Mode of address

I stepped into the elevator at school for the ride up to the eighth floor. There were four women already in the elevator, and they were discussing how to address a professor in an email. Since I had just re-read Thomas Horen's "Hallöchen, Herr Professor!" article, I perked up my ears.

"I just write 'Hallo'," one woman said, "you never know if they are Dr. or Prof. or what." "Oh no," said the next one, "I always use both, they seem to like it." I couldn't help it, I had to join in (I hear the peanut gallery hooting: you can never shut your trap, can you?).

"Oh," I said, "I do rather like the titles, but the most important thing is having my name spelled right." They all nodded agreement. "But you should always look up the title and use it correctly, especially if you are writing to a male professor." They were very much in agreement with that!

Today in the lab I tried to explain to the young students how I want to be addressed: "Dr. X-Y" will do just fine. I am not "Miss X-Y", as my Dad's name was X, not X-Y. I am not "Mrs. X-Y", cause my husband's name is Y, not X-Y. And anyway, "Dr." does sound rather fancy, doesn't it?

Of course, some special students and the students participating in chats with me and the ones who do thesis projects with me can use my first name nickname. By that time they have realized who I am, and we can dispense with the formalities.

I must admit to still looking around, though, when being formally addressed: Do you mean me?

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