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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Germany's Obsession with Titles

Recently, I saw a poster on campus for a lecture called Warum ich als Wissenschaftler der Bibel glaube (Why I believe the bible as a scientist). However, it was not topic that caught my attention. Rather, it was the man's name.

Here is a picture of the bottom half of the poster:

The name of the man who is giving the lecture is "Dir. U. Prof. A. D. Dr. Werner Gitt." His titles take up more space on the poster than his actual name! What the heck do these letters even mean?!

Well, let's take a look...

Dir. = Director
U. = Und (and - why is this necessary!?)
Prof. = Professor
A. D. = Außer Dienst (meaning that he doesn't currently work as a professor)
Dr. = Doctor

Really?! Are all of those letters really necessary? Do we need to tell the world our entire life stories via letters before our names? I mean, after all of that, I feel like I certainly do not need to see this man's resume. I already know his entire academic background: He got a PhD, worked as a professor, stopped working as a professor to become the director (of a university, I suppose?), and now he goes around giving speeches about why he believes the bible. Got it.

Coincidentally, I got an email invitation just a few days later to another lecture, but this time given by a woman. Her name was listed as:

Frau Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Eveline Goodman

Although not quite as long as Gitt's, it is the fact that Dr. is written two times here that really confused me. So, let's take a look at what this one means:

Frau = Mrs. (it kills me that Germans write this before "Dr." or "Prof." -- could you imagine going to the doctor and saying "Hi Mr. Dr. Smith!"? The Germans actually do that!)
Prof. = Professor
Dr. = Doctor
Dr. h.c.= Doctor honoris causa, which is an honorary doctor title

So, although it is not quite as telling as the man above's, Frau Goodman's title still gives us an insight into her academic and professional background. Curious about the honorary title, I looked up her Wikipedia page, which says that she was an Austrian Jew that survived the holocaust by fleeing to the Netherlands and went on to become the first female Rabbi in Austria. Amazing! But still, that is one long string of letters in front of her name.

What do you think about all these titles? Are they necessary?


  1. Gotta love the Germans and their love for being precise. :)

  2. That is the most insane title I have ever seen. Love it. I remember a story about flat hunting and people saying that you should put every title you have as you are more likely to get a flat (too bad I don't have a title).

  3. Hahah, definitely. While the titles did surprise me at first, I realized that it fits to the overall professional German culture perfectly! Of course they would have titles like this!

  4. Oh, come on. You can at least throw a B.Sc. or B.A. after your name!

  5. Ohhhh I definitely don't miss having to address my professors with Dear "Herr Prof. Dr. Mueller" in emails.... in Norway you can just call your professors by their names and writing "Dear Tom" is just so much easier :D

  6. To be honest, I always just write "Herr Müller" and ignore the rest. Is that bad? Or, if I am writing in English, I just write "Prof. Müller" like I would in the U.S. Germans probably think I am weird when I do that one. Oh well...


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