Word Ma'am

Hello   Wednesday, October 22, 2003, 16:55 GMT
Is the word ma'am actually becoming an impolite word? Some ladies say, don't call me ''ma'am''. and calling me ''ma'am'' makes me sound old. Is ma'am becoming impolite nowadays?
Anahita   Wednesday, October 22, 2003, 17:13 GMT
I think "ma'am" is used when addressing the Queen, Madam. However, for Americans it's used as a polite form to a woman. It sounds old fashioned to me.
...   Wednesday, October 22, 2003, 17:18 GMT
to Hello.
i think you're right.
it won't sound right saying "ma'am" to a 16, 18, 20, or even 24 year old girl.
mjd   Wednesday, October 22, 2003, 19:48 GMT
I'm a waiter part-time at a restaurant. I address older middle-aged and older women as "ma'am", but not younger women. It'd sound ridiculous to address a girl my age (I'm 23) as ma'am. Often, women in their thirties will say it makes them "feel old" to be addressed that way.
Hello   Wednesday, October 22, 2003, 20:02 GMT
Ma'am is said to be a polite word, but it seems like it's becoming impolite.
...   Wednesday, October 22, 2003, 20:07 GMT
just don't address women under 40 as Ma'am
mjd   Wednesday, October 22, 2003, 20:09 GMT
I disagree that it is becoming impolite. One just needs to know when to use it. As the triple dotman stated above, it's most common for middle-aged women to be addressed as "ma'am."
mjd   Wednesday, October 22, 2003, 20:12 GMT
That is...middle-aged and above.
Peggy   Wednesday, October 22, 2003, 20:50 GMT
How do you know a woman is above thirty or not ? so don't use it at all if you don't want to offend women.
mjd   Wednesday, October 22, 2003, 21:34 GMT

No, just the opposite. If you're in a formal situation and you need to address a woman, use "ma'am." If the woman is obviously too young, then don't.

It's not an offensive word. Generally when women say "you're making me feel old", they're saying it jokingly.
Peggy   Wednesday, October 22, 2003, 22:23 GMT
thanks mjd
And when do you address a man with /sir/ ? My English tearcher told us it's not good to use it in Britain. If you address a man /sir/, it's like he is superior to you. However, in US restaurants I heard more than once waiters addressing my boyfriend /sir/. It sounds always off to me.
A.S.C.M.   Thursday, October 23, 2003, 00:03 GMT
Yes, I would agree that "sir" and "ma'am" are used far more commonly in the US than in the UK, where those terms tend to imply a higher social standing. Filipino domestic maids in Asia do call their masters and mistresses "sir" and "ma'am", just like the servants of yore.

The British pronunciation of "ma'am" sounds more like "marm" /ma:m/, which is also the American pronunciation of "mom". If Britons did use the word commonly (which they obviously don't), they would elicit this response from American women: "I'm not your mom".
mjd   Thursday, October 23, 2003, 00:16 GMT
I can't comment on the use of sir/ma'am in Britain. While I wouldn't call a guy my own age "sir," it is the proper way to address a male stranger who is your superior (by this I mean age...not social standing). This is especially true in restaurants and in the American business world.
A.S.C.M.   Thursday, October 23, 2003, 01:08 GMT
Well, sometimes social standing does come into play in the U.S. I once heard an old chap working in Wal Mart address a natty young gentleman as "sir".
Clark   Thursday, October 23, 2003, 05:05 GMT
I use ma'am only when I need to get someone's attention. If I am speaking with to someone, I would not say ma'am. If I saw some lady drop something and she did not know she dropped it, I would call out, "ma'am, you dropped...!"