Dr.” is only used in the US for a physician, be he a simple country general practitioner or a cardiac or neuro surgeon. Academic doctors, whatever their field, are usually “Professor” when teaching, and then only at the college level. She DID do that for a while, at a community college (only one year with her doctorate), but she hasn’t taught for 12 years. Her resume isn’t that impressive. She was married to a Delaware businessman named Stevenson for about four years but they “drifted apart” and divorced in 1975 after being separated a year. She was unable to take him for half of the bar he owned. BTW, she actually interrupted a strategy meeting for her husband’s proposed 2004 campaign (which never got off the ground) in a swimsuit with the word “NO” written on her stomach to try to dissuade him from running. After GWB’s reelection she decided she needed to push Joe into higher office so he could change things to her liking. She’s a Helen Taft angling to be an Edith Wilson.

  4. I share Jack’s disdain for non-MDs using the title.
    A county school board near where I live hired a new school superintendent, who had his doctorate. After a few weeks I noticed every news story on every local channel was referring to him as “Superintendent Doctor John Smith.” His predecessor, also an EdD, had never been referred to in that manner, so my presumption was that the new guy had instructed the local media as to the proper form of address for someone of his lofty status.
    Personally I prefer “El Jefe.”

    • In his The Number of the Beast, Robert Heinlein includes his thoughts regarding a doctorate in education through the words of his characters. Here are a few excerpts:

      “I knew that the stupidest students, the silliest professors, and the worst bull courses are concentrated in schools of education. By signing for large class evening lectures and the unpopular eight am. classes I figured I could spend most of my time finding out how the stock market ticked. I did, by working there, before I risked a dime.

      I was sick of a school in which the pie was all meringue and no filling but I stuck as I knew how to cope with courses in which the answers are matters of opinion and the opinion that counts is that of the professor. And how to cope with those large-class evening lectures: Buy the lecture notes. Read everything that professor ever published. Don’t cut too often and when you do show up, get there early, sit front row center, be certain the prof catches your eye every time he looks your way-by never taking your eyes off him. Ask one question you know he can answer because you’ve picked it out of his published papers-and state your name in asking a question…I got straight ‘A’s’ in both required courses and seminars. . . because I did not study ‘education,’ I studied professors of education.

      I have a copy of my dissertation; you can check its authenticity. While that paper totally lacks meaning it is a literary gem in the sense in which a successful forging of an ‘old master’ is itself a work of art. It is loaded with buzz words. The average length of sentences is eightyone words. The average word length, discounting ‘of,’ ‘a,’ ‘the,’ and other syntactical particles, is eleven-plus letters in slightly under four syllables. The bibliography is longer than the dissertation and cites three papers of each member of my committee and four of the chairman, and those citations are quoted in part-while avoiding any mention of matters on which I knew that members of the committee held divergent (but equally stupid) opinions.

      For some reason, the entire section was posted online today:

  5. The history professor had more “right” to the title doctor than a physician. A doctor should be actively teaching. I don’t begrudge others use of the title, but the huffy insistence that it only applies to medical doctors irritates.

    • You’re from the 14th Century then? Because I’ve been taught by a lot of people, and except for that one pompous history teacher, none went by “doctor.” This suggests that that particular usage is what dictionaries mark as “archaic.”

      • Or European – in Italy you and I would both be addressed as “Dottore” because of our degrees. However, this isn’t Italy.

    • Non-physicians who call themselves doctors are pompous idiots and deserve ridicule.

      And I hate pastors who refer to themselves as “Reverend Doctor.” It’s just so lame.

      • Just interjecting here for no good reason and thinking out loud:

        I don’t know (but wonder) if impending U.S. Senator from Georgia Warnock (expecting THAT election runoff to be fixed for him and the Democrats, too) wants to be called “Reverend Doctor Senator His Majesty and Highest Holiness.”

        I mean, why not? He’s already cinched the Black title.
        (i.e., the ONLY race-color to be Capitalized, i.e., that MUST be Capitalized, else, RACISM!)

        • The most recent season of the Fargo TV series had a black character called Doctor Senator…because that was what his mother named him.

  6. You, of course, have the unquestioned right to chose what you write about. Just as NYT and WAPO have the right to chose their content. I understand your frustration that NYT hasn’t given Hunter Biden the grilling you think he should get and instead writes what you think is undeserved praise for Obama. You have suggested journalists should operate as a self regulating profession, implying that such ‘professionals’ should have some duty to keep us informed about relevant matters (or rather what you think is relevant). You have promised further thoughts, and I look forward to them.

    How about including professional ethicists in your thinking?

    I might be truly ‘shocked’ (I’m not) that you, a professional ethicist, write today about Jill Biden’s use of ‘Dr’, a matter of very little ethical significance in itself.

    I read elsewhere, in connection with the recent GOP attack on the election and the Supreme court’s reaction, that :

    “Today, 70 per cent of the Republican Party, a majority of elected Republicans in Congress and 30 per cent of the country believe that Biden is an illegitimate president.”

    This involvement of so many in an attempt to overturn an election, and for that attempt to fail so miserably sounds profoundly and disturbingly significant, many levels more so than what Jill Biden calls herself. I really hoped you would have something to say.

    • Indeed. Why should journalists be objective? Why can’t anyone with a degree call themselves a doctor? Why shouldn’t an ethicist promote lies? Left is right, up is down!

      TDS is real. Please get help.

    • Coming up. I don’t think Biden is an “illegitimate” President, because however the system shakes out is legitimate enough for me. Those polls are the result of imprecise language, the sort that Trump speaks. Republicans have every reason to feel the election was not held fairly, because it wasn’t, and the Democrats, who built up to the 2020 election by maintaining that Trump was an illegitimate President for four bloody years, are estopped from complaining about Republicans calling a spade as spade. I wrote why the election was, in the final analysis, stolen, here. I’ll stand by that; it’s what happened.

      As for Jill, 1) it’s a pet peeve of mine 2) it’s a version of the “appeal to authority” fallacy 3) the Post article was offensive and 3) I’ve written over 12,000 essays and have over 25,000 tags, each representing a topic. I’ve written about baseball, Gilbert and Sullivan, and a man in a lobster hat. Mrs. Biden’s fake title is not earth shaking, but it’s not unimportant either, at least to me.

        • And so I shall continue to say, “Biden is not a legitimate president.”

          Trump is “impending President-In-Exile.” Yeah. Really. It has happened. In this country.

    • Nothing that happens via a courtroom constitutes “overturning an election” or a “coup.”

      If an election is overturned in court, that implies that the election was not legitimate to start with.

      If Republicans challenge the election and lose, that implies their suspicions/accusations were wrong, or that they simply lacked hard evidence; not that they “tried to steal an election.”

      Appealing to courts is legitimate. It is literally the legal process. Now, an example of ACTUAL corruption within a political party, a real, illegitimate abuse of power, would be something like, oh, say, weaponizing the FBI and colluding with the press to use false intel to create a years-long “investigation” into an newly-elected president because you’re really, really mad that he won. Let me know if Republicans try to pull something like that.

    • Andrew
      While Mrs. Biden can decide what she wants to be called anything she wants it is a bit ironic that so many went into a tizzy regarding the Op ed.
      Since 2016 journalists have routinely ommitted Ben Carson’s salutation doctor when he is an accomplished brain surgeon. The same is true for Dr. Rand Paul or his father and so many others in Congress. I would understand if they referred to him as Congressman Paul instead of doctor but they don’t.

      What is even more amusing is that academia which is so often preaching about social justice and equality are terribly hung up on rank and privilege within higher education. This is as prevalent in community colleges (if not more so) as it is in prestigious universities. The fact is that whether I as an adjunct faculty member teach ECO201 or 202 with my Masters degree in Economics or by a PhD in education whose undergrad degree was in Business Administration the PhD we get paid the same. However, if a full time tenure track position teaching Economics opens up the PhD candidate has the upper hand even though that candidate may have completed far fewer content specific classes in Economics.

      The joke in college is those who put their academic credentials on there business cards reflect the following : BS is bullshit, MS more shit and PhD piled higher and deeper.

    • In my field ‘Dr’ etc is simply a status thing, and not much noticed. Those who are unduly sensitive (either as to how they are addressed or how others present themselves) are most commonly showing their insecurity. In academia, the church and the military however rank is important: professors, bishops and colonels often get better accommodation and priority in the lunch queue.

      Calibration is difficult. In my time in a UK university, professors had chairs, led departments and were seriously important. Whereas in the US it simply equated to the UK’s ‘senior lecturer’. After a US exchange posting some UK senior lecturers did try to maintain the professor titles they’d been granted but it didn’t generally advantage them much.

      In the UK and Australia ‘Mr’ outranks ‘Dr’ amongst surgeons. But I assume from Jack’s post that this isn’t the case in the US?

      • “… seriously important.”

        What does it mean to be “seriously important” and why should anyone care about those who deem being “seriously important” as seriously important?

        As far as I can tell, whether it’s in the UK or US, a need to be “seriously important” usually really means “seriously narcissistic.”

        • “Seriously important”: I only meant “having significant power and influence”.

          As to “why should anyone care?”: As a social animal we frequently have to judge ‘pecking order’ to decide who makes the decisions and who can sign the bill : although being ‘sophisticated’ we frequently pretend not to care.

          Different cultures operate this signalling differently, although we all do it.

          In the cultures I know best, there is little so ‘uncool’ as being caught seeming to care about status. Boasting and ‘showing off’’, to be successful, has to be done with great care.

          This blog conversation, to my mind, has fallen into a slurry pit of sneering against Jill Biden. I didn’t read Jack’s original post as heading that way. I read him as complaining yet again about bias in the press, far more than taking a mean shot at an irrelevant actor who is ill equipped to defend herself.

          Yes, narcissism abounds, but I don’t share your implied criticism of those who strive for advancement and enjoy recognition of their achievement. The cleverest sometimes gain even greater kudos by advertising their humility, Uriah Heep style, along with their evident achievements. We need the competitive spirit.

  7. In America, “dr.” commonly refers to a medical doctor – someone who could save your life or deliver a baby. In academia, it is commonly used, in my experiences, among PhDs. If you are taking a finance class from Dr Smith, it is understood in that setting that Smith is not a medical doctor. Although my mother was shocked to learn that my brothers mentor in college, dr Jones, had a PhD in phys Ed.

    Outside of academia, the use of “doctor” to refer to a PhD is pompous and misleading. As Jack said, if an emergency required calling out for a doctor, Jill wouldn’t stand up. I’d be embarrassed that someone would turn to me and say, aren’t you a doctor and having to admit NOT that kind of doctor. And then someone might say, what other kind is there?

    My late father in law was a pediatric surgeon. He would introduce himself to you as Joe. You might talk to Joe for hours about baseball, travel, airplanes, and not know he was a doctor until you asked him. We need more Joes.

  8. A long time friend posted this last night…

    Take this from someone who knows:

    Anyone who makes it through a doctoral program from a major university or college and gets his/her committee to sign off on a dissertation (not just a collection of anecdotal stories but actual well written and properly formatted original research) not only deserves to be called by the title of “doctor,” but is in fact a doctor of that field. It’s like what my committee told me the day they signed my dissertation. “Congratulations, you are now longer “Mr.” You are “Dr.” from now on.

    WSJ should be ashamed to have published such rubbish that suggests otherwise, especially because the person in question:

    a. is a woman
    b. holds a doctorate in education

    I’ve known him since I was in 2nd grade, am I now supposed to start calling him Dr.?

    • What BS. What does her being a woman have to do with anything? Who cares what an ivory tower “committee” decreed? Why is the effort to get a doctorate presumed to require more rigor and effort than, say, getting a law degree from a top 20 law school? What does “deserves” mean in this context? I have to bow down to someone because of a dissertation I haven’t read? Tell you what, Pompous Ass, let me read your dissertation, and if I agree that it’s sufficiently better than what I could write, I’ll consider bowing down.

      Do you think Paul McCartney insists that everyone call him “Sir”?

      • Because, Jack, apparently now being female or being black or brown gives you a presumption that you had to work that much harder overcoming systemic bias, so you’re automatically a hero and entitled to the laurels of a hero. It’s complete and utter horseshit, but it’s the academic party line and it’s here to stay. American scholarship is now so polluted by the likes of Howard Zinn and Noam “will you die already?” Chomsky that it can’t be saved.

          • If some of these leftys had their way, straight white men would be made to live in prison barracks as soon as they turned 18, let out only to work, or until some woman deigned to choose one as her partner.

      • Because of things like this:

        That’s why. If men get to do it, then, by Isis, so do women.


    • Two non-sequiturs in a row and he had the decency to arrange them in list form.

      a. The only reason her being a woman would matter is if you literally believe that women should be allowed a certain level of general smugness not allowed to men. It’s like seeing a 30-year old riding a bike with training wheels and saying, “well, she’s a woman, so, you know…” and considering that progressive somehow.

      b. It’s hard to imagine an easier A than education, to be blunt. Even less objective than sociology or history; and the entire field openly rejects any objective job performance measures.

    • Follow up.

      I asked him if he requires his students to call him Dr. and he does. He says the usage seems natural in the area where he teaches, this is an area where saying “yes ma’am” and “no sir” is still a part of the culture.

      I replied to him…

      I’ve known quite a few teachers with doctorates in both public schools and the college environments that don’t require their students to call them Dr. but I have absolutely no problem with the requirement while associated with the professional setting. I only had two college professors that used the title. Either way they’ve earned the title to use it in professional context and it’s their choice in the end.

    • My first college English professor early on in the semester (fall of 1969 and the Miracle Mets) stated firmly to someone who called him “Dr. Lindley” in class, “Don’t call me Doctor! I’m NOT a doctor! A doctor is someone who lives in someplace like Darien, Connecticut and makes millions of dollars a year!” I’d say that’s the rule.

      I always address my physicians, dentists, etc. as “Doc.” It’s a sign of respect for their studies and training and long hours. It’s also fun being able to use a Bugs Bunny line.

      But come on, let’s face it. Democrats are always brilliant and Republicans are boobs. What Republican has ever been identified as “the smartest person in the room?” But every Democrat is?

  9. A small irony: in England, almost all doctors have Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degrees. Very few have the MD, which is awarded for original research, so ‘real doctors’ rarely have doctorates.

      • This was to distinguish him from the great playwright Ben Jonson. His monumental “Dictionary of the English Language” would have served as an honorary doctorate if they were awarded, and his subsequent criticism, biographies & pamphlets would have garnered more in our day. He probably would have been Knighted as well.

        • Is there some reference for that explanation? Wouldn’t the different first names, spellings of the last name, different occupations and more than a century difference in birth dates be more than enough? I’m fond of the “I call myself Dr. because I WOULD have been a doctor” concept too…

          • Language & spelling was kind of fluid then, which was part of the point of the Dictionary. This is what I heard as an undergrad at a liberal arts college & later pursuing one of my graduate degrees. (In fact, with the substantial number of credits I received in a third, I always wondered if I could parlay them into a doctorate of something!) I’m betting it’s buried somewhere in Boswell’s bio or a great history of the players of the period in “The Club: Johnson, Boswell, and the Friends Who Shaped an Age,” by Leo Damrosch. The public in the 18th century might logically have been confused by references to the two, especially as would we say with Dr. Bloom “The Influence of Anxiety” that the earlier Jonson would have exerted. You are correct that he received an honorary doctorate, actually two. And, yes as a JD, you call yourself Dr., Dr. Marshal!

            • Typos (should read): “The Anxiety of Influence” & Dr. Marshall.

              There’s a third Johnson, but we don’t want to go there!

              • One thread I tracked down suggests that honorific degree was not popularized during his lifetime. https://academia.stackexchange.com/questions/106666/may-i-call-samuel-johnson-a-phd

                In reviewing the aforementioned “The Club” there’s no mention of it in the index, the contemporaneous figures quoted during Johnson’s lifetime do not use the title, and Dr. Damrosch does not seem to resort to it, so far as I can determine. Interestingly, Johnson was fond of teasing playwright Oliver Goldsmith for the latter’s insistence he be called Dr. Goldsmith (He always referred to him as Goldy). This was in regard to some study in medicine; he never took a degree (pg. 125). However, In Boswell’s “Life of Johnson,” or as it originally appeared, “The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.”, published about 7 years after the subject’s death, the honorific is used throughout. (This is also how it appears on his burial stone in Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey.) It’s Dr. Johnson as he’s come down to us. This is also how it appears on his burial stone in Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey.

                So, the distinction between Johnson & Jonson by the honorific may have have been aided by the title, early on or in later times – how many would actually know of either today – but I have found no evidence this was the original intention. (Actually, I think more people would be acquainted with Ben Jonson from the stage as well as study of his poems.) So a long way of saying I appear to be wrong!

    • You are absolutely right. Once she gets her own action adventure film role that makes her millions of dollars and becomes a worldwide phenomenen, everyone will have to start calling her Dr. Jones.

  10. I have a different take on this. Physicians shouldn’t be allowed to call themselves ‘Doctors’. Their degree is really an undergraduate degree. Their courses are almost all undergraduate courses, not graduate courses. They don’t write a dissertation. It was the physicians who latched onto calling themselves ‘doctors’ to get more respectability, not the other way around. Two years of undergraduate science courses followed by an apprenticeship is really outrageous to promote as a ‘doctorate’.

    The point about not using your title outside a professional setting is a good one, however. Why is it that physicians are the only ones who seem to be able to get away with it? Do we just expect them to be pompous asses and so we don’t notice?

  11. Not much to add to the post & comments, most of which I am in full agreement. A few words about the much maligned Joseph Epstein who I’ve been reading for about 40 years. He is an excellent writer with a sometimes sardonic if not satiric wit. That doesn’t play well with many readers, especially today, but it is a style that has appeal to those who like to see the truth explored from a contrarian perspective, with a dose of humor. Some consider him one of the finest essayists in American letters, a view on which I would concur.

    I first got a taste for him when he was the editor of “The American Scholar,” the official journal of The Phi Beta Kappa Society. But his writings have appeared all over the place, in big & little journals as well as the press (mainly conservative), so many that he has compiled them into about 20 books. In addition to his views on the history of ideas, which come from his wide critical reading & reviewing, his discourses on the Chicago scene – a literary Mike Royko – the falling standards in the culture in general & academia (priceless) in particular are of interest to the enquiring mind with a taste for the irreverent. I’ve read many of them & will download the latest Kindle version of “Gallimaufry” soon. If you want to see a cancel culture in operation, check out the latest comments on Amazon. I look forward to see his response to all of this which is coming.

  12. 1. Just checked and the comments to the WSJ article are just shy of 3000 and the comments are predominantly pro-Jill! Even when the WSJ publishes an article critical of the PRC, I don’t remember the wumao-fueled (i.e. CCP-paid shills) ever approaching that many comments.

    2. Here’s how things are done at UVA – https://odos.virginia.edu/students-traditions

    University faculty are referred to as Mr. or Ms. instead of Doctor, even if they have a Ph.D. Students and faculty historically addressed each other in this manner as well. Medical doctors are the exception to the rule and they should be referred to as Doctor.

    3. And here’s how a self-important jerk demonstrates self-worth:

  13. Considering much of the media reaction, is it ironic that the AP stylebook specifies that “doctor” is used preceding a name only for certain medical professionals (and then only on the first mention)?

  14. This Twitter thread provides a link to Biden’s dissertation. Nope, not “Dr. Biden” or even “Ms. Biden” – the “dissertation” is an an unmitigated embarrassment I’ve read many MA theses that have had significantly more academic credibility that the piece of…work. That

    The fact that committee members (3 EdD and 1 PhD) agreed that the paper “meets the academic and professional standards required by the University as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Education” speaks volumes about the academic credibility of the U of Delaware’s “School of Education”.

  15. Dr. Liz, I agree. Thanks so much for providing the link. This “dissertation” doesn’t rise to the level of a middling “White Paper” & undoubtedly would be sent back for major reworking for an MA. Essentially it is a literature review, followed by a questionnaire administered to about 160 students, along with interviews – one from an educator she pretty much co-opts – the results of which are “analyzed” ad nauseam, i.e., not statistically, but with a lot of discussion. The style of the paper tends towards psychobabble.

    There is a lot of padding. Forms and interviews are given space and weight in the body of the dissertation; if you missed them, they are included again in appendices, which flesh out the document, with references, between pages 80-137. Appendix E (Faculty) & Appendix F (Students) are my favorites. The methodology might be described as gripe sessions amongst professionals & students given legitimacy in writing.

    All and all, an underwhelming academic achievement. In the words of an old” I Love Lucy” episode on bad writing, for prospective doctoral candidates, don’t let this happen to you!

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