Friday, February 6, 2009

Hey, you!

It’s hard to know how to address females in a business capacity. My single pet peeve, as you may have noticed, is to be considered younger/more inexperienced/more helpless than I actually am. So I hated being called “Miss”. I felt like “Miss” should be reserved for someone under the age of 18.

So it was pretty funny when someone called a friend (same age and stage in life) “Ma’m” and she got really mad because she thought only old ladies were addressed as “Ma’m”. That’s when I realized that no matter what you call a female business acquaintance or client, you’re probably going to irritate someone. From then on, I resolved not to get worked up about being called “Miss”, because the hapless addresser has no idea what my personal preferences are. If they knew me, they’d use my given name.

By the way, calling me “sir” isn’t the best way to go about things either. The number of female geologists has increased significantly since the days of yore, so if you’re a driller, I’d suggest not having “yes, sir” as your default response to requests.


Lockwood said...

What do you think about Ms? Coming of age in the late seventies, I'm probably unhealthily alert to this issue. But I have basically always relied on it as my default. And if you slur it out a little, I always felt like it could be heard or interpreted as either "Miss" or "Missus", depending what what a woman wanted to hear. I really have no idea what the younger generation would prefer.

Short Geologist said...

Personally, I approach it the way I approach addressing my SO's parents: avoid it if at all possible!

A Life Long Scholar said...

One of the (admittedly minor) reasons I want to finish my PhD is so that I can be done with the whole Miss/Ms/Mrs thing forever. I've never cared for the term Ms, which, perhaps, puts me in the minority, but it will be nice when filling out official forms not to have to use one of those three ever again.

Silver Fox said...

I think that Ma'am from the general public or people who don't know me is fine (it sounded strange at first when I was younger) - and it is what is used in many parts of the country as a term of respect. I don't think you can just say Ms. to someone without knowing their first or last name. And yes, occasionally I still get "Miss" - but that gets rarer and rarer.

Lockwood said...

Agree with Short Geologist- I try to avoid addressing people I don't know, but sometimes it is unavoidable. I had sort of gathered that "Ms." was not preferred by many women, and that does seem to be the consensus here. "Ma'am" was not widely used when I was growing up, and it's one I rarely think of. But I think Silver Fox's suggestion is the one I should try to practice- what I want is a term of polite respect for someone I don't know, and that fits the bill.

Silver Fox said...

If you know my name and want to address me formally, do use Ms. !!!!

I really don't like Mrs. and have kept my maiden name, so Mrs. What? Mrs. Fox, or Mrs. MOH? Neither way sounds right to me, so use Ms.

But you can't say, hey, Ms. to someone in a grocery store.

Vicki said...

I guess ma'am is better than madam, which I always thought was the woman who runs a brothel!!
Ms does seem like a good compromise. I call myself Ms because I'm not married and I'm too old to be Miss.
So it's probably a good way around it.
I find it weird at my work when people use my name (as seen on my name tag) when they don't know me.

Anonymous said...

I had a driller who just called me, "Girl!" And several who have called me variations of "Geo" and "Miss Geo".

Honestly, it doesn't bug me much: I just call them "Boy" and "Driller" and if they have a problem with that, they get the message pretty quick. :D