"Miss" vs. "Ma'am"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sat Oct 26 19:01:03 UTC 2013

All I can say is that  in NYC in the '50s and '60s, *all* women were
addressed by clerks, bus drivers, and servers as "miss." Bus drivers, at
least, used "lady" as well. My wife confirms my recollection.

When I moved to Tennessee in the mid-'70s, "ma'am" in such situations
actually struck me as affected. Or something.

When we visited the UK, my wife was consistently addressed as "madam."
Though she knew better, she found it vaguely condescending.


On Sat, Oct 26, 2013 at 1:54 PM, Spanbock/Svoboda-Spanbock <
spanbocks at verizon.net> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Spanbock/Svoboda-Spanbock <spanbocks at VERIZON.NET>
> Subject:      "Miss" vs. "Ma'am"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> 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
> (t) 310-880-3091
> (f) 310-915-9807
> spanbocks at verizon.net
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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