Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Columnist

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Columnist

Article excerpt

Byline: KEITH HANN

TYPE the words "English obsession with ..." into Google and its top suggestions are class, tea, weather and Germany.

At the apex of our class structure is the Queen, and below her the various ranks of those with noble titles. These may be held by right or by courtesy, like those of the select band of Ladies who are the daughters of dukes, marquesses and earls, and the many more who are the wives of peers, baronets and knights.

Only the former, pedants like me delight in pointing out, may properly use their Christian names in conjunction with their titles, like the fictional Lady Mary Crawley of Downton Abbey.

The principle of the courtesy title is well established in medicine, too, where the vast majority of the people we call "doctor" do not actually hold such a qualification, but are mere Bachelors of Medicine and Surgery.

While those who progress up the career ladder to become consultant surgeons confusingly promote themselves to "Mr".

I could have been a doctor myself if only I had had the stamina to complete the PhD on World War II I began in 1976. As I might have done if there had not been a particularly good pub adjacent to the Public Record Office in Kew.

Flogging back to Cambridge after a hard day wrestling with three pints of Young's Bitter and a steak pie, I used to compare notes with my flatmate, who was completing the long course to qualify as a veterinary surgeon.

Meeting him again at his eldest son's wedding on Saturday, I was surprised to find that he has suddenly metamorphosed into a doctor.

As have all UK vets who feel so inclined as of March 6 this year when, following a public consultation, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons ruled that its members could adopt the title if they wished.

Bringing them into line with vets in other parts of the EU and elsewhere in the world.

Similar arguments about international equity have apparently allowed British dentists to call themselves doctor since 1995, though they have yet to allay all the concerns of the Advertising Standards Authority.

Mrs Hann was quick off the mark with her congratulations, asserting her long-held belief that vets are far cleverer than doctors since their patients can't explain what ails them. …

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