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Big question: to Er. or not

worked on adobe illustration

worked on adobe illustration  

Honorifics unlimited seems to be the order of the day

Adding the contracted form of one’s profession to one’s name, its usefulness and misuse, need to be examined. The tribe is multiplying exponentially. This is no trifle topic. In most instances it only confuses, serving no practical purpose whatsoever. The way things go we will soon have a profusion of prefixes necessitating government intervention.

Traditionally, appending the letters ‘Dr.’ arose from a practical expediency – to quickly locate a medical practitioner. The name is customarily followed by the highest degree obtained, specialisations and professional affiliations, intending to suitably guide a patient. Another time-honoured practice has been to attach the letters Fr. / Sr. to members of the Christian clergy, again with practical implications – to separate the clergy from the laity. Then we have the letters Mr., Mrs., Miss, Ms., traditionally identifying a person’s gender, in particular amongst women to proclaim their marital status or to maintain ambiguity. It is routine for military staff to attach their rank before their names and also retain the rank post-retirement.

Indiscriminate use

It was all fine, until people started using ‘Dr.’ indiscriminately, defeating its original intent and purpose. Traditionally, a PhD (doctor of philosophy) is the highest degree awarded by a graduate school for original research work in any subject, except medicine, law and theology. A person holding this degree is eligible to prefix Dr. to their name but social courtesy and responsibility demands that the letters PhD follow the name.

What happens as the list grows? You have lawyers prefixing Adv. to their names, chartered accountants with CA, company secretaries with CS, engineers with Er., architects with Ar., lately even valuers/appraiser with Vr., prefixed to names.

Our vast land is known for its spirit of tolerance, accommodating all and sundry. We have wayside palmists and magicians calling themselves professors. We can dismiss these as merely ways to attract people to earn their daily bread and butter. Visualise what happens when groups of people organise and adopt this tactic to draw attention to or advertise their profession.

This phenomenon is widespread in the Indian subcontinent and rapidly proliferating with the Indian diaspora. Perchance it brings with it a sense of exclusive camaraderie, or is it the modern avatar of the ancient varna system, hopefully bereft of its traditional ramifications.

God save us from this viral crowd.

gopi54@gmail.com

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Printable version | May 22, 2020 2:45:11 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/big-question-to-er-or-not/article19897537.ece

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