Thursday, September 18, 2014

Ma'am and Other Terms of Endearment

It seems that there's always something to be sensitive about.  Another social landmine is how you address strangers.  Having worked as a barista, I've done my share of this while purveying natural caffeine-based highs to people.  Now I was not so crass as to address people as "dude," even if they were wearing faux western garb; nor do I address a mixed group as "guys." even if they are conspiring to blow up Parliament.  No, Mama brought me up right.  Sorta.

So how do we address people whose name we do not know?  Some people use terms like "honey," "sweetie," or "dear"; but this might open them to criticism, unless they're waitresses who happen to be characters and address everyone in that fashion.  Then there's the old standbys, "Sir" and Ma'am."  Those generally are noncontroversial in the Deep South; but some from other parts find the latter to be offensive due to it being gendered, subservient on the part of the user, or implying that the person being addressed is decrepit.  "No, Ma'am.  You would rate a ma'am even if you were 20!" 


"Wham, bam!  Thank you, Ma'am!"

Therefore, don't get your knickers in a knot when visiting the South and hearing that form of address!  Now here's Angel's rule when it comes to using ma'am or not:  If grits are on the local restaurant menus, it's okay to "ma'am."  If not, then you're on your own.

Now this would not fly outside of Orleans, Jefferson, or St. Bernard Parishes, but addressing people as "podner" or "missy" or "dawlin" is usually taken well there.  Well, maybe not Uptown.  Those uptown women do stand on ceremony.

Finally, one last point.  It's considered bad form and too old-fashioned to call or address letters to boys younger than 8 years as "Master."  It may cause them to assume they're boss, or worse.  Think of Norman Bates!  Could being addressed in that manner have made him self-conscious and affected him later as an adult?



12 comments:

Linda Kay said...

Fun post, Angel. My son-in-law is a true Texas boy and always encourages my grandson to "yes,ma'am" and "no, ma'am". I've noticed even more the use of Sweetie in addressing me in restaurants, and makes me feel like an old lady, which I refuse to be at this point.

Big Sky Heidi said...

I think it's odd that some people object to ma'am.

Neat little sly humor in this post, too.

Anemone said...

Master Bates?

TexWisGirl said...

hahahaha.

Mike said...

I missed the reference to Bates. And that's a really old joke I should have caught. Nice post Sugar Plum.

Meredith said...

Great illusion to Guy Fawkes!

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

I notice that the word guys is used for groups in which both sexes are present. A penny for the Old Guys!

beach lad said...

mostly 'mate' is used here (for both sexes)

i've heard 'wham bam thank you ma'am' used between menfolk discussing one night stands.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

Mike, I once played the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Nutctacker as a teen.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

beach lad -- women use it here also with the same meaning. I wrote this whole thing ironically.

Cloudia said...

Norman Bates and Guy Fawkes in ONE post! You are a dynamo!

ma`am makes me feel old. I like to call strangers different from myself in apparent ways: "Cousin"




ALOHA from Honolulu
ComfortSpiral
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Bilbo said...

I wondered who else would catch the Guy Fawkes allusion! I was brought up by parents who stressed the need to be polite and respectful, and who also taught me that those were not synonymous with being subservient. After a long career in the military, "sir" and "ma'am" are second nature, but there's sometimes a problem with addressing mixed groups. I often see messages start out with "Sirs and Ma'ams," which I think is silly. I prefer to begin with something like "Colleagues." But being from Pittsburgh, it's common to want to slip into "yinz," which is the Pittsburghese equivalent of "y'all." Fun post, Angel! Well done.