First names Ms. and Miss

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Apr 12 20:42:57 UTC 2002

At 1:04 PM -0700 4/12/02, FRITZ JUENGLING wrote:
>'Ms." of course, is not as neutral as some people believe.  I have
>heard several women say they they are irritated or even 'hate' being
>called 'Ms.'  Reason: they are "Mrs." or just do not like the sound
>of 'Ms.'
>Now, many of my students do not know the difference between Miss and
>Ms.  They believe that Ms. is for unmarried females and are not
>really sure
>what Miss is for.  So, for them 'Ms.' has pushed 'Miss' out of the language.
Here's some relevant empirical research addressing this question,
posted recently on another e-mail list:

Date:          Wed, 6 Mar 2002 14:31:12 -0500
From:          Gabriella Modan <modan.1 at OSU.EDU>
Subject:      Re: Ms., Mrs. and Miss in American English corpora

A lot of people have asked me for this data, so i decided to just send it
to the list -- it's pasted in below.  The data was collected in Columbus,
Ohio, and the age range of the informants is 18-62.  Each definition is
followed by a number in parentheses indicating how many people gave the
definition in question.  (Some people gave multiple definitions, so the
numbers in each of the three sets are not the same). I was surprised to
find that there was very little patterning in terms of age, but where that
exists I've added a comment after the number of informants about age or
gender patterns.)  I would be very interested to know if similar variation
exists in other parts of the US and in other English-speaking
countries.  The only other reporting of Ms. use I've seen is in Ruth King
and Susan Ehrlich's article "Feminist meanings and the (de)politicization
of the lexicon", Language in Society 1994, 23(1):59-76.

1.      Unmarried woman (39)
2.      Unmarried woman who has never been married (3)
3.      Widowed or divorced woman (2)
4.      Young and unmarried woman (23)
5.      Young woman (25)
6.      Older single woman (1)
7.      Young career woman (1)
8.      Formal (2, ages 19 and 21)
9.      Informal (1, age 21)
10.     Use if title/status unknown (1)
11.     Woman (1)
12.     Condescending/outdated (1)

1.      Unmarried woman (12)
2.      Older and unmarried woman (13)
3.      Divorced woman (11)
4.      Divorced or widowed woman (2)
5.      Older and married woman (1)
6.      Young and unmarried (2)
7.      Young woman (1)
8.      Older woman (8)
9.      Middle-aged woman (1, who compared w/ Miss for young and Mrs. for old)
10.     Formal (6, ages 19-22)
11.     Career- or professional woman (11)
12.     Independent woman (8)
13.     Use if not sure of title/status (15)
14.     Doesn't want to be defined by marital status (10, all women)
15.     Doesn't want to you to know her marital status (9: 6 men & 3 women)
16.     Feminist (5)
17.     Lesbian (3)
18.     Sexy/hot/mysterious/stylish woman (3)
19.     Woman (8)
20.     I don't like this word/awkward (1)

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