In a Simpsons episode of season 25 the dialoge

Monsarno Rep: Say hello to our chief scientist.
Everyone: Augh! Sideshow Bob!
Sideshow Bob: Dr. Sideshow Bob.
Homer: Real doctor or PhD?
Sideshow Bob: PhD.

takes place. In my country there is only a doctor and I thought a PhD would be exactly that in Anglo-Saxon countries. I would like to know is there a difference in the USA between a PhD and a doctor? Especially: What did they mean in the dialogue?

Edit: In hindsight this may be a duplicate, but originally it wasn't because I did not know that the "doctor" of the dialogue was about a medical doctor.

  • 6
    See How can one differentiate between Dr. (PhD) and Dr. (MD)?. Your question is directly addressed by this answer. – ff524 May 3 '16 at 17:40
  • Worth noting that Dr refers to PhD first. It's a pity that the general population thinks otherwise. From Wiki 'they are holders of bachelor-level degrees, history has allowed the use of the title doctor by physicians, however, it is recognized that it is in essence an honorary or courtesy title". So Sideshow Bob is understandably annoyed as he is the real Dr. – Prof. Santa Claus May 3 '16 at 22:03
  • @Prof.SantaClaus: Ok, that explains it. It's similar to my country, only that the general population is not quite as - let's say "confused" ;-). – Make42 May 4 '16 at 8:23

It's not the difference between "doctor" and "PhD". It's the difference between "real doctor" and "PhD".

"Real doctor"=someone who performs surgery, prescribes medication, etc.

"PhD"=Doctor of Philosophy

The joke is PhD's aren't "real" doctors. When someone says "I need a doctor", they aren't talking about needing an expert in the jackets of 1860s Chicago or Teichmueller spaces. They need someone to help with their medical ailment.

  • 1
    Why then is Bob angry after I is asked that question? Is it because he is annoyed that Homer does not recognise his PhD as "real"? In my country the PhD would be the "real" doctor. We only call physicians colloquially a "doctor" because so many of them do have "real doctor title". – Make42 May 3 '16 at 17:34
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    @Make42 it's because the US culture tends to think that someone with a PhD isn't really deserving of the title because they don't do "important stuff" like saving lives because of course PhDs are only interested in some esoteric topic of no practical import. Medical doctors here are held on a pedestal, perhaps because they're the doctorate-holders that the average person is most likely going to interact with on a given day. – user0721090601 May 3 '16 at 17:48
  • @guifa: This is nearly literally crazy. Being a physician is "just" a job description, while having a PhD is an additional achievement. (Being a physician is an achievement in itself, sure, but so is being e.g. being an engineer.) – Make42 May 4 '16 at 8:21

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