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Thread: Mam or ms?

  1. #11
    Barb_D's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mam or ms?

    I think you'll hear "excuse me, ma'am" and "excuse me, sir" much more often in the US.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  2. #12
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    Default Re: Mam or ms?

    Quote Originally Posted by Barb_D View Post
    I think you'll hear "excuse me, ma'am" and "excuse me, sir" much more often in the US.
    It's one of the very few things about AmE that jars with me.

    It's odd, because I accept with no problem the Italian, French, Czech, etc equivalent of 'sir'when addressed by strangers who speak those languages, and I use the polite form of address when I speak to strangers in those languages.

    It's possibly because, in BrE, 'sir' and 'miss/madam/ma'am' are normally used only by an inferior/junior to a superior/senior, and then only in a limited range of situations. I use those words to nobody, and do not want them used to me.

  3. #13
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    Default Re: Mam or ms?

    I agree entirely about it bothering me in the UK, but not in Europe. I am quite happy to be referred to as "madameoiselle/madame" in France, or "signorina/signora" in Italy but, as 5jj said, everyone refers to each other by those kinds of terms from as early as they learn to speak. Mind you, I much preferred being referred to as "guapa/chica" when I lived in Spain!
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  4. #14
    JarekSteliga is offline Member
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    Default Re: Mam or ms?

    Native English speakers may find it interesting to learn that the issue of Madam, Sir, Mr, Ms etc. is of extreme importance and is also a very sensitive matter in Polish (as I suppose it is in most continental European languages). Same thing with the use of "uncle", "aunt" as opposed to just first name. Dropping "uncle" or "Mr" may in some situations be considered as downright rude or forward. People will sometimes use "Mr/Ms" even if they have known each other for many years, as they probably enjoy both "giving" and "receiving" a kind of deference which "Mr/Ms" convey. The ceremony is stood upon with particular scrupulosity among "working class" since (to my mind) its members want to safeguard the not so long ago gained social status of equal citizenship. There is a whole culture or code of behaviour built around "Mr/Ms" issue to determine for example who is supposed to suggest using first name terms between two people. Typically even when such a suggestion is made, people will still occasionally address each other as "Mr/Ms" because they find the trasition embarassing and/or difficult. Learners of English who come from "Mr/Ms" environment in their native languages may be shocked to see how these forms are treated in English.

  5. #15
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    Default Re: Mam or ms?

    Quote Originally Posted by JarekSteliga View Post
    Native English speakers may find it interesting to learn that the issue of Madam, Sir, Mr, Ms etc. is of extreme importance and is also a very sensitive matter in Polish (as I suppose it is in most continental European languages). Same thing with the use of "uncle", "aunt" as opposed to just first name. Dropping "uncle" or "Mr" may in some situations be considered as downright rude or forward. People will sometimes use "Mr/Ms" even if they have known each other for many years, as they probably enjoy both "giving" and "receiving" a kind of deference which "Mr/Ms" convey. The ceremony is stood upon with particular scrupulosity among "working class" since (to my mind) its members want to safeguard the not so long ago gained social status of equal citizenship. There is a whole culture or code of behaviour built around "Mr/Ms" issue to determine for example who is supposed to suggest using first name terms between two people. Typically even when such a suggestion is made, people will still occasionally address each other as "Mr/Ms" because they find the trasition embarassing and/or difficult. Learners of English who come from "Mr/Ms" environment in their native languages may be shocked to see how these forms are treated in English.
    That is interesting indeed, especially regarding aunts and uncles. I know a few people who refer to relatives as "Auntie Jean" or "Uncle Bob" when talking to a third party, but they wouldn't use those terms to the people's faces. They would just call them Jean and Bob.

    I have to say, though, that the Polish way sounds like a lot of hard work!
    Last edited by emsr2d2; 07-Dec-2012 at 15:40.
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  6. #16
    SoothingDave is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Mam or ms?

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    It's one of the very few things about AmE that jars with me.

    It's odd, because I accept with no problem the Italian, French, Czech, etc equivalent of 'sir'when addressed by strangers who speak those languages, and I use the polite form of address when I speak to strangers in those languages.

    It's possibly because, in BrE, 'sir' and 'miss/madam/ma'am' are normally used only by an inferior/junior to a superior/senior, and then only in a limited range of situations. I use those words to nobody, and do not want them used to me.
    I think Americans understand both uses. That is, as a sign of general respect to strangers and as a form of subservience.

    If I call the CEO of my company "sir" that is one form. But it doesn't mean I feel the same way if I say it to someone on the street.

    I don't know if more formality is kept in Britain in terms of using first names. Americans tend to adopt first name informality pretty much immediately in most situations. It seems a bit of a contradiction that we retain formality with "sir" and "madam" in addressing strangers, but then abandon it quickly.

  7. #17
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Mam or ms?

    Quote Originally Posted by SoothingDave View Post
    What do you say if you are walking down the street and the lady in front of you drops something from her pocket and she doesn't notice?

    "Excuse me" or "Excuse me, ma'am" would be what I would expect. If you are especially trying to get the attention of someone whose name you don't know, then a "ma'am" or "sir" would be employed. It is better than a "hey!"
    I would use Madam there, though many wouldn't.

  8. #18
    Rover_KE is online now Moderator
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    Default Re: Mam or ms?

    Having spent a lot of time in the USA in recent years, calling women ma'am (pronounced mam) comes naturally to me and I use it here all the time. Nobody ever bats an eyelid or gives me funny looks. A lot of women seem quite pleased to hear it—they know it's commonly used in the States and elsewhere.

    Rover
    Last edited by Rover_KE; 07-Dec-2012 at 22:27.

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