"Miss" vs. "Ma'am"

W Brewer brewerwa at GMAIL.COM
Mon Oct 28 14:29:47 UTC 2013

RE: <Miss> vs. <Ma'am> as modes of direct address.  I tend to agree with
Wikipedia s.v. Madam: <<In speaking, Madam is used in direct address when
the lady's name is not known; . . . In the United States and in
English-speaking Canada, "ma'am" is usually used, except in regions such as
New England where particular ties to England still exist. Even then,
"madam" tends to only be used when addressing the elderly, with "ma'am"
being used for a younger woman. The male equivalent is "sir".>>

In my Berkeley days 1972-4, <miss> was tabu in any mode of address. At UCLA
1974-84 (just down the road from Hollywood), I could only hear aging
actresses (oops! mature female actors) addressed as Miss [stage name].
Titles are a somewhat different kettle of fish (or can of worms, actually),
but, the older my female classmates became, the more like their mothers
they have become, not minding at all being called Mrs. [husband's surname,
or some quasi-hyphenated hybrid therefrom]. The baby boomers who led the
cultural revolution just grew up to talk like . . . we do.

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

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