Friday, 19 October 2012

Retro Repost: Miss/Mrs/Ms? Just say Ma'am

Having laptop issues today, and yet again incredibly disorganised and haven't got a post in the bank ready, so here is a repost from about a year ago (ever so slightly tweaked) which kind of fits for me today. I am now volunteering in a free bookshop and never quite know what to call people, Sir? Madam? Or as is my usual way, avoid using any form of personal address whatsoever and just chat to people as if I know them: "Closing up now guys" I'm sure this is as irritating for some as the use of Ms is for me, but I'd feel far more awkward saying Sir or Madam, which I suppose explains why so many people don't bother these days...

Miss/Mrs/Ms? Just say Ma'am

I was having some problems getting into my PayPal account the other day, so I reluctantly phoned them to try and get it sorted.

Before I could speak to an actual human being I had to get through the dreaded talking menus (“Do you need to speak to an operator?” “yes!” “Did you say… No?” “No, I said y…e…s.” “I heard… No. Is that correct?” “No!” “Did you say… No?”), I usually stay quiet not only out of principle but inability to get the damn thing to understand me. I got through the first few levels of menu with no problem; it then said “Please state your issue”. I was so thrown by having to describe my problem in a sentence that an inanimate object would understand that I got quite muddled up “I can’t log into Facebook… no eBay… no I mean PAYPAL, for Christ sake you’re not going to understand that are you?” I then had an agonising 10 seconds of Flight of the Bumblebee (seriously, could they have chosen a more infuriating piece of music?) before I was transferred to a lovely American man who said “The computer says you can’t log into your PayPal account, is that correct Ma’am?” So the computer understood me after all, that’s pretty impressive.

Thumbs up to PayPal because not only was my problem dealt with swiftly but I found the repeated use of the word “Ma’am” quite refreshing. Too many companies these days insist on first name basis, which I utterly despise. If you don’t know me, and are taking my money, please find the most respectful way of addressing me, at least by second name. “Ma’am” is a nice way to avoid wading through the Mrs, Ms., Miss minefield.

A couple of years ago the European Parliament caused outrage when it requested all staff to use Ms. in place of Miss and Mrs. People were highly offended by being forced to use Ms., I don’t blame them, being forced to precede your name with such a horrid sounding syllable would piss me off too.

When we bought our apartment in Ibiza, the deeds referred to The Dad as ‘Don’ and me as ‘Doña’. It is a basic polite form. The Dad took great pleasure in the fact that he was ‘The Don’. I just liked that I didn’t have to address whether I was married, unmarried, divorced or whatever anytime I filled out a form.

It’s alright for men. They have it easy. They start off as Master, then at age 16 (or sometimes 18) it’s automatically Mr. Their marital status doesn’t even come into it, it’s a far more dignified process.

I don’t understand why it is different for women. Years ago, Mrs and Miss worked in the same way as Mr and Master. It was an age thing. Derived from the term Mistress, (nothing to do with the current more provocative meaning) Mrs denoted the woman of the household, Miss was the daughter.

I have stubbornly hung onto the title “Miss” for my entire adult life. I’m not married, I don’t plan to be, so why change it? But now I am well into my thirties I would like a more distinguished title, one that doesn’t make me sound like a wrinkly old spinster from a Charlotte Bronte novel.

I hate the word Ms with a passion. Not only does it sound horrid (Mzzzzzz) but it has weird connotations. They may as well put the dot in the middle and replace it with a question mark because Ms automatically makes people suspicious, is she a Mrs or a Miss? Why is she using Ms.?

Anyway. I’m not planning on getting married any time soon, although I am the ‘mistress’ of the house. It’s all so flipping complicated. So I kind of get where they were going when then brought out this Ms thing. I just wish they had come up with a word that didn’t make me sound like a defective bumblebee.

Of course, someone could always buy me a nice title like “Lady” for Christmas. I've heard you can get them on eBay, which I'm sure is as official as it needs to be. I think "Lady" suits me and has a nice ring to it.


  1. I, like you, am not married and have two kids, but feel too old to be "Miss", also my shamefully unmarried status seems to cause chaos at school - they never get my name right, and just end up calling me "Jack's Mum". I always thought "Ms" was a title used by divorced ladies, so I don't like that one either - quite like "Ma'am" though - if it's good enough for the queen, it's good enough for me!

  2. Me too, I would quite like to get rid of Ms all together and replace it with Ma'am, sounds far nicer! Thanks for your comment :-)