So: Doctor versus Professor; what's the break-down? What do you get called, what did you call your own professors, and why? And can we make any generalizations about the uses of these two titles?
I attended college and graduate school at an institution where no one outside of the medical school was ever addressed as doctor. Indeed, until about age 26, the only PhDs I'd ever known who went by that title were the couple of teachers at my high school who'd held doctorates--and that made sense: they deserved a title other than mister, surely, even if one of them was famous for teaching a film studies class that involved doing nothing other than screening films and assigning the occasional 1-page response paper.
So for a long time, when I didn't know any, I thought that PhDs who went by doctor were vain and insecure little people whose sole accomplishment had probably been getting that degree, and who had most likely done so at some crappy little school somewhere.
At some point, however, I became aware that quite a lot of PhDs went by that title, and I noticed that some of the explanation seemed to be regional: when I'd go to conferences in the South, for instance, everyone was doctor-ing up a storm. It also seemed to be a more common title at smaller schools, which suggested that maybe it was the institutions that were status-conscious or a bit insecure--they wanted it to be clear that their faculty were professionals.
So, the south, and smaller schools. That was my working theory until I got to Big Urban--a research university in a Northeastern city where, you guessed it: every last person with a doctorate went by doctor (except, initially, me: no one sent me that particular memo, and so I introduced myself to my students as Professor Fescue--only to receive emails from students that began, "Dear Dr. Smith, Dr. Jones, Dr. Brown, and Professor Fescue"). Admittedly, Big Urban isn't a premier research university, and my new institution--where I've been introduced as Doctor Fescue approximately a bazillion times in the past week--isn't a research institution at all.
But even so, I'm not sure that my old theories are holding up, so I thought I'd take this highly unscientific poll: if you're an academic in the United States or Canada, where are you, what do you get called, and is this your own preference or your institution's? How do you understand those preferences? Do you perceive there to be regional differences? And if so, what are they (north/south, east/west, urban/rural, blue state/red state, etc.)? Does institutional size or reputation make the difference? Or is it all totally random?