For most folks, PhD means "Doctor of Philosophy". But, for Jorge Cham, it means "Piled Higher and Deeper". Can you explain to me the title of that comic book?

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  • 3
    I've also heard a PhD referred to as permanent head damage. Jul 9, 2011 at 7:29

3 Answers 3


There's an old joke based on the common sequence of Bachelor of Science, Master of Science, Doctor of Philosophy:

BS: Bull Shit

MS: More of Same

PHD: Piled Higher and Deeper

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    @mgkrebss: Just to be sure to fully understand the sense of these. It is said that BS is bullshit, MS is more of bullshit, and PHD is a big pile of bullshit. Isn't it?
    – Marco
    Jul 9, 2011 at 11:58
  • @Marco: Right. In much wider contexts, of course, B.S. is a common initialism for the slang term bullshit.
    – mgkrebbs
    Jul 10, 2011 at 0:12

"PhD" is an abbreviation. The title of the book is playing around with this abbreviation. Although normally understood as you said to stand for Phillsophiae Doctor, the letters do not actually state this.

It's for example, BMW, usually understood to mean Bavarian Motor Works , but it doesn't actually state "Very Important Person". Anyone could come along, and then play around with the letters and make it "Big Mouth Woman", or "Bouncing With Me."

It's a kind of pun

  • I had a friend who rode a BMW motorcycle. On a particularly cold day, I told him BMW meant 'Brass Monkey Weather'.
    – pavium
    Jul 9, 2011 at 6:50
  • That explains the repurposing of the abbreviation into an initialism quite well, and that is certainly part of the joke. However, the OP may have been asking for a more complete explanation of the what Piled Higher and Deeper means. I'd suggest Jorge was suggesting that, ah, poop is piled higher and deeper. You know, "how was your day"? "Same poop, different depth".
    – Brendon
    Jul 9, 2011 at 7:15
  • @Brendon: Do people really use that as a variant of "same shit, different smell"? (Or did you just make that up?) Jul 9, 2011 at 8:47
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    @brachomonacho, Yep. My Brother was the first person I heard that from; he did say shit not poop though (for some reason I get all polite when talking about English language and usage). He is a truck driver in his late fifties and lives in Albany, Western Australia. He teaches me all kinds of interesting phrases.
    – Brendon
    Jul 9, 2011 at 9:36

In order to receive a PhD, a student must write a dissertation -a lengthy research paper on a topic aligned with their field of study. The dissertation itself is intended to contribute to the general knowledge in that field, and is judged by a panel of other higher academics to determine if the candidate deserves to be awarded their doctorate.

It's a frequent joke among some academics, however, that one can attain their PhD by simply pandering to the review board - i.e., by filling the paper with "bullshit" that has no real scholarly value but that indirectly flatters and influences the reviewers, frequently by focusing on the reviewer's papers. Since the dissertation must be quite lengthy, the bullshit thus has to be "piled higher and deeper".

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