surgeons are Mr., not Dr. in England?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by daoxunchang, Sep 14, 2006.

  1. daoxunchang Senior Member

    Chinese China
    I read an articles in which it is said that in the U.S. professionship is overconferred and Dr.s are also too many. England is quoted to make comparison and it says: ... in England, where surgeons are Mr., even if they do hold the M.D. degree, and professorships are natually much less numerous than in the United States.

    It really deters me after knowing this. Is this still so in England? If so, I have to take great care from now on:eek: .
  2. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I don't know what you mean by a professionship.

    In the UK, doctors at the senior level are referred to as consultants.
    Consultant surgeons, from the time they reach this level, drop the Dr title and promote themselves to the title of Mr.

    I don't know why, but that's the way it is.

    There are other threads on the topic - somewhere.
  3. Kenneth Garland Senior Member

    Portishead, UK
    UK, English
    Doctors in the UK almost never have an MD degree - I think it is either honorary or a purely academic qualification. So the title 'Doctor' is just a convention.

    I always understood that the reason surgeons were addressed as 'Mr' was because surgeons were originally not 'proper' medical people, but usually no more than barbers who used their skills with razors and other sharp implements to deal with amputations!
  4. loladamore

    loladamore Senior Member

    Zacatecas, México
    English UK
    The medical doctors in my family hold Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degrees (MBChB), and after goodness knows how many courses, qualifications, promotions, and 20 years down the line, they are now addressed as 'Mr.' as they have become consultants.

    Incidentally, it seems that paediatric consultants retain the title 'Doctor'.

    As for 'professiorship', I suspect daoxunchang is referring to the fact that most UK university staff are lecturers, and that there are relatively few who hold the title of Professor, often only one per department. I gather that in the US 'Professor' is often equivalent to a British 'Senior Lecturer'.
  5. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Ah, yes, I bet that's right. At some point, then, the adopting of the Mr will have become a kind of inverted snobbery as the capability of surgeons increased and they began to get knighthoods.
    Only if they are surgeons, surely. Consultant physicians are still Drs.
  6. loladamore

    loladamore Senior Member

    Zacatecas, México
    English UK
    Yes, that's right. I didn't specify that they were in surgery, did I. I have just found this forum where an explanation is given in post #8 that corroborates Kenneth's point.
  7. daoxunchang Senior Member

    Chinese China
    I see. Thanks for everyone.
  8. gwrthgymdeithasol Senior Member

    English, Wales
    By the way, in the UK I don't think anyone outside the media is really impressed nowadays if someone's a 'dr', 'sir' or whatever. On the other hand, titles seem to really impress many north Americans.
  9. daoxunchang Senior Member

    Chinese China
    Why "outside the media"? Do you mean titles make a big difference among actors, directors, etc?

    Can you tell me why? My impression is that Americans might laugh at noble titles.
  10. gwrthgymdeithasol Senior Member

    English, Wales
    No, I mean the media are obsessed with 'celebrity', and titles confer social status.

    That's a slightly different question; 'dr' and 'sir' are not titles of nobility. Americans often strike me as status-obsessed, and status is what you (supposedly) get with a dr or sir before your name!
  11. theoriphobe Member

    Leamington, England
    English England
    (I think you mean professorships.)

    A doctor can be a medical doctor (MD, or BM) or a doctor of philosophy (PhD). The latter is not a medical doctor (though some medical doctors also get PhDs). The medical profession very cleverly expropriated the academic title 'Dr' sometime in the 19C -- it did their social standing and self-image a power of good. Before this, they tended to be called 'physician' and used 'Mr' (read any Austen or Dickens).

    A professor may or may not have either of these qualifications, but usually will.

    Yes, there are too many of all these designations about -- particularly in America, where every lecturer in a university is called 'professor' (this hasn't quite happened in the UK, yet -- though I believe that at least one university is thinking about it). There are far more PhDs about now than there were 10 or 20 years ago.

    Yes, in the UK, surgeons call themselves 'Mr', because the medical profession is obsessed with status, and surgeons more than the rest of the profession -- so they have to distinguish themselves from ordinary doctors by using 'Mr'.

    Yes, the Americans tend to use the designations more than in the UK. If an American has a PhD, they seem to put it after their names at every opportunity. This is regarded as a rather vulgar thing to do in the UK.

    One can be Professor Sir John Smith, but not Professor Dr John Smith.
  12. Dimcl Senior Member

    British Columbia, Canada
    Canadian English
    Right you are - here in Canada, a doctor (even a "lowly" general practitioner) is insulted if you call him "Mr.". I've even had a doctor inform me that he is to be called "Dr. So-and-So". So, I told him he was to call me "Ms. So-And-So" as opposed to addressing me by my first name! This practice also extends to dentists and optometrists. Some basic North American insecurity, I would suggest...
  13. Tei Tetua Member

    UK + USA, English
    Americans adore aristocratic titles. It's because they haven't got any of their own.

    But on the other hand, what about all those British professionals who have to get their qualifications listed in publications in the form of incomprehensible initials (but if you knew what they meant, you'd be very very impressed)?

    One picked at random: MR. LEWIS SMART M.I.Mech.E., M.I.E.S., M.I.E.E.

    Americans would never do that.
  14. GenJen54

    GenJen54 Senior Member

    Downright Pleasant, USA
    USA - English
    As one of the nearly 300,000,000 Americans, let me say that I couldn't give a whiff about "aristocratic" titles. You could be the Grand Earl of Toenailpicking for all I care, and you're still a human to me. As such, I would kindly ask you step off a bit with the generalizing.

    While it's true we may "adore" celebrity to a certain extent (part of that whole "American Dream" thing), most Americans I know have the wherewithall to understand and respect that the titles of Dr., Esq. and Ph.D. come about because of years of hard work, not birthright.

    If I walked into a room and saw the Queen sitting next to a country doctor, I'd probably find more interesting conversation with the doctor. The most important designation to me is human.

    Entitlement is in the awe of the beholder.
  15. gwrthgymdeithasol Senior Member

    English, Wales
    So, how do you think one gets the 'title' Esq.? I just had to be born a male to acquire it :p
  16. mjscott Senior Member

    This news is so strange to me--doctors--who have gone all the way through medical school--who refer to themselves as Mr.!

    In my American mind, I would think twice before seeking medical consultation from someone who's title merely read Mr. John Doe! Being born male and growing up makes you a Mr.! To be a doctor takes years and years of painstaking medical training, tests, and experience....
    ....I have been told by a friend that if I ever need surgery, to pick the most pretentious, egocentric doctor in the phone book--and not to worry about bedside ethics. "Nice doctors" may or may not be good at what they do. Pretentious and egocentric doctors do not want to be wrong at any cost--and in the long run will do the best job....

    ....If that is the case, I will continue seeking out Dr. Soandso, rather than Mr. What'sizzface.
  17. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    In AE we in the general population have lost the etymology of doctor, though people who venture into the grove of Academia learn to use it as a title for teachers. It hasn't been as debased as some people suggest-- the journeyman work at universities is done by Instructors, not Professors.

    But Doctor basically means a health expert who fixes you up when you're ailing, and the title is indeed used with respect-- as I was going to point out before GenJen beat me to it, we Americans have a history of contempt for the system we broke away from violently in the late 18th century, where the Aristocracy had power and privilege by virtue of birth. Yes, titles have been "created" in recognition of merit, but then again there was Piers Gaveston, the Duke (Earl?) of Cornwall.

    What we have instead is a meritocracy. Hence GenJen's suitably-indignant point about "years of hard work, not birthright."

    Yes, a meritocracy degenerates into a culture that celebrates "celebrity," and confuses the notorious with the noteworthy. But to say that was true of all of us would be to incur considerable wrath, as we all hate generalizations.

    By the way, we also have an inverse snobbery about the title. When the pinball machine in the tavern breaks down, for example, you call the Pinball Doctor. Or you ask the Doctor of Mixology to do it when he gets a spare moment.
  18. Jules01 New Member

    English - England, Home Counties
    I can attest to this explanation as it is the same given to me by a young Italian surgeon working in Mr Moat's team in Royal Brompton in London. My mother had a valve repaired there by Mr Moat and team. At first I got caught out many times referring to him as Dr Moat, naturally assuming anyone opening up my mother and messing about with her heart should at least be a doctor, but everyone kept correcting me "Mr Moat", gently but persistently. I kind of figured there was some hidden history here of which I was unaware so I asked one of his team to explain why a surgeon is called Mr and not Dr.

    The Italian surgeon on Mr Moat's team, Fabio < I kid you not>, explained that it was exactly the way Kenneth (the earlier post) wrote and that he, as someone not educated within the same system, did find it a bit annoying that his expertise was not immediately recognised by a title. It is indeed a type of inverted snobbery, cute and charming but kind of strange at the same time, all those years of work to become Mr again.

    FYI and background reading to verify my opinion, Mr Neil Moat is the director of surgery and consultant cardiac surgeon at the Royal Brompton hospital in London. Look him up in with any reputable search engine.
  19. nzfauna

    nzfauna Senior Member

    Wellington, New Zealand
    New Zealand, English
    In NZ also, male surgeons are entitled "Mr". I'm not sure about females. I believe it is a arbitrary historical tradition going back to year dot in Britain.

    However, all surgeons are still most definitely doctors.
  20. Cathy Rose Senior Member

    Northeast USA
    United States English
    I've just finished a book by a Hungarian writer who settled in Tuscany with his American artist wife. Because he has an undergraduate degree, he was immediately dubbed "dottore" by the townspeople. According to him, it's a common moniker for anyone with a college degree. I have a cousin, a Friend (Quaker), who has two PhDs, teaches at an Ivy League University, and is a Pulitzer Prize winner. His office door at Princeton reads, "Joe Smith" (name changed). He wouldn't dream of using a title, including "Mr." So, I suppose it's all a cultural thing.
  21. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    At least one female consultant surgeon is, to my knowledge, referred to as Miss <surname>.
  22. gasman Senior Member

    Canada, English
    The "Mr " for surgeons goes back to the days, when surgery was often performed by a layman; as most surgery in those days was amputations, the tradition continued, and it is only since the days of anaesthesia, that true surgery developed. The elite of the profession were the physicians, and had long held the title of "Doctor". In my time the change from Dr to Mr occurred when the surgeon had obtained his advanced surgical degrees, but often before becoming recognised as a consultant. Most of them are proud of the designation. Of course, the whole system is topsy turvy, because the basic degree in Britain is a Bachelors, MB ChB, bachelor of medicine, bachelor of surgery.Tradition wins!
  23. Wilma_Sweden

    Wilma_Sweden Senior Member

    Lund, Sweden
    Swedish (Scania)
    It's certainly a weird custom which I got first-hand experience of in an English hospital where I was told Mr. X, the consultant, was going to see me. He entered wearing normal clothes, no white coat or scrubs, and no stethoscope or even a name tag on him! Judging by his apparent seniority among the staff, I simply accepted that someone labelled consultant must be an expert - why else would someone consult him? - and never questioned his medical degree, just put it down to another 'weird' UK custom... ;) :D

  24. gasman Senior Member

    Canada, English
    That well may be the case for the male members of the profession, but I suspect a significant number of others might be somewhat upset.
  25. Tagarela Senior Member

    Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
    Português - Brasil

    Their (egocentric's) best perhaps is not the best.

    But I agree that surgeon are doctor as any other who attend medical school, not more or less.

    So, how those graduated in Medicine (surgeons or not) like to be referred to in UK?

    Mr. So-and-so, Dr. So-and-so? Only the last name maybe ?

    Good bye.:
  26. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    Clearing up a couple of AE/BE terms

    Approximately speaking :
    Professor in the UK is equivalent in rank (and approximate numbers perhaps) to Chairman of Department in the US
    Lecturers, senior lecturers and readers in the UK would all be some kind of professor in the US ( such as assistant, associate, full)

    Also, in the US someone needs some extensive training in the legal profession to earn the title Esq. In the UK , a formal letter addressed to a young lad on up to adulthood (and beyond) used to be e.g., John Smith, Esq. - no training or aristocratic birth required - simply an equivalent term to Mr.
  27. gasman Senior Member

    Canada, English
    Well actually, in Britain as in any other country, they have arduous and lengthy post-graduate years to work their way through followed by rather more than difficult exams before they can call themselves Mister!
  28. Then let's hope you never need an operation in Britain, because you will only ever get one done by a Mr, Mrs, Miss or Ms!

    British surgeons start as "Doctor" and drop it as soon as they start practising as surgeons. It isn't just when they reach consultant status.
  29. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    CLICK HERE for an informative article on this subject.

    ... today's surgeons start out as 'Mr' or 'Miss' in medical school, become 'Dr' on qualifying and revert to 'Mr' or 'Miss' when they pass surgical exams for the Royal College.
    Independent, The (London), May 3, 2005

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