One more reason for folks in “flyover states” to hate the New York Times…

In the article “The Politics of Polite” the author makes many claims, most of which ignore that millions of people were taught to say Ma’am and Sir out of respect.

Ma’am is, of course, a contraction of madam, and its usage varies by region. Southerners and Midwesterners will ma’am with greater frequency than do the residents on the East and West Coasts, said Deborah Tannen, author of “You Just Don’t Understand” and a linguistics professor at Georgetown. “You’re more likely to hear ma’am when somebody is annoyed.”

Honestly lady, could you spare us just a little of your disdain?

Sheesh, I’m from Jersey and don’t get as bunchy about this as she did.

Hat Tip~ Diane Lore


11 Responses to Sigh

  1. Madelyn Clare says:

    When I was moved here in 1967, from a private Quaker school in Philadelphia, I came home from my first day of school asking my Mom, “what’s a may-um?” . She was baffled too, and asked me where I’d heard that. I told her, everyone calls our teachers that, yes may-um, no may-um. When my Father came home, he too was baffled, but after consulting w/our neighbor, (a native) who roared w/laughter, we learned that it was “ma’m”, a contraction of madame.
    My Mom told me NEVER to call her that, that where we came from, it was a term used towards strangers, i.e., waitresses, maids, other people whose name we we didn’t know but needed to interact w/for some reason.
    When in Rome, I reckon…

  2. Sara says:

    I hate being called ma’am. Not enough that I would complain about it to the NYT, but it does irk me. And yes, I understand that most who do it are trying to be respectful.

  3. Jen B. says:

    Heh. Sometimes I use “ma’am” or “sir” when I want to show disrespect in a way that won’t get me into trouble. But, maybe that’s just me.. of course, I also wasn’t raised in the South.

  4. BEZERKO says:

    I was trained to say yes sir and yes ma’am by my parents. My mom also taught me to always say Ms. (fill in the blank). Sir and Ma’am have always been equal signs of respect though I never thought about it that much. I try, since I’m 51, to say just “yes” or “no” without sir or ma’am now.

  5. Jason says:

    So maybe they prefer, “Hey, you!”… or “Yo, Bitch!”? 🙂

  6. JMPrince says:

    Idiocy from the NYT. SSDD. Tannen really ought to know better, but as they say, Linguistics is not for the faint hearted, and there’s really little ‘generalist’ work still being done or prominently published much in the field too. But nothing beats lived experiences too. Other than Yankees there’s a huge swath of territory that just does not end at the ‘Mid-West’ where ma’am is reasonably common (it’s an older sort of ‘hold over’ for sure), and where it really would not commonly connote any sort of disrespect. For the young folks who might favor it, it’s typically marking someone as an ‘older adult’ or someone of their parents generation who is due & accorded the same level of respect. Because they were brought up that way. And yes, you can even encounter this a few miles distant from NYC. Any day of the week usually, in most cardinal directions too. Try any military base’s family housing for one example. JMP

  7. Drew says:

    What disdain? The author of the article asked a linguist, and the linguist said that usage of ma’am varies by region and attitude. The fact that some use the term with sincere respect does not change the fact that more use the term with annoyance. And regardless of intent, if “ma’am” is more often than not interpreted as an insult, it would be wise not to use it.

    Me, I learned a long time ago that even in “flyover country,” anyone over the age of 18 who refers to a woman as “ma’am” is in dangerous territory.