Welcome to Kimberly’s Burn Book, a feature in which I complain about things that annoy, irritate, or frustrate me. In other words, pretty much everything.
I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in the past year or so. When I’m approached by a stranger – generally a stranger who is selling something – I am addressed as “ma’am.” How are you today, ma’am? I WAS FINE UNTIL YOU INFERRED THAT I AM MATRONLY AND OLD! I understand that people address women as ma’am to convey respect, but the effect is actually the opposite. Unsolicited sales pitches or requests for donations on the street are annoying. Coupled with insults, even unintentional insults, they are doubly annoying.
As an unmarried 26-year-old I would like to be referred to as “Miss”. I did a few quick searches but couldn’t find a definitive answer to the “Miss vs. Ma’am” debate. Most of the articles I found were by women in their thirties; they don’t like being called ma’am either. To settle this debate once and for all, I’ll turn to the source to be believed above all other sources: Wikipedia.
Madam, or madame, is a polite form of address for women, often contracted to “ma’am”. The abbreviation is “Mme.” and the plural ismesdames (abbreviated Mmes.) The term was borrowed from the French madame, which means “my lady”.
The emphasis is mine. OK then. I think we can all agree that calling young women ma’am is scary and wrong. Seriously, please stop.
- Kate Auletta: I Got ‘Ma’am’ed (huffingtonpost.com)