For example, doctor. I have had lots of conversations over the years with various friends of mine who hold or are studying for doctorates at university. The consensus amongst these guys is that if you have a PhD (or equivalent), you are allowed to use the title "Dr" in place of "Mr" or "Ms".
Honorary doctorates do not count.
You may also do so if you are a practising doctor, dentist or veterinarian. Note the word practising.
In Australia, you generally may become one of these without a doctorate - normally to be a doctor, you need to have a double bachelor degree in medicine and surgery, or MB, BS. A vet requires a Bachelor of Veterinary Science (BVSc) and a dentist requires a Bachelor of Dental Science (BDSc). This may change in the future if the University of Melbourne's new model gains traction.
"Proper" doctors with PhDs get a bit flustered about this, and consider that "Dr" is a professional title only for doctors, dentists and vets. Consequently, once your average doctor gets into his BMW X5 and drives out of the surgery for the day, their right to use the "Dr" title in place of "Mr" or "Ms" vanishes in a cloud of exhaust fumes as they rush off to Huntingdale for nine holes before the light disappears for the day.
It then becomes somewhat frustrating when federal Minister of Defence Brendan Nelson, (whose highest degrees are his MB and BS) insists on calling himself "Dr Nelson", even though he's a proud, practising politician who hasn't been near a surgery in over ten years.
The law itself is actually quite grey on this, however, it is interesting that if you're a citizen of note and you use the title "Doctor" without being a doctor, dentist or vet, or you don't have a PhD (or equivalent) from an accredited university or other institution, you are going to get the shit-canning of a lifetime by the media when they find out.
Happily, doctors of chiropractic and naturopathy are viewed with some suspicion by the media as well, despite the fact that chiropractors and naturopaths quite often have "doctorates" from accredited institutions.
Anyway, looking at other titles, the rules are often a little more cut and dried.
Reverend is not a "title".
It is what is referred to as a "style".
Ministers of religion amongst Christian churches (mostly protestant) may be referred to as "The Reverend" this or that, and this appears to be universal.
Other styles include:
- "The Honourable..." - in Australia, this is reserved for Justices of the High, Federal and Family Courts, as well as the Supreme Courts of the states. It also may be used by some Members of Parliament, provided that they have sat on an Executive Council at some stage.
- "The Right Honourable..." - this is reserved in Australia for Lord Mayors only. Normal mayors only get the style "His/Her Worship..."
- "His/Her Excellency..." - this is reserved for the current Governor-General. Past Governors-General don't appear to get squat.
- "His/Her Worship..." - mayors, magistrates, some councillors, and Justices of the Peace.
But "Reverend" is an interesting one. It generally appears to be used as a title these days, thanks to misuse in the States and the far-reaching influence of The Simpsons. It's as pompous as hell to boot - insisting that people use this title when addressing you formally is like saying, "Revere me! I demand your adulation!"
Having just received my certificate of ordination from the Universal Life Church of Modesto, California, I wish to point out that this blogger is not above this kind of pomposity.
The Universal Life Church is a "religious" organisation that just offers ordination. Anyone can do it - all you need to do is to enter your details into a form on their website, and after "checking by a human" you're in. Theists are accepted. Agnostics and atheists, too.
Happily, this also means that I can officiate at funerals, naming ceremonies and "commitment ceremonies". Apparently in some states of the USA, I can even do weddings. I can't in Australia, though. Only celebrants registered with the federal Attorney-General's office may do these here, and this includes clergy.
You betcha. I'm ringing everyone tomorrow and getting my title changed on all my incoming correspondence from everywhere. I am, after all, a pompous hypocrite.
Special thanks to the Rev Jenner J Hull of the most excellent Church of the Everlasting Groove for putting me on to this.