Using multiple titles to address someone

MLK day is coming up, so we have been hearing a lot about Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King. It seems to be pretty rare to use more than one title to address anyone else even if they do have more than one. For example, Rand Paul is usually called “Senator” not “Senator Doctor”. Is there a rule for when multiple titles should be used instead of just one?

Don’t forget about the random German Prof. Dr. Dr. Dr. Dr. h. c. mult. I think the long strings of titles are more for calling cards: if it were the Queen of England you would find “Your Majesty” sufficiently polite.

“Reverend Doctor” seems to be not unusual - Jonathan Swift for one. My father lived next to a guy who was a D.Mus (Doctor of Music) and an MD. His wife was German and his FIL always referred to him as Herr Doctor Doctor.

Is this a reflection of the fact that King was a Doctor of Theology? So Reverend Doctor was essentially a single title like Sergeant Major or General Secretary?

I once met a woman who had given a talk in Vienna and was introduced as Professor Doktor Frau Professor Doktor Doktor P-----. She was a professor and had a PhD and her husband was a professor with PhDs in two different subjects.

nitpick, it is “The Reverend…” not “Reverend…”.

In this context, is the word “Reverend” an adjective? I’ve heard the term “Very Reverend So-and-So” to describe high-ranking clerics in the CoE.

Is it standard to spam someone else’s titles in addition to one’s own? This example sounds like bald and gratuitous sexism rather than formality.

If you really want to be nitpicky, it’s “The Reverend”, not just “Reverend”, and its not a title, but an honorific style. Even nitpickier, formally it shouldn’t be used alone, but with the person’s name. That is, not “I went to talk to the reverend”, but “I went to talk to The Reverend Dimmesdale.”

Of course, in real life people often refer to their minister as just “reverend” or even sometimes “rev” and there’s probably very few who take offense.

We don’t call Senator Paul "Senator Doctor’ because “doctor” is properly used only in connection with its profession. He’s Senator Paul when serving on the Senate, he’d be Doctor Paul if he went back to practicing ophthalmology, but never both at the same time.

In the Thirty Years War (and, I presume, from the time modern-sounding military titles were used), German noblemen with military ranks would have titles like “General Count X”. The military title went first, and the noble name was more important than the personal name.

An English title: Field Marshal His Grace The Duke of Wellington aka Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington.

Nope. He was “the Reverend” because he was an ordained minister, and he was “Doctor” because he had a doctorate.

And now, it is "the late Reverend Doctor . . . "

My interpretation (consistent with the above) is that “Doctor” is a noun and “Reverend” is an adjective modifying the noun.

But perhaps “The Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale” would be correct in that case.

Doug K.'s link says (under Roman Catholic Christianity) “The Reverend Mister (in writing) may be used for seminiarians who are ordained to the diaconate, before being ordained presbyters; Deacon (in speaking); nearly never Father Deacon in the Latin Rite in English.”

ETA “the Reverend Mister” is also listed under Anglican deacons and priests.

ETA2 “the Reverend Dimmesdale” is pointed out as a solecism, as you say.

I checked after I made my post. I found it is standard to refer to a person who has a doctorate in theology as “the Reverend Doctor”. It’s specific to that degree; if a person was an ordained minister and a doctor of medicine, the titles would be separate.

Ahem! Surely you mean


I always just called him Art the Fart.

See also “Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronté, KB,” usually just called “Lord Nelson.”

It’s just German. That’s the way German is spoken by Germans.

If it helps you to deal with German supervisors, you could argue that it reflects their formal power structures (which are a bit more formal and a bit more structured than Australian power structures), but it’s that way even for people you don’t know and don’t care about: it’s just the way it is.

–Not to mention “. . .Jr.”