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Lexical Leavings

by Tom Gally

English-Japanese and Japanese-English dictionaries, especially ones for learners, assert many nonexistent English distinctions. Today I found in a half dozen dictionaries the claim that the abbreviation "Prof." is only used before a person's full name and "Professor" is used when only the surname appears.

Some dictionaries state this flatly:
Professor Smith スミス教授 《★【用法】 姓だけの時には略の Prof. は用いない; cf. →Prof. John Smith》.
while others are more wishy-washy:
Professor. ★肩書きとして姓だけの前に置く場合は普通, 略語を用いない;姓の前に名も付けば略語でよい: Professor Hudson. Prof. William Hudson.
I don't know where this notion came from, but I can find no English-English dictionary that makes even the weaker of the two claims. There are thousands of hits on the Web from reputable sources for "Prof. Smith" and "Prof. Jones" and the like, and the English and American editions of the New Oxford both give "Prof. Smith" as the only example in their entries for "Prof."
(February 21, 2003)