Is that Miss or Ms? Oldest "Ms." might not have feminist origins after all

Dennis Baron debaron at ILLINOIS.EDU
Wed Jun 24 15:35:33 UTC 2009

yet, titles have many uses, not all of which I can catalog on WOL (the
post is already too long) -- I left out "master" entirely; though rare
now, it once played a bigger role in the m/f  age-graded title paradigm.
Dennis Baron
Professor of English and Linguistics
Department of English
University of Illinois
608 S. Wright St.
Urbana, IL 61801

office: 217-244-0568
fax: 217-333-4321

read the Web of Language:

On Jun 24, 2009, at 9:07 AM, Laurence Horn wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: Is that Miss or Ms?  Oldest "Ms." might not have
> feminist
>              origins               after all
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> At 10:35 PM -0500 6/23/09, Dennis Baron wrote:
>> There's a new post on the Web of Language:
>> Is that Miss or Ms?  Oldest "Ms." might not have feminist origins
>> after all
>> Word hunter Ben Zimmer reports the earliest sighting so far of "the
>> elusive first Ms." The word, an alternative to the marriage-specific
>> titles Miss and Mrs, turns out to be over 100 years old. . . .
>> Zimmer didn't need carbon dating to determine that the article about
>> Ms. appeared on Nov. 10, 1901, under the heading "Men, Women and
>> Affairs" in the Springfield (Massachusetts) Sunday Republican (page
>> 4, below the fold), and it recommended Ms. as a term to be used when
>> you don't know a woman's marital status.
>> . . . find out more about this early "Ms." citation. Read the whole
>> post on the Web of Language:
>> ____________________
> Three factors promoting current usage you don't mention in your
> column:
> (1) "Ms." used in (written) business communication, where the writer
> simply doesn't know (much less care about) the marital status of the
> recipient.
> (2) "Ms." used when a married woman retains her earlier (whether
> "maiden" or previous married) name.  So if Miss Smith marries Mr.
> Jones, she can't be Mrs. Smith, and may feel uncomfortable continuing
> as Miss Smith, so Ms. Smith is the best option.
> (3) In cases of divorce:  if Miss Smith above does change her name
> but then divorces (or is divorced by) Mr. Jones, she may wish to
> switch from Mrs. Jones to either Ms. Jones or Ms. Smith.
> LH
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