O, be some other name!

PURELY as a matter of scholarly interest, I wonder who should rank higher in the academic hierarchy — associate dean or deputy dean?

I ask because my university is in the throes of a titular makeover that involves a variety of deans. Recently we sprinkled holy water on our head of school and told him in no uncertain terms that henceforth he shall be called the dean. We also supplied him with two deputies, by another of those blessed acts.

Now I am told we are about to acquire two more deans, of the associate kind, and I am kind of worried.

Don’t get me wrong. I quite like the idea of deans. I am in excellent shape and can take a few more without breaking into a sweat; besides, there’s a nice academic twang to the title, wouldn’t you agree?

But as something of a semantic simpleton, I find the ‘associate’, ‘deputy’ prefixes confusing, especially when they fall under the same chain of command — as it is about to happen in my school, where the associate dean will report to the deputy dean.

I had always thought ‘associate’ had a near-equal status whereas the deputy was, well, only a deputy. So I looked up the words.

An associate, the dictionary tells me, is a person “united” with another in an act of “enterprise”, or “joined with another or others and having equal or nearly equal status”, or “having partial status or privileges”.

A deputy, on the other hand, is only an agent, a representative, “authorised to act as substitute for another”.

A dean by any name would smell as sweet of course, but there’s something about the surrogate issuing orders to the near-original that makes me want to passionately cry out, O, be some other name!

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