I have a new pet peeve that is annoying. It kinda started last year but I’ve seen enough of it to raise it to the status of “pet peeve”.

Last year, I took an undergrad com sci course. Part of the course tools was an on-line discussion board. It’s a useful place to post questions, discuss homework, and communicate with classmates and the lecturer.

More than once, students were referring to the lecturer as “Proff. SoAndSo”. This went on several times through the semester and more than one student did it. Let me point out what’s wrong with calling the lecturer Proff.

First, the formal abbreviation (at least to me) of Professor is Prof. Where the hell one gets an extra “F” is beyond me. Proff.??? That’s just plain stupid. It makes CS students look dumb.

Second, it is completely wrong to assume a lecturer has the status of a Professor. I don’t think I’m the most anal person in the world, but sometimes you have to understand that certain segments of life consist of hierarchies. If you choose to live in the academic segment you should be aware of what that hierarchy is. Not everyone that teaches a class is a “Professor”. Like any organization, the academic department of any faculty divides their teaching staff into ranks. At the bottom usually are the lecturers, sessionals, or instructors. These people may or may not have job security, are paid less, and may not have a Ph.D. Next up are associate and assistant professors. These people almost always hold a doctorate, are paid more, have job security (usually tenure track), have money to work with, and have power within the department. Next up are full-fledged professors. These people always hold a Ph.D, are making the big bucks (for academics at least), have bigger sums of research money, have a lot of clout, and have been recognized for their academic excellence. If you’re an academic, you’ve done quite good if you can reach this level.

For a student to call any old lecturer or instructor a professor would be like calling a middle manager the CEO or the Chairman of the Board. You can be wrong. A person teaching a class is lecturer, because hey, that’s what he or she is doing… lecturing. You can’t go wrong with that. If you want to afford them a little more respect, you can refer to them based on their education level. If they hold a Ph.D, call them Dr. They have earned that right. If they only have an undergraduate degree or a Masters degree, a Mr. or Ms. is your only option. They are only a professor if they hold that title.

I’ve only been instructed by people holding Ph.Ds, so I’ve refered to them as Dr. SoAndSo when speaking to them or referring to them specifically. I might say, “I have this professor who gives easy exams…”, but only if I knew they held that rank, otherwise, I might say, “I have this instructor or lecturer…”

In all my years at school, I’ve actually never heard anyone say out loud, “Professor…” I think that’s the realm of movies and TV.

So there you go, another little thing that bugs me as I grow older.

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