new york times & ms./gay

Fred Shapiro fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Sun May 23 11:46:56 UTC 1999

On Sun, 23 May 1999, Bethany K. Dumas wrote:

> On Sat, 22 May 1999, Lynne Murphy wrote:
> >Can anyone tell me when the New York Times started using 'Ms.' (in
> >addition to 'Mrs.' and 'Miss')  or referring to people/organizations as
> >'gay' (rather than 'homosexual')?  I know that Ms. was quite
> >late--mid-late 80s, I think.  Or, if you have an easy way to figure this
> >out, without going through years' worth of old newspapers, please
> >suggest it to me.
> I don't remember whether the NYT waited until the "mid-late 80s" to start
> using 'Ms." -- the title itself is much older. In fact, it  was in general
> use by some writers and pubs by 1970 -- not the general press, of course.

It should be fairly easy to ascertain when the New York Times started
using _Ms._ by searching Academic Universe, to which your university
probably has a subscription.

As for how old the title is, the earliest anyone has traced _Ms._ is
Mario Pei's 1949 book, The Story of Language.  It may have originated, not
as a feminist usage, but rather as a pragmatic solution in the business
world to the problem of whether to use Miss or Mrs. in addressing
correspondence when one doesn't know whether the recipient is married.

Fred R. Shapiro                             Coeditor (with Jane Garry)
Associate Librarian for Public Services     TRIAL AND ERROR: AN OXFORD
  and Lecturer in Legal Research            ANTHOLOGY OF LEGAL STORIES
Yale Law School                             Oxford University Press, 1998
e-mail: fred.shapiro at               ISBN 0-19-509547-2

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