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Dear Richard Madeley: My PhD husband insists on being called Doctor – it’s pompous and annoying

'The problem is that he keeps being mistaken for a medical doctor and more or less having to apologise for the state of the NHS'
'The problem is that he keeps being mistaken for a medical doctor and more or less having to apologise for the state of the NHS' - Ron Number

Dear Richard,

My husband is a historian and he has finally been awarded his doctorate after years of hard work. He then lost no time in updating his title on bank accounts and utility bills. It seems a little pompous to me but it’s his call, and I’m very pleased for him, of course.

The problem is that he keeps being mistaken for a medical doctor and more or less having to apologise for the state of the NHS, or his failure to have anything useful to say about people’s thyroid and so on. When he says he has a PhD people often don’t know what to make of it. It seems obvious to me that he should stop using the title, but when I suggested this he got very cross. But what’s the point in using a title, outside work at least, that brings nothing but misunderstanding (and at times actual hostility)?

— M, via telegraph.co.uk

Dear M,

What do I think? I think it’s his problem, not yours. Why should you care if his ego and pride in this new title of his occasionally lead him into choppy waters? It’s not you who’s under attack too, is it? (At least I assume not – you don’t say so.) It’s just him. And presumably he’s big enough and old enough to take care of himself.

As it happens, I agree with you. I myself am a Doctor of Letters (honorary) and have proudly framed my university certificate and stuck it up on our dining-room wall. That’s purely for personal gratification, and almost as a private joke. But even if I weren’t better known in the outside word as a television presenter, I still don’t think I’d use the title. And if I did, and it drew the kind of flak your husband is getting, I’d definitely stop.

My advice is to let him get on with it. He worked hard for his doctorate (as I say, mine’s honorary) and deserves it, so it’s really up to him where and when he displays it. Try and see the funny side to these occasional misapprehensions about the kind of doctor he is.

Next time someone berates him for the state of the NHS, or the junior doctors’ strikes, or their thyroid problems, cheerfully join in. Say something like:

‘I know, I know. He’s useless. He can’t even cure my corns.’

You can find more of Richard Madeley’s advice here or submit your own dilemma below.

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