Where’s the chemist?

The New Penguin English Dictionary (2000):

chemist  noun
1. Somebody who is trained in chemistry.
2. Brit. A pharmacist.
3. Brit. A retail shop where medicines and other articles, e.g. cosmetics and films, are sold.
[Scientific Latin chimista, short for medieval Latin alchimista alchemist.]

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Tel: 6988682
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Ask your pharmacist for advice.

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34 réponses à “Where’s the chemist?

  1. Siganus K.

    To be read in conjunction with what was said here and below.

  2. Dr. veut dire docteur, c’est-à-dire, médecin avec une thèse ou grade, pharmacien avec la thèse ? La même question pour M.D., DPH. Chez nous le mot « doctor » est aussi très usité comme un synonyme de médecin.

  3. marie-lucie

    En France, un pharmacien doit avoir un doctorat en pharmacie, tout comme un médecin un doctorat en médecine, mais je ne crois pas qu’on appelle un pharmacien « docteur » dans la vie courante, il n’y a que les médecins qu’on appelle couramment par leur titre.

  4. >Marie-lucie
    Merci. Chez nous les pharmaciens n’ont pas besoin d’être docteurs (je ne connais aucun) ; dans les pharmacies on peut lire «lic.» seulement. Et non plus les médecins ; c’est vrai que la plupart d’eux a besoin d’une spécialisation (maintenant tous, même les médecins de famille nouveaux). Pour le reste, il est encore difficile de comprendre qu’il ait quelqu’un qui soit docteur sans être un médecin.

  5. John Bell & Croydon is a large pharmacy in Wigmore Street, in London, that I often visit. There are lots of pharmacies in Britain, there just aren’t any chemists in the US. « Drugstore » isn’t really used in Britain (except for the Chelsea Drugstore that’s mentioned in a Stones song). I think there was a Le Drugstore on the Blvd St Germain in Paris at around the same time (late 60s).

  6. Could you kindly untangle my links, Sig?

  7. I think there was a Le Drugstore on the Blvd St Germain in Paris at around the same time (late 60s).

    Il y a eu trois Drugstores à Paris, le premier au Champs-Elysées ouvert en 1955 (il y est toujours, après plusieurs rénovations), celui de Saint-Germain, ouvert en 1965, et rendu célèbre par les attentats de 1974 (il a fermé en 1996) et enfin le Drugstore Matignon (disparu depuis 2001).

    Aucun n’a jamais ressemblé à une pharmacie !

  8. Where’s the chemist ?
    The chemist is in the kitchen

    Pour nos amis anglais qui lisent ce blog, je précise qu’un manuel d’anglais à l’usage des collégiens français contenait ce dialogue désormais célèbre:
    « Where is Brian ?
    — Brian is in the kitchen. »

  9. marie-lucie

    Aquinze, en Amérique du Nord les « drugstores » ne ressemblent pas non plus à des pharmacies, et les vraies pharmacies situées dans un local indépendant sont très rares. Mais il y a vraiment des pharmacies à l’intérieur des « drugstores », en général tout au fond, où l’on se procure les médicaments prescrits par le médecin et l’on reçoit les conseils d’un pharmacien qualifié.

  10. Siganus K.

    Marie-Lucie : il n’y a que les médecins qu’on appelle couramment par leur titre

    Pendant ma dernière année d’études en France nous avions des cours de sociologie dispensés par un prof qui était docteur, et il disait la même chose (en daubant au passage sur la légèreté de la thèse soutenue par les médecins). En effet, quand appelle quelqu’un “docteur” en France, il s’agit d’un médecin dans presque tous les cas*.

    Mais dans d’autres pays — disons l’Allemagne — il ne me semble pas qu’il en soit ainsi. Si vous avez un doctorat, Marie-Lucie, arrive-t-il qu’au Canada on vous appelle couramment “Dr T.” ? Le Canada étant majoritairement anglophone, j’aurais tendance à penser que oui, mais je ne sais pas trop ce qui se dirait au Québec francophone. De la même façon, je ne sais pas ce qui se dirait en Suisse ou en Belgique. AQuinze est peut-être docteur, mais je ne sais pas du tout si certaines personnes seraient susceptibles de l’appeller parfois “docteur Quinze”, un peu comme on dirait “Monseigneur Vingt-Trois”. En revanche je suis prêt à parier que des clients de Leveto l’appellent “docteur”.
     
     
    * A Maurice c’est même pire que cela : le mot “médecin” est très rarement utilisé dans la vie courante “un médecin” étant “un docteur” : “Elle a été ‘auscultée’ par un docteur après son accident et il ne lui a rien trouvé”. Ceci pour le français mauricien. Pour ce qui est du créole, le mot “médecin” n’existe pas (du moins je ne l’ai jamais entendu), un médecin étant “enn doktère”.

  11. Le «Doctor No», n’est-il pas un docteur ? Si.

  12. Pharmacies:

    I would say that a pharmacy in North America is essentially always embedded in some other location. In about 65% of cases, this is a drugstore, which primarily sells « personal-care items », which WP describes as « chapstick, colognes, cotton swabs, deodorant, eye liner, facial tissue, hair clippers, lipstick, lotion, makeup, mouthwash, nail files, pomade, perfumes, personal lubricant, razors, shampoo, talcum powder, shaving cream, skin cream, toilet paper, cleansing pads and wipes, lip gloss, toothbrushes, and toothpaste, to give a few [!] examples. » In 22% of cases, however, the embedding organization is a hospital; all drugs given to patients in or leaving the hospital are provided by the hospital’s pharmacy. The remaining pharmacies are mail-order or online; they are allowed to provide three month’s worth of a drug rather than only one month.

    In the U.S., pharmacists must have a Pharm.D. (a four-year second degree) and pass a licensing examination in pharmacy and also in pharmacy law, as well as some amount of supervised practice. Pharmacists not only dispense pills but give advice on how and when to take them. They also notify doctors in case of a conflict between medicines — it is amazing how many people fail to tell their doctors all the medicines that their other doctors give them. Pharmacists are not addressed as « Doctor ».

    Dr. No:

    In the novel, Dr. No did attend medical school, though it’s unclear whether he received a degree. In the film, he is a stereotype mad scientist, so evidently a Ph.D., possibly self-awarded.

  13. marie-lucie

    En France, « docteur » veut pratiquement toujours dire « médecin, et ce dernier mot est d’un style plus relevé que « docteur » dans l’usage courant. Si on veut dire que quelqu’un a un doctorat dans une autre matière que la médecine, on dira « Un(e) Tel(le) est docteur en pharmacie, ou en droit », pour citer des exemples typiques des professions libérales. Pour les universitaires on dira plutôt « X a un doctorat en physique » ou plus officiellement « … est titulaire d’un doctorat en littérature comparée », etc. On appelle les professeurs M. ou Mme, pas Docteur, sauf pour les professeurs de sciences médicales, qui sont médecins. (N’ayant pas d’animaux, je ne connais pas le milieu vétérinaire).

    Au Canada je crois qu’on hésite entre l’un et l’autre usage, selon l’origine des professeurs des divers départements. Je dois dire que je ne connais pas bien le milieu universitaire francophone du Canada.

  14. marie-lucie

    JC: The remaining pharmacies are mail-order or online; they are allowed to provide three month’s worth of a drug rather than only one month.

    Here in Canada (at least in Nova Scotia) you normally get 3 months’ worth of a long-term drug at a regular drugstore. In addition to the cost of the drug you pay a standard fee for filling the prescription, and this fee varies according to the drugstore or chain, so if you had to refill every month it could cost you a fair amount in the long run (in my city a study done a few years ago showed that this fee varied from $2 to $9 depending on the store!).

    A drugstore sells not only « personal care » items as reported above, and other everyday things like school supplies or socks or birthday cards, but also non-prescription items such as headache or cold medications, vitamins, eye drops, baby food, etc, which in other countries are also sold in pharmacies.

  15. Jamais un docteur français en autre chose qu’en médecine n’aurait l’idée de faire précéder son nom d’un Dr sur sa carte professionnelle, au contraire des Allemands ou des Anglais qui n’y manqueraient pas. Quant aux Italiens, ils vous donneront de toutes façons du « Dottore » dès qu’ils penseront que vous êtes capables de lire et d’écrire…

    J’ai découvert aussi qu’en Belgique, il était haabituel de signer Ir xxxx quand on a un diplôme d’ingénieur. Voire Pr Ir quand on enseigne à l’Université avec un diplôme d’ingénieur.

    Autre différence belge (par rapport à la France), les dentistes, qu’on n’appelle jamais Docteur, et les notaires, qu’on n’appellent pas Maître.

  16. >Aquinze
    Cher Docteur (oui, je le sais (LOL)),
    Chez nous c’est pareil* mais au Portugal on dit «doutor» même pour les licenciés et s’il est prof et docteur le titre de «professor doutor» sera devant son nom.

    * Si le docteur est ingénieur, la formule est «doctor ingeniero X». Pour le reste, «doctor Un Tel».
    P.S.
    Je me souviens que vous m’avez appris votre curieux pluriel «docteur es sciences».

  17. Siganus K.

    A.J.P.: There are lots of pharmacies in Britain, there just aren’t any chemists in the US.

    But in Britain do you find people (and pharmacies) that call themselves “chemist”? If yes, are they a majority compared to those who call themselves “pharmacist” (“pharmacy”)? If not, I’m left wondering why I had been taught at school that “pharmacien” is “chemist”.
     
     
    bibi : pour ce qui est du créole, le mot “médecin” n’existe pas

    Et j’ai l’impression que c’est à peu près la même chose en anglais. Dans la vie courante je ne vois pas quel autre mot que doctor peut être utilisé pour parler d’un médecin. Mon Harrap’s donne doctor, physician, mais je n’ai jamais entendu employer physician dans une conversation ordinaire, c’est-à-dire en dehors d’un cadre assez formel. (D’ailleurs, tous les exemples du Harrap’s pour le mot médecin font appaître doctor dans la version anglaise.) En revanche, general practitioner pour médecin généraliste me semble assez courant, notamment sous la forme abrégée GP.
     
     
    Aquinze : J’ai découvert aussi qu’en Belgique, il était habituel de signer Ir xxxx quand on a un diplôme d’ingénieur.

    Et est-ce qu’en Belgique le titre d’ingénieur est aussi réglementé qu’en France ou en Allemagne, ou est-ce plutôt comme en Grande-Bretagne où il suffit d’avoir un BEng ou un BSc pour être ingénieur ? (Mais où, pour pouvoir exercer en libéral, il convient en principe de devenir ultérieurement membre de certaines organisations, lesquelles examinent vos compétences, ce qui vous permet de mettre une kyrielle de lettres à la suite de votre nom et peut faire un effet bœuf sur le profane, e.g. Dr Siganus K. Sutor MBE BSc PhD CEng FIStructE MICE MCIWEM.)

  18. Chemist is the more common name in Britain. There is a notorious story that you occasionally hear that in the old days in England it was only possible to buy olive oil at a chemist’s shop. Well, it’s true.

    The Norwegians don’t call anyone doctor, not even physicians. Well, they do, but not always. They hate the idea that one person is acting like they’re better than everybody else. They have almost abolished using Mr Mrs & Miss too, they just call people they don’t know well by their last names. On the other hand, there is a tradition of putting your trade in front of your last name, for example I might ring someone (in connection with work) and say « Hi, this is architect Crown calling… » It’s very common amongst people with certain skills, plumbers, dentists, electricians, engineers, the other day I saw « Plasterer Olsen », but not others: you wouldn’t call yourself Librarian Petersen or Taxi-driver Bråten.

  19. marie-lucie

    votre curieux pluriel «docteur es sciences»

    Ce n’est pas seulement pour le titre de docteur, mais pour d’autres diplômes datant du Moyen Age: licence-ès-lettres, doctorat-ès-sciences. Le « ès » est un vieux mot, la contraction de « en les », et ni l’un ni l’autre ne s’emploient plus, sauf pour ces diplômes (si le mot désignant la spécialité est au singulier, on dit simplement « en », p.ex. docteur en droit ou en médecine).

    physician

    Ce mot peut s’employer en anglais (comme vient de le faire AJP), mais dans un contexte assez formel, par exemple dans une notice de médicament: if symptoms continue after a week, consult your physician. S’il y a un accident, par exemple, un médecin se trouvant sur les lieux pourrait dire Let me look at him, I am a physician, pour insister sur ses qualifications en l’occurrence. Mais ce n’est pas le mot le plus courant.

  20. Siganus K.

    AJP: Chemist is the more common name in Britain.

    Okay, noted. In this case our teacher wasn’t totally à côté de la plaque.
     
     
    AJP again: « Hi, this is architect Crown calling… »

    You might remember what was said on Language Hat on December 20, 2008 12:21 AM:

    Some time ago I met an Indian architect who had just been employed by a Mauritian agency. I didn’t get his name the first time he said it. Later, I apologised before asking him again about his name. He said something that my dumb self didn’t pick once again. When he repeated the same thing for the third time, I finally understood that his name was “Architect Jug Gokool”. One might think that this was a funny first name indeed — though it would have been funnier if he had been Christian since “Architect” would then have to be considered a ‘Christian name’ —, but even if he didn’t have that a strong Indian accent I just couldn’t understand what the first part of his name could be.

  21. General practice has been obsolete in North America for many decades, so the abbreviation GP is pretty well forgotten here, though still current in the U.K. WhenAmericans « go to the doctor » for something routine, they generally see either an internist, a specialist in internal medicine, or a family practitioner, which is a hybrid between an internist and a pediatrician. Both these terms are technical, however, and not used by ordinary people who are neither doctors nor word-nerds.

    Certainly in direct address « Doctor », either plain or with surname, is the only possible form in English, and it works for dentists, podiatrists, chiropractors, therapists who are not psychiatrists but have Ph.D.s in clinical psychology, and so on. I call my dentist Charlie, but then I have known him for more than thirty years.

    Furthermore, in my family it is common to refer to doctors (but not where they can hear), as Dr. + initial of surname, as Dr. H., Dr. U., etc. This is of course especially true for those with cumbersome surnames — Dr. H. is named Hryhorovych, and Dr. U.’s name, which is Indian, escapes me entirely.

  22. A. J. P. Crown

    Dentists in Britain, like top surgeons, always used to be known as « Mr », though I think that a lot of British dentists are known as « Dr » these days. The surgeon thing supposedly had to do with surgeons having been barbers, rather than medical practitioners, in the old days. On the staff of a hospital in Britain, being « Mr Kildare » was a lot bigger a deal than being « Dr Kildare » (both would been awarded medical doctorates).

  23. A. J. P. Crown

    There is a full discussion of the Mr/Dr thing, particularly in the angry letters that followed the article, in the British Medical Journal here.

  24. marie-lucie

    JC: In Canada many doctors are known as « general practitioners » or « family physicians ».

  25. The surgeon thing supposedly had to do with surgeons having been barbers, rather than medical practitioners, in the old days.

    Si l’on en croit les romans d’O Brian (« the Aubrey-Maturin series »), le fait d’avoir un vrai docteur (Stephen Maturin) à bord, et non un simple surgeon, est une source d’immense fierté pour les équipages des bâtiments successivement commandés par Jack Aubrey.

    Il est étonnant que la tendance se soit ainsi inversée, et qu’un chirurgien soit aujourd’hui considéré avec plus de révérence qu’un « simple » docteur…

    Ce qui nous renvoie, peut-être, à une discussion précédente sur le vieux mot de physic et son descendant physician : au fond, un « surgeon » n’agissait (n’agit ????) que mécaniquement, coupant par-ci, enlevant par-là ce qui n’est plus en état de marche, tandis que le « physician » était, véritablement, capable de « réparer », parce qu’il avait une connaissance intime du mécanisme défaillant… (Parenthèse personnelle : j’ai le souvenir d’un chirurgien décidant d’ « ouvrir pour voir », parce qu’on ne trouvait aucune cause claire à de terribles maux de ventre sans aucun autre symptôme. Tant que c’était ouvert, il a enlevé l’appendice mais le lendemain, quand je l’ai revu, il paraissait vraiment sceptique sur l’utilité de cette ablation… Heureusement, les maux de ventre ont disparu.)

  26. Yes, doctors are more inscrutable. You know where you stand with a surgeon – unless she cuts your leg off.

  27. Siganus K.

    AJP, the British Medical Journal article you linked to requires registration.
    [Why are (male) surgeons still addressed as Mr?
    Loudon BMJ.2000; 321: 1589-1591]
    Either you copy-paste some juicy passages here, or we will be left to guess what could have been said.
     
     
    Aquinze : j’ai le souvenir d’un chirurgien décidant d’ « ouvrir pour voir

    Cela me rappelle ce copain dont une belle-sœur était morte du cancer. Le médecin (mauricien) avait décidé de faire ce qu’il avait appelé a laparotomy, of which he talked with a lot of contempt.

    In any case, we shoemakers don’t fray with surgeons.

  28. > Aquinze, Siganus:
    je mettrai un petit bémol à vos propos sur la chirurgie « pour voir « . La laparotomie exploratrice est encore un acte chirurgical rendu quelquefois nécessaire car tous les autres examens n’ont permis ni diagnostic précis ni traitement. Heureusement, les nouvelles techniques d’imagerie médicale (échographie, endoscopie, IRM, scanner, etc) réduisent de plus en plus le nombre de cas dans lesquels on doit « ouvrir pour voir ».

  29. A. J. P. Crown

    DEAR SIR – I WOULD BE GRATEFUL IF I COULD BE ALLOWED TO MAKE A FEW COMMENTS REGARDING THIS ARTICLE.

    FIRSTLY THERE IS NO MENTION OF THE FACT THAT BEING AWARDED THE STATUS OF ‘ MR ‘ STILL INVOLVES PASSING A COMPLICATED SERIES OF EXAMINATIONS BOTH THEORETICAL AND CLINICAL AND SO IMPLIES AN ACCUMULATION OF A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF KNOWLEDGE AND SKILLS.

    SECONDLY THE PARAGRAPH REGARDING ‘DR JOHN JONES’ WHO INSISTS ON BEING CALLED MR. MAKES NO SENSE AT ALL .THERE ARE FEW HOUSE SURGEONS WHO POSSESS A HIGHER SURGICAL QUALIFICATION.

    THIRDLY THIS ARTICLE IS PORTRAYED AS AN HISTORICAL REVIEW AND I THINK IT SHOULD IT SHOULD BE CONSTRAINED AS SUCH .THE LAST PARAGRAPH REVEALS THE AUTHORS BIASED OPINION IN A WAY THAT IS OUT OF PLACE IN A HISTORICAL ARTICLE.

    DOUGLAS W G KENNEDY FRCSEd (MR)

    Reference; 1.Why are (male) surgeons still addressed as Mr? LOUDEN I . BMJ 2000 ; 321 : 1589-91

    Dear Mr Kennedy – Many thanks for your comments on my article on calling surgeons ‘Mr’. You make three points.

    In answer to the first, doctors in other specialties such as those I list also have passed complicated examinations and have a certain amount, indeed usually a great deal of knowledge and skills, just like surgeons, but are content to be addressed as ‘Dr’. Moreover, and I did not know this when I wrote the paper, it appears that in Edinburgh and Glasgow, certain surgeons, especially ENT, ophthalmic surgeons and obstetrician gynaecologists are often addressed routinely as Dr and nor Mr. Indeed it is implied by some of my correspondents that only those with an FRCS (England) are likely to insist on being called Mr, not those with and Edinburgh or Glasgow FRCS. This information comes from one e- mail posted on Rapid Responses and two personal letters. Have you any knowledge of this, since you yourself are an FRCS (Ed)?

    As to the second point, I have also been informed that in some hospitals house-surgeons were always addressed as Mr, even though they were a long way off possessing an FRCS. It was something about which I was uncertain, and my own experience of house jobs was as I stated in the article.

    As to your third point, my paper was wholly historical since, as people often say, history comes up to yesterday. I was pointing out that surgery was now very much a matter of teamwork by specialists all with special skills and none of them claiming that they were the superior members of the team who were entitled to a special form of address. Surely the point I made, that the custom of addressing surgeons as Mr might now be considered obsolete, was a reasonable question rather than a biased opinion.

    Irvine Loudon DM (Oxon) (Dr)

    EDITOR – Irvine Loudon, in his Christmas article on the form of surgical address, writes from the dreaming spires of Oxford and, despite his Christian name and patronymic, pays no heed to the historical origins in Scotland.

    The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh was founded in 1505. In the 16th Century apprentices to the craft, who served their time and who qualified by examination, were entitled to the address of Master or Masters, in Scots Yea Masteris.

    In the 17tth Century in the ancient Scottish Universities the doctorate of medicine was given or purchased by one who was learned in medicine, but per se did not carry any licence to practice the Art. Indeed Anatomy and Botany were often read in the Faculty of Arts. The Medical Faculty of the University of Edinburgh was founded in 1726 and only then was the degree associated with the right to practice. He is quite correct that all surgeons, be they men or women, accept the long established courtesy of Mr or Miss. There is an interesting anomaly between England and Scotland to which he does not refer, inasmuch as the consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology is titled as Mr in England but remains Dr in Scotland. There is also an European aspect; In Europe the title Dr in no way implies the practice of medicine, surgery or dentistry. For example in Germany and Austria you may well have a Doctor of Engineering or a Master of Pharmacy.

    The Americans may well be puzzled by our customs, but many believe that there is a place for tradition in our usage, even though apprenticeship in the operating theatre is being replaced by the developing skills laboratories. Tradition carries with it a loyalty to standards. The use of the phrase « a pretentious anachronism » rather suggests that the author is indulging in the current fashion of dumbing down.

    Gordon H D McNaught
    Honorary Consultant Surgeon, Hartlepool.

    Please cut it out, Mr. Bean 9 March 2001

    Byron Zandoli,
    yes
    EU (Germany)
    Send response to journal:
    Re: Please cut it out, Mr. Bean

    Dear erudite sirs and madams (and doctors and misters and misses without knighthoods),

    The diagnosis here is snobbery amongst equals (within the same bounds of the normal distribution curve of intelligence for those with a medical degree).

    If some Anglo-Saxon surgeons insist on being distinguished from their medical colleagues by a title based on the different Origin of Species 3 centuries ago, then why not create a title for these bloody occupations of the period – surgery and cephalo-cervical hair-removal e.g. Cutter as in Cutter Smith MRCS.

    Also, the « mere » physicians seem concerned that the surgeons have overtaken them in the lay-man’s ranking of the professions. But do I detect snobbery vis-a-vis the doctor of statistics mentioned in the cancer patient example? (not even medically qualified). Is he impersonating a « real doctor » by carrying his title?

    As rightly stated, the Dr. was a title (originating in German universities) from latin docere and reserved for those « entitled » to teach at the institution. How far removed is the Doktor of Politik from the GP in the UK today?

    Finally, Germany, and moreso Austria, is also wasting productive resources upholding « traditions » such as the full academic title e.g. Prof. Dr.med. Dr.rer.nat, Dr.h.c. Müller, for a non-insignificant proportion of the population. As economic prosperity spawns titles (more people study and longer), title-neurosis evolves to distance those of us with one from the rest of the economic middle-class. Or so we perceive it, but can anachronisms justify this behaviour in front of patients?

    As an American physician, I was initially amused and entertained to read « Why are (male) surgeons still addressed as Mr? » (Irvine Loudon, BMJ 2000; 321: 1589-159).

    However, the letter from Douglas Kennedy (“Mr.” KENNEDY) made me realize this is no laughing matter: Unless that letter was intended as a parody, this gentleman appears to take himself far too seriously. He apparently believes this name game is important, and that he somehow deserves a higher status for whatever he may have once accomplished whenever he took his exams. I’m glad that MR. KENNEDY studied hard, gained valuable skills and took his exams, but if he and others believe they deserve some special personal status for this, I am sorry and embarrassed for our profession.

    I thought the reason we studied in medical school, worked so hard during our postgraduate training, and took our exams was to be able to serve our patients well. The knowledge and skills I have are for their benefit, not mine.

    In the decades since my formal medical training, I have, I hope, continued to build upon that initial foundation–questioning, reading, and learning from my patients, from my colleagues, and from the world of recent scientific, medical, and anthropologic research far more than what I had initially learned to pass both my boards. But I have no new title, no fancy mark of status to mark that continued learning and hard work– only a few wisps of grey hair and I hope a little humility.

    MR. KENNEDY’s misplaced sense of self-importance suggests a severe lack of perspective about his actual personal importance to the other 6 billion of us on this planet, and about surgery’s relative contribution to human civilization– compared, for example, to the human body’s own homeostatic capabilities, to the accomplishments of public health, to the joys of music or poetry, to the tradition of law, to good food shared with good friends, or to the loving mothering of a child.

    The skill with which MR KENNEDY cuts into the bodies of those few people on this earth who become his patients may be quite laudatory. But is that skill matched by an equal skill in negotiating the ordinary life of a human being– touching with care and with respect the souls of those individuals who are his patients, his family, his staff, his colleagues, his students, his community?

    Can the concern for personal title and professional status coexist with a mature adult’s respect for the humanity of others?

    Christina M. Smillie (AB, MD, FAAP, IBCLC)

    Irvine Loudon,
    Medical Historian
    The Mill House, Wantage, Oxon OX12 9EH
    Send response to journal:
    Re: It was more complicated than I thought

    When I wrote my paper ‘Why are (male) surgeons still addressed as Mr?’, I was simply concerned with the history of this odd convention in the UK. I have, however, gathered some very interesting comments from the ‘rapid responses’ columns and especially from personal communications.

    A couple of surgeons were indignant at any suggestion of abandoning Mr, but rather more felt the convention was looking threadbare. One surgeon suggested ‘Mr’ was derived from Master; i.e. that surgeons were Masters of their craft, and Master was shortened to Mr. A nice idea, but there is little historical evidence to support it. What surprised me most was the regional variations in the UK. In Scotland, apparently, gynaecologists and ophthalmologists are often if not always addressed as Dr. So were gynaecologists in Manchester in the 1930s, including the first President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

    Spreading the subject more widely, a male nurse asked how he should be addressed if he rose to the rank of Ward Sister, and a non-medical possessor of a D.Phil protested vigorously against the arrogance of medical practitioners who used the title Dr when they possessed no more than a bachelor degrees such as MB BS. Only people who held doctorates (MD, DM, DPhil, Ph.D, D.Sc) were entitled to be addressed as Dr. Another took the opposite view and said that ‘Dr’ should be confined to medical practitioners. One correspondent asked whether medical practitioners who possessed a doctorate (or two doctorates) should be addressed as Dr.Dr. I think, or at any rate hope he was not serious, but I was in general surprised how worked up people could get about such matters.

    International differences were most interesting. There was universal praise (from British as well as American correspondents) for the USA where every medical practitioner is addressed as Dr, regardless of specialty, and clinical Professors are (apparently) not addressed as ‘Professor’ by their patients or colleagues but simply as Dr. Although there may be more professors per cubic metre of academia in the USA than the UK, the American system seems to me both simple and admirable.

    However, the UK is not alone. In France, or so I have been informed, some surgeons prefer to be addressed as Mr or (presumably) Monsieur. But it is Germany where things are really complicated. German students can qualify as medical practitioners without an MD, and are addressed as Mr Mrs or Miss. But the absence of a doctorate is regarded as such a disadvantage that most students struggle desperately to gain an MD which allows them to be addressed as Dr.med. Incidentally, medical practitioners cannot obtain a Ph.D/D.Phil./D.Sc in a medical subject as these are reserved as higher degrees in every subject apart from medicine. To climb further up the medical academic ladder, German doctors have to undergo the process of ‘habilitation’ which involves, amongst other things, having published about twenty research papers in refereed journals. If successful, such doctors will obtain the title Dr.med.habil. and usually the title Privatdozent (PD). At the top level of the medical hierarchy is a series of professorship with different pay scales. These include associated professors and C3 and C4 professors. At university hospitals, only C4 professors are usually entitled to have private patients and some of them still earn as much as two to three million pounds sterling a year.(1) Compared with Germany, our system, even with the convention of ‘mistering’ surgeons, is simple.

    What are we to make of all this? It would be easy to dismiss the complexities as no more than vanities or conceits which have evolved during historical struggles for power within different medical systems. However, where the qualifications and letters after a doctor’s name are linked to wide differences in status and income, complexities are likely to persist.

    And what about the male nurse who rises to the rank of Sister? Why not address him as ‘Brother’? It has a nice monastic ring to it.

    1. Personal communication, Dr David Groneberg of Humbolt-University Berlin. I am most grateful for his explanation of the German situation in academic medicine, although I am far from sure I understand it fully

    David Hughes, retired.

    I suppose this question has surfaced because if men are called « Mr », what do we call a female surgeon? Mrs perhaps? Or Miss? Or even the rather dubious Ms?

    But another relevant question is: why are male midwives referred to as wives? Should they not be mid-husbands?

  30. A. J. P. Crown

    The original article was by « Irvine Loudon, Medical Historian ».

    I’m sorry I haven’t separated the different comment letters more clearly, though the first commenter, WHO USES CAPITALS is clear enough.

  31. A. J. P. Crown

    Oh, and that was just the juicy bits. There were lots more comments.

  32. Midwife is etymologically the person who is ‘with the woman’ during labor; his or her gender is not at issue.

  33. marie-lucie

    JC, even though mid in midwife does mean ‘with’, the word does not mean ‘with the woman’ any more than by-law means ‘by the law’. For millennia the person assisting a woman in childbirth was another woman, and it was only with the growth of medicine that men commonly became involved in managing childbirth (sometimes with disastrous consequences, before hygienic practices were instituted). Nowadays, men can be midwives, just as they can be nurses, but it is not irrelevant historically that wife originally meant ‘adult, full-grown, etc woman’. Such a mature and experienced woman was needed to assist another woman in childbirth.

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