"Miss" vs. "Ma'am"

Amy West medievalist at W-STS.COM
Mon Oct 28 12:10:46 UTC 2013

I go to a butcher shop here in Worcester run by an Irish immigrant and
his Irish-American wife. The butcher and the teen male assistants will
address female customers as "Miss," including myself who is like you,
married and middle-aged. They'll address male customers as "Sir." (I
don't recall the wife using "Miss" to address me: I'll have to pay more
attention. If she's not, I'm not sure if it's because of being American
or because we are in the same peer group.) I have taken this as a
"quaintness" affectation, if you will, as they will do things like carry
your parcel out to your car for you.

The choice to use "Miss" as opposed to "Ma'am" makes sense to me given
the stereotype of women being more concerned about their age than men,
and that erring on the side of using the term more associated with youth
is less likely to offend more people.

---Amy West

On 10/27/13 12:01 AM, Automatic digest processor wrote:
> Date:    Sat, 26 Oct 2013 10:54:43 -0700
> From:    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.

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list