An Uncomplicated Life Blog: The Thing About "Ma'am"

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Thing About "Ma'am"

Ma'am is a funny word. Is it even a real word? Perhaps just a title we call people? I'm not quite sure, even.

Regardless, people seem to be really passionate about this "word." Either they love it, teach their children to use it and view its use as proper manners, or they hate it. Some think it makes them sound old, and are offended by a stranger using it, as it means they're "old" or "matronly."




I wasn't raised to use "ma'am." But I have to say, I've grown to like it. In a world where manners are waning, proper grammar is reduced to what can fit in 140 character tweets and we become more and more isolated with the obsession of our handheld media devices, I think looking someone in the eye and saying, "Yes ma'am, thank you!" is a treat. Yes, a treat.

The person who uses it isn't saying you're old. And why would that be bad, anyway? What's wrong with being considered matronly? Being a mother is an honor not every woman gets to experience. I can't fathom why someone would take offense to a stranger giving you a nod of respect. How often does that happen anymore?!

Whether or not you use "ma'am" to address a woman, can we all just agree that treating people with respect is a good thing? That actually talking to them, not via a text, tweet or email, but looking them in the eye and addressing them personally, is a good thing? That manners are a good thing?

I'm all for the implementation of old fashioned manners. If you see me out and about, feel free to call me ma'am! I'm a wife and mother. I earned that title.

20 comments:

  1. It was so weird when I first moved down to FL and someone called me ma'am. I was actually offended because that is what you said to old women! Now that I've been down here longer I totally get it and use it all the time. It is just a sign of respect and being polite!

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    1. So funny you mentioned that, because I had a paragraph in this post (that I deleted before publishing) about how the "ma'am" line could be drawn as the Mason-Dixon line: Live above it and you don't use ma'am and below it is a must! I thought that might start a North/South "war" though, thus the delete.

      But so, so true!

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  2. ma'am is an abbreviated version of madam.. madame is french and is what you use for a married woman, or when you are not sure if she is married. mademoiselle is french for unmarried woman. i think somewhere along the line they became 'old vs young' and maybe that's why ma'am annoys some people because they think they are calling them old? which is ridiculous, by the way.
    ma'am is 100% not a thing at home. we don't say yes ma'am, or call people ma'am.. at all. however, we do say yes please, no thank you and manners were a huge part of my childhood, and i think - i could be wrong - but more of a thing in general at home than here. i've seen some rude ass kids here just respond 'yes' instead of 'yes please' or 'yes ma'am' when the waiter asks if they want a drink or whatever. that's rude to me. anyway, talk about rambling haha. i totally agree about who cares whether you say ma'am or not, treating people with manners and having respect is important and definitely something lacking these days!

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    1. No way, you're not rambling at all! I knew madam/mademoiselle was the missus/miss equivalent, but I honestly didn't know that ma'am was short for madam. Thanks for dropping all the knowledge Kirsten! Oh and don't get me started with some kids... Henry will know that it's "yes please, no thank you" AND use ma'am and sir. It won't even be an option for him!

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  3. I don't say ma'am and never really have (how they haven't kicked me out of the South yet, I'm not sure…). I mean, there are times I do say it, when it seems appropriate, but I don't go around calling everyone ma'am. But I don't hate it at all because like you said, what's wrong with being polite? I do always say please and thank you and I feel like a lot of people don't even bother to do that anymore.

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    1. Haha, Tracy! I don't think it's right or wrong to use it or not use it, but please and thank you's are necessary. I see TONS more please, thank you's and ma'am/sir usage in Texas than I did in Minneapolis (both are nearly nonexistent in MN) and it was prevalent in Georgia, too. I just think a little kindness goes such a long way!

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  4. We are a ma'am and sir using household. I am teaching my little to use it as a way to show respect to the people he is talking to. We moved overseas when I was younger and I remember our very Scottish neighbor disliking when my brother and I called her ma'am.... She said it sounded too impersonal and not familiar. Strangely enough it is one of those things everyone has an opinion on!!

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    1. It's so true - EVERYONE has an opinion on ma'am! I love that you're teaching your kiddos to address people with kindness and respect. I will absolutely do the same thing. Hopefully, we can start a trend and bring up a new generation of respectful children :)

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  5. I think I only use ma'am when someone dropped something and I'm trying to get their attention!!! Aside from that I dont think it's bad if someone calls me that - just means they have no clue what my name is LOL!

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    1. HAHAHA! Yes, that too! I rarely used it when I was in Minneapolis because people take offense to it up there, but I don't know if a day goes by that I don't say it now that we're in Texas.

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  6. So funny you wrote about this. I actually have a post in draft about being a lady in today's world. I'm 100% old fashioned when it comes to certain things and manners is definitely one of them. My family is southern so we have always been taught to treat others with respect, say yes sir and yes ma'am and open the door for ladies. But that's just my 2 cents. ;)

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    1. Yes yes yes! I can't wait to read that post! I'm old fashioned about many things, and especially manners. Doe it kill a person to just be polite and respectful?!

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  7. I'll never forget when I moved to Utah and said yes ma'am to a woman. She whipped around so fast and said "Do I look OLD to you?!" She was offended! I couldn't believe it. I started stuttering and explained that in the South it was an endearing term of respect for women. She totally didn't get it. I love it with my students call me ma'am!!

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    1. You know, I moved to Minneapolis from Savannah, GA and I think I got that same snappy remark when I "accidentally" called someone ma'am there! To be honest, I think it's a rather rude response. Does someone think I'd intentionally offend them or what?!

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  8. You are so right! I was raised with sir and ma'am, so it doesn't shock me when I hear it, but I know for many people it's incredibly foreign. It just boils down to a sign of respect.

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    1. Absolutely! I knew that even growing up in Minnesota, so I just can't wrap my mind around how some women are offended by it. But, to each her own I suppose.

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  9. So agree! I wasn't raised on ma'am and sir but when I moved to GA I was rude for not using it...then when I moved to New England I was rude for using it!

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    1. It's so funny how it's so divided! What's DC like? Is it a "ma'am" city or no?

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  10. I used to get in trouble for using ma'am because I'd say it sarcastically, but since growing up and moving south, ma'am has really grown on me.

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    1. Haha! Well, anything employed with some sarcasm takes the respect out of it... But I'm with you, upon permanently moving to the South, it's really grown on me!

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