• vwbusnut

    When I first moved to Florida from New Jersey, my kid’s friends called me Miss Sally. I thought that was a super nice was to refer to adults without making them feel old. If anyone had asked me what I wanted to be called I’m entirely sure I couldn’t have come up with that, but I think it’s really a nice way to refer to people older than we are.

  • Harmony_W

    I grew up in the South and had “sir” and “ma’am” drummed into me however, I don’t like being called “ma’am.” I won’t be offended if someone happened to refer to me that way. But I won’t be teaching my kids to call any one ma’am or sir.
    It isn’t about age for me it’s because it implies inferiority. One can show respect without having to lower one’s own social standing. An example of how to do this would be to refer to elders as “Mr. So and So”, “Mrs. So and So”, “Ms. So and So”, and “Miss So and So.” You can also convey respect with your tone and body language.
    I understand that in the South it is a cultural thing, a means of being polite. I just don’t approve of it for my family.
    In the end everyone can teach their children what they want. While one person’s family means it as a form of politeness, another may see it as a sign of professing inferiority or being smart.
    What’s more, there is a distinct line between offering “sir” and “ma’am” as tokens of respect and another for expecting/demanding to be addressed as such.
    My suggestion (if you ever need an alternative to “ma’am” or “sir”) is to try “excuse me” or “pardon.” A large population of the country manages to be polite this way.

  • jcause

    Oh my heck! (said with the Southern drawl) I’m glad someone else has had this experience. I probably need to practice not answering every question with “yes Ma’am or yes Sir” if I ever want to move out to Utah.
    I fumbled my way through New York, and it was a nasty, ungraceful journey. It makes my skin crawl, though, to call someone over 35 by their first name if I don’t personally know them. I’m terribly socially awkward, and I blame it on my Southern roots.

  • souphead

    growing up in NY most adults were called either by their first names (most of my parents’ friends) or so-and-so’s mom/dad (“hi Liza’s mom” “hey Justin’s dad. how are you?”). terribly informal.

    My hubby is from Texas where it was Miss or Mr. whoever – His friend’s daughter calls me “Miss Suzanne”. It’s odd, but I do get a feeling of respect and definitely prefer it to being called ma’am. Ma’am just makes me feel OLD!

  • crooked_teeth

    I’m always on the look-out for being “Ma’am”ed as I think of it; give me a “Miss” any day. Makes me feel young and frisky!

  • firefly1818

    I’m used to Miss and Mr., although some people are still confused as to why I would refer to my boss or admin as Ms Mona, etc.

  • The Christine

    Ahhh yes, I’ll never forget the first time someone called me “Ma’am” – I was working retail over the summer. At the ripe old age of 21, hearing “Ma’am” from a tween in the Juniors department of Macy’s was like a knife in the back. I wanted to fall into a grave and die right there next to the Guess booty shorts. Here I am eight years later teaching my kids to call me Mama. No ma’ams around here. Bad mojo.

  • jon

    Her family refers to it as Murphy’s Law.

    I refer to it as “The Glass Never Has Water. EVER. JON.”

  • tonya

    I had the opposite experience. I grew up in the military, but we never lived in the south. If I said, “Yes Ma’am” or “No Sir,” I was being a smart ass. (Only to my parents. I was always very respectful to everyone else!) When I was fifteen, we came to small town, Tennessee, and was I ever in for a culture shock. Early on, a teacher asked me if I was finished with my test. I answered, “Yes.” He said, “Yes, what?” I said, “Yes, I’m finished.” The class broke out in giggles, he was super pissed, and I was totally clueless. He then went off on me and I was quickly educated on the art of Yes Sir. Twenty years later, I ma’am and sir just about everyone, and I’ve taught my children to as well. They also call all adults by “Mr.” or “Miss” followed by their first or last names. That’s another thing I did: called adults by their first names. Seems sort of disrespectful now that I look back on it.

  • quails

    I’m from the West coast, and growing up, everyone– including my teachers, since I went to a funky co-op school– went by first names. Now I do martial arts and everyone, even kids, get called sir and ma’am, and I really dig the mutual respect it fosters. I don’t know if I’d feel the same if I hadn’t grown up on the dead opposite of the formality spectrum, though.

  • ttwiix

    Being born in Michigan I was never taught to say ma’am or sir. It was always Mr or Mrs, so in so… or if they preferred their first names. Moving to Florida as a young child I guess I was too stubborn to pick this up and it wasn’t until I started working retail that I started using this as a way to be polite to customers. However, I didnt think it was my place to try and determine how old or young someone was so I used ma’am or sir with every customer…even if they were my age or younger. No biggie.

  • kayakgrrl

    I promise that I won’t want to punch you in the face if you call me ma’am. Because people with cute accents like yours can totally get away with it.

    (But I still feel OLD when the kid bagging my groceries calls me ma’am. *sigh*)

  • hackmanrj

    I was brought up in the North and the South (all East coast though). In the North it was Mr./Mrs. last name. In the South it was Ma’am or Mr./Miss first name. I tend to go by the Mr./Miss first name for kids if they know the people. It still shows respect, but makes them familiar and approachable. I don’t really mind being called ma’am, but it does give me a little punch-in-the-gut feeling when it’s done by someone 2 years younger than me. Oh well. I’d still prefer ma’am to “hey lady”.

  • deepthoughts78

    I think that most people say Sir and Ma’am (and even Mr. and Mrs.) out of respect. So the proper response to someone calling you Ma’am (even if you don’t like it) is to let it slide and just simply respond to them. It seems very rude to correct someone for saying something out of respect.

  • Peanut22

    Down here in the south, kids refer to women adults that are family friends as ‘Miss’ (and then attach your name). ex. Miss Stephanie.

    I think it’s so cute and somewhat formal without being tooo formal.

  • LuckIsMyMiddleName

    In my women’s studies class in college, the lone guy in the class once related a story of calling a woman “ma’am,” and having her respond nastily, “I work for a living.” As if he were using it as shorthand for “madam.” As in, a madam.

    I don’t love being called “ma’am,” but I really hate being called “miss.” To me–as someone who can look 10 years younger than I am, which is not yet old enough for that to be an entirely good thing–it seems condescending. But I work in retail, so both occasionally happen, and I just shake them off. I very much agree with deepthoughts78.

  • Gypsy

    When I first started teaching at the ripe old age of 21, I was tempted to tell my students that they could call me Bitch or Whore if they would PLEASE just stop calling me Ma’am.

    Now, older and more mature, I kinda like it.

    My kid will be taught to call people Mr. and Ms. So-and-so until he is told differently, and like your parents, I believe in a “Yes, Ma’am?” or a “Yes, Mommy?” as a response when I call him. Call me rigid, but I want a respectful kid. Having been a teacher, I see the effect of otherwise, and they are not good – for kids or adults.