It happens to every woman. They come home from the grocery store and, instead of putting the groceries away, simply grab a spoon and plunge it into a container Ben and Jerry’s. “What’s the matter Honey?” is met with a sigh and, through a mouthful of Cherry Garcia answer, “I was Ma’amed.”

Just been Ma'amed? This way to the ice cream.

Just been Ma’amed? This way to the ice cream.

Yes, it happens to every woman. The young person packing their groceries says something as innocent as “Have a good day Ma’am.” Why do we allow Ma’am to upset us so? What are the polite options? For men, Sir is considered polite, respectful, and does not cause overindulging in any of the food groups.

Ma’am is an abbreviation of Madam. When I asked a question in a restaurant recently in Montreal the response was “Of course Madam.”. I did not feel the urge to call Ben and Jerry. It was a lovely response to my question. I much prefer it to Miss which sounds rather silly after the teen years. And I can’t help but hear the piercing voice of Jerry Lewis whenever someone says Lady.

Madam is the female equivalent of Sir. Women deserve this respectful term of address. If someone uses the abbreviation Ma’am it would be rude to cringe, roll ones eyes, or otherwise make them feel uncomfortable. They were simply being polite. Hey You, how else would you rather be addressed?

Recently I was in line at a store to pay for my goods. A woman ahead of me was leaving the store but had left something at the counter. The cashier called after her, “Ma’am, you forgot this.” Entirely appropriate and polite. If women don’t like Ma’am, what should have the cashier called? Madam would have been lovely. Hey you? Lady in the black coat?

We need to come to terms with Madam, and yes, Ma’am. It is polite and respectful. No need to embrace either Ben or Jerry.

So, Sir or Madam, I welcome your thoughts. The comment section is yours.

p.s. A few years ago a six year old in England addressed me as Mister. Now there’s a reason to reach for the ice cream spoon.

About etiquetteottawa

Founder and Owner of the Protocol School Of Ottawa
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8 Responses to Madam

  1. karenhickman says:

    Great post, Suzanne. I agree with you.
    I also, have trouble with adults not wanting to be addressed as Mr. or Mrs. by their children’s friends because it makes them feel old. It’s okay to be and act like a grown-up.

  2. karenvhickman says:

    Great post, Suzanne. I shared it on FB and Twitter. I will be interested in the feedback.


    Karen Hickman Etiquette/Protocol Consultant

  3. Laurent says:

    Unfortunately in Ottawa it is too often ”You Guys” very rarely is it Sir or Madam. I am still not use to it after spending years living abroad where this kind of rudeness is not acceptable.

    • Yes, to those from other, more formal countries, “you guys” seems far too casual.

      • Laurent says:

        Ottawa restaurants and businesses would do well to train their staff not to use such an expression. It is fairly recent addition to every day language and an unfortunate one.

      • I’m trying. 🙂
        I also think that waitstaff should eliminate “Ya done?” from their phrase book. If they are unable to read the knife and fork (and yes, some customers may not know that) then a polite “May a take your plate?” or even “Are you finished?” is much nicer than “Ya done?”
        Thank you for your comments.

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