Have you read the latest piece of anti-intellectualism to come out of the LATimes? Apparently, their so-called journalists are showing their ignorance by stating that Jill Biden, who earned her PhD in Education — and who also happens to be the wife of
Senator Vice President Joe Biden — cannot be referred to as “Doctor Biden”. What have they been smoking??
“My feeling is if you can’t heal the sick, we don’t call you doctor,” said Bill Walsh, copy desk chief for the Washington Post‘s A section and the author of two language books. (He apparently agrees with the LATimes’ stupidity, because they cite him).
LATimes journalists and editors, especially Robin Abcarian, and also Bill Walsh: I am shocked at your astounding lack of background in the history and etymology of commonly used words in your own language, and I am offended that you are helping to define industry standards when you have such an obvious and demonstrably poor knowledge. Either that, or you are willfully misleading the public.
Since you seem to have forgotten about these things, let me remind you: after abandoning medieval thievery and tortures such as prayer, bleeding, and snake oil, medical practitioners took on the honorific “Medical Doctor” to signify that they had escaped from the grip of Hippocratic dogma and had finally arrived as members of the reality-based community who rely upon scientifically-based information to do their jobs. (Interestingly, a quick look into Finnish, which I am attempting to learn, reveals that the word for doctor, lääkäri, originated from the Finnish for “leech.” Hrm, where do you suppose that association came from?)
But even though you are American journalists, you should be blatantly aware of word etymology, but since you aren’t, let me fill in more of the blanks for you. Long long ago (in the early Paleozoic), Islamic law awarded the first Ph.D. degrees in the 9th century; a “Doctor of Laws” degree. Then in the middle ages (shortly after the extinction of the dinosaurs), the Ph.D. or Doctor of Philosophy degree (Latin; philosophiæ doctor, meaning “teacher of philosophy”) was expanded to include all fields of scholarship except theology, law and .. medicine. Let me repeat this in tiny words for the journalists in the crowd: the Ph.D. became THE most advanced academic degree awarded by the vast majority of the English-speaking world and it is required for those Doctors pursuing a career as a university professor or researcher in most scholarly, academic or scientific fields. By comparison, medical practitioners been known as “doctors” only very recently.
Those whose career it is to heal sick people using accepted medical practices are known as medical doctors, or as physicians, got it? So the take home lesson here is that Jill Biden’s proper title is Doctor Biden. Any journalist who takes pride in their professionalism, in communicating with the public using standard English understands this simple fact.
Even more to the point: neither “Dr. Henry Kissinger” nor “Dr. Condoleezza Rice” had (have) a medical degree, yet this is how they are often referred to in the media. What gives?