A proper title for an old woman

NewAmerica

Banned
Mandarin
Here is a scenario in which "I", an American soldier, on a mission of American government, am talking to an old female driver:

"I": I am very sorry, old woman, this road is blocked.

Old woman: Why not let me pass if you are so sorry?


**********************

The question of the thread is whether the title "old woman" is a proper, polite title. Is it a bit rude? Should "I" have said "I am very sorry, lady..."?
 
  • Florentia52

    Modwoman in the attic
    English - United States
    "Old woman" is rude, and "lady" is not entirely polite. An American soldier, if not using the appropriate term in the local language, would almost certainly say "ma'am."
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    There are many cultures in which age is valued. It is possible that they were in such a culture, that they were not speaking English, and that a respectful term in that other language is most closely translated into English as "old woman." We don't have enough context to know.

    However, this is not a respectful way to address someone in any English-speaking culture I am familiar with.
     
    Last edited:

    Orble

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    In Australia a person in authority like this would never refer to the age of the person in any way. Even when talking to a third party they would avoid it if they could and otherwise use “that older lady over there”.
    To the lady herself they would either just use, “madam” or more likely (as we think of ourselves as egalitarian and tend to avoid status titles like sir and madam) would simply say “I’m sorry the road is blocked”
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    What is the source of this dialogue? The lack of background makes it difficult to understand the soldier's choice of words.
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    "Old woman" is rude, and "lady" is not entirely polite. An American soldier, if not using the appropriate term in the local language, would almost certainly say "ma'am."
    I agree completely with Florentia: if the soldier is American, he would say "ma'am" (which rhymes with "ham", and not with "calm"), which is a common, standard, everyday word in American English when speaking politely to any woman whose name you do not know.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Crone. :D

    While it is probably (just probably) acceptable to call a young woman "young lady", anything with "old" will get you in trouble in the USA.


    Note: Under no condition should you ever refer to a woman as a "crone". Doing so might be considered suicidal.

    From Google Definitions:

    crone
    krōn/
    noun
    1. an old woman who is thin and ugly.
     
    Last edited:

    NewAmerica

    Banned
    Mandarin
    I find "young lady" usually bring smiles in proportion to the age of the addressee:) It neatly sidesteps the whole issue :eek:
    There is a question: If you deliberately call a woman in her golden age (>=50), would your sincerity be doubted and be considered as patronizing?

    .... and don't call me "old man," either.:warning:
    It appears to me that "Sir" is too polite in a casual conversation and "Man" seems a bit too straight and whether "Old boy" is acceptable today in America is unknown to me.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    There is a question: If you deliberately call a woman in her golden age (>=50), would your sincerity be doubted and be considered as patronizing?.
    By that age, whatever it is, it seems that their recognition that I refrain from using the word "old" (unspoken but made clear by using young) outweighs any concern about possible patronization. Perhaps it's just my tone of voice:D (I should add that I do not look young - I just received an automatic Tuesday Senior discount -65+ at the local supermarket without even being asked:))
     
    Last edited:

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    It appears to me that "Sir" is too polite in a casual conversation
    While that may be the case in British English (or so some posts on this forum have suggested), as far as American English is concerned, you are very mistaken. In American English, "Sir" is a completely ordinary way of politely addressing any adult man whose name you do not know. For example, if you were riding a bus in the Bronx or Staten Island in New York and got up to get off while leaving your umbrella behind, any number of bus riders would say "Sir! Sir! You forgot your umbrella!!"

    and "Man" seems a bit too straight
    I would regard "Man" as always inappropriate, and downright rude from anyone other than a leftover hippie.

    and whether "Old boy" is acceptable today in America is unknown to me.
    In the United States in 2018, addressing as stranger as "Old boy" would be regarded as preposterous, and thoroughly ridiculous.
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    Best advice: leave everyone’s age out if it, always.

    In the UK calling anyone “Young lady” sounds supercilious or maybe like an admonishment to my ears, depending on the age of the person being addressed.

    It’s fascinating to wonder how words which have pretty straightforward meanings and are not insults in general use have come to be perceived as insulting if they are used as terms of address, but that’s how it is.

    I envy the Americans their sir and ma’am system. It’s not something we really do in the UK.
    Sir is OK, but we really lack a polite term of address for women.
     

    Pertinax

    Senior Member
    BrE->AuE
    Yes, suzi br, I agree. I use the address "Excuse me" in what I hope is a conciliatory tone. I couldn't use "madam" without thinking of Are you being served?
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    Yes, suzi br, I agree. I use the address "Excuse me" in what I hope is a conciliatory tone. I couldn't use "madam" without thinking of Are you being served?
    That was exactly my reaction, too! :D

    To go back to the original question, here in the UK the soldier or whoever would simply say "I'm very sorry, this road is blocked" without reference to the age or sex of the driver.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    This is all very interesting, but we still do not know where this dialogue came from.
    Here is a scenario in which "I", an American soldier, on a mission of American government, am talking to an old female driver:

    "I": I am very sorry, old woman, this road is blocked.

    Old woman: Why not let me pass if you are so sorry?
    This is supposed to be an American soldier. Why did he not say "ma'am"? Who wrote this dialogue? Where was he when he said it?
     

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    I envy the Americans their sir and ma’am system. It’s not something we really do in the UK.
    When was that system abandoned in the UK? Such a pity.
    I fondly remember one of my first English teachers, from Birmingham, who told us at the beginning of the very first lesson:
    'You call me Mr. R...... or 'sir' and, generally, if you don't know the name, you say 'sir' or 'ma'am', especially when addressing an adult.'

    Indeed, since then I have lost my manners, so I do not sir or ma'am people I see as my peers, but the ones that are evidently older than me do get that privilege. :)
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    When was that system abandoned in the UK? Such a pity.
    I fondly remember one of my first English teachers, from Birmingham, who told us at the beginning of the very first lesson:
    'You call me Mr. R...... or 'sir' and, generally, if you don't know the name, you say 'sir' or 'ma'am', especially when addressing an adult.'

    Indeed, since then I have lost my manners, so I do not sir or ma'am people I see as my peers, but the ones that are evidently older than me do get that privilege. :)
    When I was at school doing German 'O' level we had a female teacher that we were supposed to address as "Ma'am', but I haven't used it to anybody since.

    I don't know what pupils in British schools nowadays use, but I certainly can't imagine a BE speaker using it in the OP's context.
     

    NewAmerica

    Banned
    Mandarin
    This is all very interesting, but we still do not know where this dialogue came from.
    This is supposed to be an American soldier. Why did he not say "ma'am"? Who wrote this dialogue? Where was he when he said it?
    Ah? I made up the scenario to learn English and now the American Sir&Ma'am System shows up its grace, doesn't it? :)
     
    I envy the Americans their sir and ma’am system. It’s not something we really do in the UK.
    I wish we did, Suzi—I do it.

    Having lived in the USA on and off for two years it comes naturally to me to use sir, ma'm (pronounced mam) and miss over here.

    I call women ma'am all the time, and teenage girls who serve me in coffee shops and on market stalls miss.

    None of them have ever batted an eyelid.
     
    Last edited by a moderator:
    < Previous | Next >
    Top