"Miss" being the equivalent of "Sir"

(54 Posts)
heidihole Sat 22-Jun-13 15:11:56

I was reading this article today about the ball boys and girls of Wimbledon.


I was sad to see that they are all professionally and formally trained to say (for example holding open a door) "after you, Sir" or "after you, Miss"

AIBU to think that the equivalent of Sir is not Miss! It should be Madam or M'am.

quotes from the article:

From the minute they step in here, they’re under no illusions as to what is acceptable, down to tying shoelaces with two knots, addressing us all as “Miss” or “Sir” and opening doors,’ she says.

Goldson trains her ball boys and girls not to chat with the players. If spoken to or asked about a line call, they are instructed to say: ‘I don’t know, Sir/Miss’ — even if they do.

Their backs are straight, their hair is gleaming, their shirts are tucked in, they look you in the eye, smile sweetly and hold doors open with an ‘After you, Miss’.

If I was asked the equivalent of Miss I would say Mr. As in, "Excuse me, Mr, have you got the time please? Excuse me, Miss have you got the time please"

A small thing but irritating me none the less.

I think it probable comes from how teacher are addressed and Miss is easier to say than Mrs, it flows. Also Ma'am is American and being a Madam isn't a compliment.

heidihole Sat 22-Jun-13 15:47:43

Ma'am isn't American! Its the correct way to address the Queen for a start. It comes from the French


I wouldn't like to be called Miss if my DH was being called Sir.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Sat 22-Jun-13 15:50:58

YANBU, and this makes me cross when schools do it, too.

Picturesinthefirelight Sat 22-Jun-13 15:52:00

I just think its part of the culture of the tournament. It's like dance. All dance teachers whether married or single are known as Miss first name

heidihole Sat 22-Jun-13 15:56:37

They may be.... but should they be pictures? smile

Picturesinthefirelight Sat 22-Jun-13 16:06:54

I don't know. My background is drama so I find it a bit strange. But dancers all insist on it so one assumes they like it.

I wouldn't address the Queen as ma'am, she that rich parasite in expensive hats.

Quejica Sat 22-Jun-13 16:16:29

Some male Judges are addressed as Sir, the female equivalent is Madam.

MooncupGoddess Sat 22-Jun-13 16:23:51

Agree, that's wrong. I assume that women teachers are traditionally called 'Miss' from the old days when married women rarely worked (or weren't allowed to!) so all teachers were Miss X - but in this day and age it's hardly a model to follow.

SconeRhymesWithGone Sat 22-Jun-13 16:28:11

I notice that in British crime dramas and fiction, women superiors are often addressed as "ma'am," so it appears to be used in that context.

The use of "ma'am" is not just American obviously, but it is the standard equivalent to "sir" in the US.

TheFallenMadonna Sat 22-Jun-13 16:33:46

Some schools use "Madam". I get the argument in theory, but in practice, for the children using the terms, I think they are equivalent.

kim147 Sat 22-Jun-13 17:17:28

Most schools I work at say Miss. As in Miss, miss.

But I worked at a secondary school where the pupils used Madam.

Beats nursery where the default is "teacher" for any adult in the classroom.

As an aside, it is interesting to hear Americans being interviewed as they commonly use "Maam or Sir" when talkng to interviewers unlike Brits.

Bue Sat 22-Jun-13 19:10:36

I hate that children in schools use Miss as the equivalent of Sir. It is Maam!

kim147 Sat 22-Jun-13 19:14:59

In younger primary, I don't think pupils would use "Sir" - normally it's Mr.

Then again, it's rare to see male teachers in younger primary.

I really don't like the whole sir or miss thing. When I was at school we just addressed all teachers as Mr/Mrs/Miss/Dr/whatever other title they used Surname at all times. We'd never have used sir or miss. It sounds really weird to me when DS1 talks about his teachers as sir or miss.

But I agree miss should not be the equivalent of sir.

olivo Sat 22-Jun-13 19:26:03

I taught at a school where they called us Ma'am, and the men, Sir. I thought the pupils were taking the mick when I first started. It was very normal locally. I was a state school, not private.

Bunnylion Sat 22-Jun-13 21:50:27

Side note - DM continues to call Nigella Lawson "miss Lawson" throughout the recent events in her life.

She's obviously married and has obviously kept her own name. All the newspapers manage to call her Ms except the DM.

Movingtimes Sat 22-Jun-13 21:53:19

I agree. As a teacher I think that being called Miss while male teachers are called Sir does subliminally affect pupils' view of our relative status. I would prefer Ma'am.

heidihole Sat 22-Jun-13 21:53:56

I'm married, and I'm still Miss Hole

Miss or Ms is a personal preference and I don't know that Nigella has ever publically declared which title she uses.

ChunkyPickle Sat 22-Jun-13 22:08:35

Juliet Bravo was always Ma'am (well.. Mum, which confused me for a long time when I was younger).

At my Girls school we were taught to use the teachers names (Mrs X or whatever), as yelling out 'MISSSSS' didn't have the right tone.

Personally I hate Miss too - it has overtures of unmarried spinster governesses trying to get by as opposed to Ma'am which actually has some respect in it. I could be overthinking that though.

megmagmog Sat 22-Jun-13 22:10:52

Agree not "Miss" but rofl at Ma'am! I just don't think there is a female equivalent to Sir, so Miss/Mrs/Ms Surname should be used.

SinisterSal Sat 22-Jun-13 22:18:05

Miss sounds young. It's very important for women to be young.
Sir sounds older and authoritative. Which is most suitable for men.

I really don't understand what's wrong with Mrs Brown, Mr Smith and Miss Jones (all of whom have chosen those titles). Do schools fear that children won't be able to remember their teacher's names?

Or teachers' names for that matter. grin

manitz Sat 22-Jun-13 22:34:19

yesterday the manager of a giraffe addressed me as miss all the way through my lunch. it's the first time I've had it and it was very strange. now i've come across your thread. Personally I didn't like it but he meant it to be some sort of compliment. I don't think I'd like madam either, I think it makes the person saying it sound like they are less than the person they say it to (miss made me feel like i was his teacher). There isnt' really a good word at all. We used ma'am at my secondary school, it seemed really normal at the time but when people from other schools heard it they were bemused. I wondered why a state school had ma'am and thought they had ideas but I like the idea that it was a stab at feminism.

Manager of a giraffe?

manitz Sat 22-Jun-13 22:40:23

cafe chain called giraffe, not a zookeeper.

Aetae Sat 22-Jun-13 22:44:10

Personally I'd like it to be Sir or Mr for everyone, but I suppose that's wishful thinking. I don't see why gendering the honorific or title is necessary.

I will make an exception to this should I ever get the chance to be Countess Aetae - much better than Count. Dracula ruined that for everyone.

WhentheRed Sun 23-Jun-13 07:29:27

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

TheDoctrineOfAllan Sun 23-Jun-13 08:01:48

I do agree it should be Sir and Ma'am but I'm not surprised that the ball girls and ball boys are told to use sir and miss as they are all from local schools and those seem to be the most common school uses.

tribpot Sun 23-Jun-13 08:12:00

If there was ever a case for a revival of the gender-neutral 'comrade' ...

Re: Juliet Bravo, it's now becoming more common for female commanding officers to be called 'Sir' in TV cop shows, not entirely sure about real life.

TheDoctrineOfAllan Sun 23-Jun-13 12:04:47

But comrade isn't just gender neutral, it's hierarchy neutral...

FannyFifer Sun 23-Jun-13 12:06:15

At high school out teachers were either called Miss or Sir.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sun 23-Jun-13 12:10:14

Teachers being 'miss' pissed off my teachers. Who were mostly married. We were told (and this will be archaic but correct etiquette, I'll bet you) that 'Miss' on its own is rude, as is 'Mister' on its own, whereas 'Sir' on its own is polite.

If you're going to call someone 'Miss' it should be 'Miss so-and-so'. Bit of a mouthful in this context.

LtEveDallas Sun 23-Jun-13 12:26:32

In the forces a male officer is Sir, a female officer is Ma'am (it should be pronounced Mam as in Jam not Marm as in Harm - but is generally mispronounced)

Younger male officers get called Mr Smith, females Miss Smith but that is usually correct (ie, they aren't married). With older (late entry) officers they will be called by rank and surname. I get Ma'am, Sergeant Major or Q Dallas.

I wouldn't like to be called Miss, but admit getting called Ma'am makes me feel soooo old grin. Q (my job title) is easier.

Takver Sun 23-Jun-13 12:38:59

LtEve, I am now thrilled by the thought of you as Q, behind a big desk, sending spies all over the world grin

However, in this situation, I would agree that Ma'am would seem more appropriate.

LtEveDallas Sun 23-Jun-13 12:52:40


Wish I was that important! Sadly it's just an abbreviation. I quite like Sgt Maj, makes me feel scary grin

BalloonSlayer Sun 23-Jun-13 12:58:13

I liked the line in Prime Suspect when she says "Don't call me Ma'am, I'm not the bloody Queen."

Actually I would quite like to be called Guv.

vesuvia Sun 23-Jun-13 12:58:25

I bet that many of the people who think that Miss is the equivalent of Sir are the same people who think that Ms signifies a divorced woman.

They are mistaken.

OneMoreChap Sun 23-Jun-13 13:21:48

I believe Devon schools use ma'am as in jam, too.

TheSmallClanger Sun 23-Jun-13 20:06:48

I remember being taught that "ma'am" was the normal mode of address for female teachers before the wars.

The same teacher refused to answer to "miss" - we called her Mrs Hername.

ThirdTimesABrokenFanjo Mon 24-Jun-13 02:44:01

why should it be sir or Mr for everyone? why not Ms or maam? or a whole new term?

ThirdTimesABrokenFanjo Mon 24-Jun-13 02:44:29

that was in response to aetae

WilsonFrickett Mon 24-Jun-13 18:04:54

DS school is quite hot on titles, the male teachers are Mr Name, the females are Miss, Mrs or Ms - according to their preference, I assume. Female parents they are quite good at sussing out, for eg they call me Ms Frickett and I didn't have to ask them to do so. My name is different from DS though, so maybe that's their default.

(Note, that's the first time I've written Ms Frickett and now I wish it was my name in RL)

Aetae Mon 24-Jun-13 18:15:11

Third because those titles have more cachet by virtue of the legacy of history. The world being run by men and all... It's easier to make the more powerful titles generic than imbue the less powerful titles with artificial gravitas.

Greenandcabbagelooking Mon 24-Jun-13 18:15:56

I don't get called Miss Cabbage at my dancing school, just Cabbage. Partially because all three of the younger teachers have names with S in them at it sounds odd. The oldest teacher (in her 60's) is Mrs Surname.

Bue Mon 24-Jun-13 18:23:13

I know my female teacher friends hate being 'Missed' but surely they hold some responsibility for allowing it? I mean, they are the ones in charge in their own classrooms. If it were me I would point blank refuse to answer to it.

TeiTetua Mon 24-Jun-13 18:27:04

I wasn't surprised that Inspector Tennison didn't like being called Ma'am, especially if it was pronounced "Marm".

Those who disdain capital letters lay themselves open to having a Giraffe mistaken for a giraffe.

stealthsquiggle Mon 24-Jun-13 18:39:24

The whole "sir" thing in schools annoys me, TBH. DC's school use names (Mr X, Miss or Mrs Y) and it always strikes me as slightly wierd when visiting teams call their accompanying teachers "sir" - if the teachers can be bothered to know the DC's by name, surely they should do the same in return? (yes, FWIW, I do get that this is not the DC's choice but school rules)

As for equivalence, I don't think there is one single equivalent, but I can well believe that some female tennis players would object to "ma'am" so I guess "miss" is the safe (if annoying option)

EvilTwins Mon 24-Jun-13 19:01:14

I stopped caring about being called Miss (or rather Miiiiiiisss) years ago (teacher) If I email students I sign them Mrs E (rather than full surname) and will refer to the other teacher in my dept as Mrs H. I find it odd when the kids email back though and start "Dear Mrs" or "Hi Mrs" (no surname) I guess they know I'm married, even though they call me Miss. I did have one colleague, who's left now, who used to call all female teachers Miss (even in the staff room- where it's perfectly acceptable to use first names) That was weird. It always made me feel like he couldn't be bothered to remember who I was.

stealthsquiggle Mon 24-Jun-13 19:13:15

EvilTwins - half of DS's teachers seem to be known by their initials (Mr P, Miss P (no relation, and Mrs P, who is married to Mr P, is also on the staff but known by her full surname), Mrs Q, Mr AB (double-barrelled surname) - I think it is strange, but it seems to work, and it's definitely better than Sir and Miiiiiiss

SconeRhymesWithGone Mon 24-Jun-13 19:32:11

Ma'am pronounced as marm can create confusion to the American ear. Last night I was watching Inspector Lewis on TV. DH was on his Ipad and not paying much attention, but at one point looked up and asked me "Why is he calling his boss Mom?"

EvilTwins Mon 24-Jun-13 19:32:18

They only do it in writing though. No one calls me Mrs E in person, except Mrs H. The kids still call me Miiiiiiiss.

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