Friday, 14 March 2008

Academics, titles, Germans, and Nazis (oh my!)

Tyler Cowen notes a recently-changed German law (previously shared over on the right and also noted by James Joyner) that made it illegal for anyone with a doctorate from a non-E.U. university to call themselves a doctor.

As someone who’s discussed academic titles excessively in the past, I found this turn of events somewhat interesting, but I found this part of the original WaPo piece more noteworthy:

Under a little-known Nazi-era law, only people who earn PhDs or medical degrees in Germany are allowed to use “Dr.” as a courtesy title.

The law was modified in 2001 to extend the privilege to degree-holders from any country in the European Union. But docs from the United States and anywhere else outside Europe are still forbidden to use the honorific. Violators can face a year behind bars. ...

The German doctor rule has been in effect since the 1930s, but it has been only sporadically enforced in recent years.

That changed last fall, when an anonymous tipster filed a complaint with federal prosecutors against seven Americans at the prestigious Max Planck Society, which operates 80 scientific research institutes across Germany. Federal authorities forwarded the complaint to prosecutors and police in at least three states, who decided to take action.

Shouldn’t all of the laws passed under Nazi rule have been repealed anyway, either during the postwar occupation or the subsequent transfer of sovereignty to the Federal Republic in the west? One wonders what other oddities emanating from Hitler’s Reichstag are lurking in modern German law.

Sunday, 5 March 2006

Titular thoughts

In the blogosphere, any old conversation can become new again; the case in point is Eszter Hargittai’s post on the various and sundry titles used to refer to her (þ: Daniel Drezner).

I’ve said my piece on this before—indeed, over time, I’ve become rather more enamored of the title “doctor,” perhaps because (a) I won’t actually lose that title in May—unlike “professor,” which will go on haitus until at least August, and perhaps permanently—and (b) I continue to spend time in the South, where people with doctorates are typically so-addressed.