Being called Ma'am is respectful, but I don't like it.

@jenalyn (675)
United States
February 16, 2007 11:17am CST
Back in the days when my mother was growing up, it was a proper term of respect, and meant that way, too. But I don't feel it is meant the same way as it did then. I realize that when people call me that it is meant respectful, but it feels so generic. I don't associate it with respect, either. I have seen term used a lot publicly. A lot of times, on t.v. I have seen it used to address a woman to get her attention, by someone that doesn't care to know her name. It just seems condescending a lot of times. I don't like being called ma'am, I would rather be called Miss, if someone doesn't know my name. It feels more like I am seen as a person. I would never assume to call someone else that though, because I know that some woman want to be called ma'am, and prefer that. What about you? What do you think of that term, now in this day and age.
13 people like this
44 responses
• United States
16 Feb 07
when i first came to the USA i was insulted to be called that for where i come from it is short for madam and a madam is not someone i choose to be !I have since learned it to be a form of respect in the south but i still dont like it!
2 people like this
@jenalyn (675)
• United States
16 Feb 07
It still feels like an insult sometimes, even though it isn't meant to be.
1 person likes this
@jenalyn (675)
• United States
16 Feb 07
I know, madam is something of an insult.
1 person likes this
@paulnet (748)
• India
17 Feb 07
Simple solution!!!! Just Don't pay more attention to it....
1 person likes this
• United States
17 Feb 07
I live in a military town so everyone here is ma'am or sir! LOL!! It's something that I'm still getting used to cos' from where I come from, these terms are not used at all. But do as the Romans do, right? I know here they use it as a sign of respect. So, I'm ok with calling people that or for people to call me that.
2 people like this
@jenalyn (675)
• United States
17 Feb 07
My dad was in the Navy, and he never made me call him sir. We only did that joking around.
1 person likes this
@fabwisp (1328)
16 Feb 07
I can honestly say I have never been called that, but it makes me shiver the same way as being called Mother! I know its daft but I have never liked being called mother and get really ratty over it! I'm mum plain and simple!
2 people like this
@jenalyn (675)
• United States
17 Feb 07
I agree. Mother sounds like someone who is a nag. Or someone demanding. Saying yes, mother, would make me irritated of my daughter did that. I would call her daughter instead of her name. That would surely break her of it. LOL
1 person likes this
• United States
16 Feb 07
I hate it it makes me feel older then I am lol. we got a new elementary principle last year that tried to make some of the kids call her that. I mean suspending 2nd and 3rd graders for not calling her that well needless to say some parents had a little talk with the board and this year we have a new principle. why would anyone want to be called that unless of course you are elderly and are use to it.
2 people like this
@jenalyn (675)
• United States
16 Feb 07
I can't see suspending any students for not calling the principal ma'am. That is rediculous. She must have been on a power trip.
1 person likes this
• United States
16 Feb 07
I don't really like being called "ma'am" either. I have a different reason then you do though. I think it just sounds "old" and it makes me feel a lot older then my age. It reminds me of a name that someone would have called my Grandma (may she rest in peace). :)
2 people like this
@jenalyn (675)
• United States
16 Feb 07
I know. A lot of my friends feel that way too.
1 person likes this
@nicolec (2673)
• United States
16 Feb 07
I live in the South. I live in the heart of the South. I don't mind be calling ma'am when I am at a store or a place where I am a customer. Like a cashier saying, "here's your change, ma'am." It's a polite way to address a stranger. I sometimes don't like it when some one I know calls me that. Unless said in jest. Like I might tell my boyfriend to do something and he'll let out a 'yes ma'am'. But that's more like a 'yes, dear, whatever you say'. You really shouldn't be offended by it. People who do are being polite. Calling you a Miss assumes you are not married and many people could get offended by that. Using the word ma'am does not imply you are old, it's just a respective thing.
@jenalyn (675)
• United States
16 Feb 07
I don't get offended when someone calls me Ma'am. I said i don't like it. I don't care if someone assumes I am not married or assumes I am. Stuff like that doesn't offend me either. I don't live in the heart of the south, so the term is not as endearing or polite as you are receiving it. Still, I am not offended so easily. That would be silly.
1 person likes this
@Denmarkguy (1845)
• United States
16 Feb 07
Fortunately, nobody has called me ma'am, recently... ;-) I do remember the first time someone called me "sir" in some bank, and I wondered who they were talking to-- before I realized it was ME. And i thought "geez, do I look THAT old?" I find it to be a strange term-- out of time, in a way. And I think you're spot on in calling it "generic," like it's really little more than a substitute for "hey, YOU." It feels like it belongs back in the days where people called each other "Mrs. Jones" instead of "Jennifer." But since we have to address strangers in SOME fashion, I am not sure exactly what would be a better term. Although I like the idea of "Miss" as you suggest, I have used that and gotten the reply "I'm a Mrs., thank you." Common courtesy isn't what it used to be, I guess.
@jenalyn (675)
• United States
16 Feb 07
It is hard to know what a common term to use to get someone's attention should be. I guess that is why Ma'am and Sir are still around. I think I would rather be called "hey you" than Ma'am, though.
1 person likes this
@Ravenladyj (22937)
• United States
16 Feb 07
LOL omg I cant stand being called "ma'am" and I personally take it as an insult really..not a major one but an insult all the same....when I'm in my flippin 80's I wont want to be called ma'am LOL..when ppl say it to me I usually say "ooh please dont call me that, my name is ____ so just call me that cause I'm not old enough to be a ma'am yet" LOL
2 people like this
@jenalyn (675)
• United States
16 Feb 07
I feel the same way sometimes. When I am in the grocery store and they ask 5 different questions and they all end in Ma'am. Paper or plastic Ma'am? Cash back Ma'am? Did you find everything yoou need Ma'am? Ergghh. I hate that.
1 person likes this
@applsofgld (2506)
• United States
17 Feb 07
Well, I am 48 years old now. I have to admit the first time a young person said yes maam to me, it threw me off guard. I felt sort of "old". But I find it respectable, it doesn't bother me. I guess b/c more and more, there is such little respect shown to anyone anymore. And when I see someone say yes maam/sir, no maam/sir, they have gone out of thier way to show respect. I admire that. My children do it too, my son at 28 still says yes maam to me, and I didn't even enforce that rule in my home. They just did it on thier own. But now,if someone my own age says it, well it does kind of not sit very well with me. I don't know why that bothers me and it doesn't for a younger person to say the same thing. Maybe it's just me. But being called Miss if you are a young woman is also fine and respectful. This was a good discussion topic, made me think.
• United States
16 Feb 07
You know what I HATE? I used to work in retail and I'd have people come up to me and call ME Ma'am and they'd be WAY older. I know the term means for someone older than you. But for adults way older its like huh? If a teen, a little kid sure. But I am in my late 20's and well if you are in your 30's, 40's, 50's, etc and you are calling ME Ma'am its like what the? My sister called a store the other night. The guy who answered, although she couldnt determine his age, was probably younger than her. My sister is 24. The guy was acting all weird and kept saying "ma'am" a lot to her. She got SO upset she said (joking) she was gonna find him and beat him up! Its ONE thing to use it the right way, an older person. Another to use it just to make yourself feel better or something else. And get it straight I am NOT a MA'AM TO YOU IF YOU ARE OLDER THAN ME! To that of which I reply, I go by MISS thanx I'm unmarried and MISS suits me fine! :)
@mysiraylon (1102)
• United States
16 Feb 07
Why would you bother yourself being called as Ma'am just simply pay him/her back with that sweet smile you have and he/she will then care to ask your name and be better the second time that person addresses you will be with your nickname or first name... I don't care if somebody will call me Mr. or Sir but obviously will be mad if they will call me Miss or Ma'am...
@jenalyn (675)
• United States
16 Feb 07
Are you trying to say, that I should tell them my name, so they will call me by that instead of Ma'am? I am having a hard time understanding what you wrote. If that is what you mean, I would say that most of the time I do tell people my name. Sometimes it sticks, then other times they see many other people, they just don't remember my name. When I get to know people, they don't call me ma'am anymore. Thank goodness.
1 person likes this
• United States
18 Feb 07
Just don't get mad at them adressing you with Ma'am, simply smile back on them and say: "it's Jenalyn... " then add this to his/her response: "... does it suppose to be Ma'am"... and she/he will admire and will remember your name thru associaton like that the first time he happen to met you...
1 person likes this
@jenalyn (675)
• United States
19 Feb 07
that is a good idea, thanks. I wonder why people keep telling me not to get mad. I have read what I wrote over and over, and I still don't get why it sounds like I am mad. ???
• Tanzania
23 Feb 07
tell you the truth, being called ma'am is a hell lot better than being addressed as "aunty" or "uncle" or "mummy" even as "sister" by a total stranger in public such as the market place. welcome to tanzania, you'll have the feel of it, visit india and it's the same. sometimes i wonder, how comes my parents never told me i had another sister some place , or i feel like asking is your dad my brother by any chance at all? lol!! have a nice day! don't take the word ma'am to heart, it can get worst!!
1 person likes this
• United States
23 Feb 07
LOL! I guess when you put in that term, I would rather be called ma'am. The term I hate even more than ma'am is honey. Excuse me honey you dropped this. Or when the gal is giving me my change "here are honey". It drive me straight up the wall!!
1 person likes this
@4ftfingers (1314)
17 Feb 07
haha when i was younger and went on holiday with family to america, my mother was always really chuffed that people were calling her ma'am, because we don't really have that here. i remember here shouting to me across the supermarket 'he called me ma'am!', in that way that only mothers do, with no regards for the embarassment she's causing. when you go to a supermarket here, and the person on the till hands you your change you won't get 'here you go ma'am, have a nice day', all you will get is 'E-are' which is colloquial for 'Here you are' and occassionally 'Ta'. The fact that someone speaks to you in a proper centence is politie enough but adding ma'am is a bonus. So i think females who arn't used to that would find it quite endearing, and maybe it's not such a special thing to those who are used to it, you know? (Hope that doesn't make me sound like a chauvenist :s lol)
1 person likes this
@jenalyn (675)
• United States
18 Feb 07
No, you don't sound like a chauvenists.
@vmoore709 (1102)
• United States
17 Feb 07
It's definitely used as more of a casual term now. I tend to use it while working or if I'm out and talking to someone I don't know. What bothers me about it, which is silly by the way, is it makes me feel old! I'm still pretty young, but now I have highschool kids calling me Ma'am. It's sad just thinking about it. :o)
1 person likes this
@jenalyn (675)
• United States
17 Feb 07
I don't think that is silly, I think that is why most people don't like it.
@arwenrey (316)
• Philippines
17 Feb 07
Me too, i don't like being called ma'am it makes me feel old for some reason especially when younger persons are calling me ma'am.
1 person likes this
@jenalyn (675)
• United States
17 Feb 07
it makes me feel bad no matter how old the person is that is saying it.
@ronita34 (3923)
• Canada
17 Feb 07
I think that you have a great point and i guess i have really never thought about it too much. Also i do not hear too many people use the term ma'am to often here. When i need assistance from someone and i do not know exactly how i should address that person than i will notmally just say "excuse me" as this is an easy way to get ones attention!!!
@jenalyn (675)
• United States
17 Feb 07
I like "excuse me" I think it is polite.
@RobinJ (2501)
• Canada
17 Feb 07
Well there is a lot worse than ma'am, I had my wake up call yesterday, for years and years I would give up my seat on the bus to a senior, or pregnant woman, or any person who had difficulty standing on a moving bus, For the past few years I have not seen this happen,But I still carried on doing it. Yesterday I got on the bus and it was full of teens on the way home from school. one boy nudged the other and said stand up for the old lady. and he did. I am not sure how to take this I know it was meant in the kindest way but I am not an old lady, I am a mature lady. but to the teens its all the same, so I just chuckle when I think about it
1 person likes this
@jenalyn (675)
• United States
17 Feb 07
Oh no, I think you're right. That is worse than Ma'am. Atleast they were doing something nice. Otherwise I woulda let them know about that term.
@jbrowsin66 (1322)
• United States
17 Feb 07
I think "miss" implies a younger person, where "ma'am" is for an older one and either is used to get your attention when someone needs to address you but doesn't know your name. I prefer either to "hey you", or "yo babe", lol.
1 person likes this
@jenalyn (675)
• United States
17 Feb 07
That's a good one. Yo babe. Lol, although I am the type that would probably get mad at a guy that called me that, but if he told me the other option was ma'am, I would choose 'you Babe."
@Grandmaof2 (7603)
• Canada
17 Feb 07
I'm with you girldriend I hate that saying sounds like either one of two things you belong to the cast from Little House On The Praire OR you run the house of ill repute. Even if you holler YEH LADY I can handle that. Isn't it funny how I'm 56 years old, you'd think I'd be in tune to this BUUTTT No Not So Much... Have a good weekend... Grandmaof2
1 person likes this
@jenalyn (675)
• United States
17 Feb 07
I understand. I will never be in tune with it.
@XxAngelxX (2832)
• Canada
17 Feb 07
I have to agree with you, I really don't like it either and would be just as happy with someone saying "excuse me" to get my attention. I don't know, I guess it just makes me feel old when some addresses me as ma'am, lol. I know it is a term of respect but still I'd just rather they call me Miss as well.
1 person likes this
@jenalyn (675)
• United States
17 Feb 07
Yes, excuse me is way better than Ma'am. I agree.