Sunday, March 19, 2017

Ladies and Gentlemen

"Ladies and gentlemen" is a phrase I like very much, and a salutation I like very much. I like being described as a gentleman. I generally describe all women as ladies, in casual conversation.

I'm quite surprised that this phrase, and these terms, haven't come under attack yet-- they are still used even by liberals and progressives. 

Will they come under attack? Sometimes I'm alarmist in my expectations. Or perhaps I just expect a certain level of logical consistency.

Most of us have heard that gendered pronouns have come under attack in northern Europe. I on't know whether this has filtered into everyday life, or whether it's only in official contexts.

Will the same push occur in English-speaking countries?

I've spent a fair amount of time in Virginia, and I loved hearing how ordinary people (and not just in the service industries) use the terms "ma'am" and "sir" all the time. I like being addressed as "sir".

Now and again I address women as "ma'am", which I mean entirely as a term of respect. However, they generally don't like it and complain about me using it-- I think because it makes them feel old. (Sometimes, to be honest, I'm just using it to see how they respond.)

I don't know the answer to this. "Miss" hardly seems to be an option, even where it might apply. I don't mean "ma'am" to be any reflection on a woman's age-- it applies to all women in my mind, just as "sir" applies to all men.

When I pointed out to one such colleague that the term was regularly used in the South of America, she replied: "This isn't the South of America."

Incidentally, I have noticed that a surprising number of female students, and female users of the library, very often put down "Miss" as their title, rather than "Ms", when filling out forms. This pleases me. "Ms" is a horror. It has an unnatural sound, and since it's only used in formal contexts, it's not warmed by familiarity and tradition like "Miss" and "Mrs". Surely universalising "Mrs" would be the logical parallel to "Mr" being used universally for men?

I hate "Ms" so much that, although I'm not a fan of using first names for strangers, I usually address a business email to a female "Dear Sarah" or "Dear Lauren", rather than use the hated "Ms"!

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