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Dear Dr. Prof. CsC., sir or madam:


If you've spent a bit of time in academia, then you know that titles can be a big issue. They can be a bit helpful since they can indicate boundaries and let you know when or when not to "overstep your bounds." My experience in the humanities in the U.S. is that a good portion of professors, most of whom have doctorates, don't mind being on a first-name basis with their graduate students. It's often a different situation with undergraduate students. In any case, it's generally not an entirely strict or inflexible social hierarchy.

European academia is very attached to its titles. You have to know your relation to the people you're talking to—what their education is, what their authority in the hierarchy is, what they did to get their degree, etc. It's nice to know how things stand, but it often seems a bit stodgy. For example, here is the list of acceptable prefixed titles for students, staff, and faculty at a big Czech university:
Ing. arch. MUDr. MDDr. MVDr. PhMr. MrPh. JUDr. RNDr. RSDr. PhDr. PaedDr. PharmDr. DrPh. ThDr. ThLic. ThMgr. ThB. MgA. ak. arch. mal. soch. Mgr. Bc. BcA. prof. doc. dipl. tech. h.c. et Dr. Th.D. Mgr.A. Dr. phil.

Those are the only official choices, and I suspect you're supposed to know what they mean. But that's not all! There are also postfixed titles:
DrSc. CSc. Dr. DiS. M.A. Ph.D. M.Sc. B.A. MBA M.Litt. M.Phil. DMS

I guess that I should be happy since I do have one of the above degrees, but I have to say that I'm a bit disgruntled that it seems there is no possibility of listing my music degrees in any official format (or perhaps I just don't know the abbreviations). Not that I'm very concerned about it, since a degree that says a person can make music is kind of a strange concept in the first place.

Looking over those lists this AM, I recalled the Laurel and Hardy short The Music Box. The duo plays a pair of piano movers who are hired to bring a player piano a house situated at the top of a very long and steep flight of steps. While attempting to carry the piano up the steps, they are continually interrupted by people who want to use the steps and either ask or demand that the movers get off the steps. One of the demanders is a sort of European doctor-professor-gentleman who spouts a long stream of titles that, in his not-so-humble opinion, entitle him right-of-way. He requires that the piano movers get out of his way since walking around on the grass would not suit a man of his importance. It's a classic moment in one of L&H's best shorts. If you know the short, then you know that it's a funny reminder that, no matter how many titles you've got and whether you know their bounds or not, you don't really want to be left "bounding over your steps."

Pictures from laurel and hardy dot com.

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