"Miss" vs. "Ma'am"

Spanbock/Svoboda-Spanbock spanbocks at VERIZON.NET
Sat Oct 26 17:54:43 UTC 2013

As a woman who is married and entering middle age, I have been a little put off recently by the fact that every clerk and server in town seems to have gotten a memorandum that women should be called "Miss" instead of "Ma'am." My supposition is that there may be more unmarried women around than there used to, but, I doubt that people are really trying to comment on my marital status. My guess is that it is an anti-sexist reaction to the former presumption that a woman who was no longer particularly young was likely to be married and therefore to be addressed as "Ma'am" - or, I guess it could be just polite ageism.

In thinking about it, I realized that the thing that really bothers me is that I think "Miss" has the implication that you are less than fully cooked, like "Master" - the difference being, I think, that a man would have been thought to be fully a man upon coming of age, whereas a woman wasn't fully a woman until she was married?

So, my question is whether any of you know anything about this? Was it a conscious policy decision by someone?
Kate Svoboda-Spanbock

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The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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