Ay, ma’am

Discussion in 'English Only' started by longxianchen, Nov 17, 2016.

  1. longxianchen Senior Member

    Here are some words from the novel Lady Chatterley's Lover(page 361, chapter 16) by Lawrence (planetebook,here):
    (background: Mellors said something impolite, Hilda got angry and said……)

    ‘And men like you,’ she said, ‘ought to be segregated: justifying their own vulgarity and selfish lust.’
    Ay, ma’am! It’s a mercy there’s a few men left like me. But you deserve what you get: to be left severely alone.’

    Mellors called Connie Your Lady. But why did he call her elder sister, Hilda, ma'am(=miss) please?
    Thank you in advance
  2. Franco-filly Senior Member

    Southern England
    English - Southern England
    ma'am means madam.
  3. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London but from Yorkshire
    English - England
    Ma'am is a multi-purpose form of respectful address. It is suitable for everyone from your school teacher to the Queen.

    I think your Ladyship is only suitable for addressing ladies who have the title Lady X (specific ranks of the nobility).
  4. Hermione Golightly

    Hermione Golightly Senior Member

    British English
    Ma'am is a very polite form of address and doesn't mean Miss which would be for an unmarried woman. The Queen and some high ranking women in the police and armed forces are addressed as Ma'am these days. I think Mellors is mocking her.
    He calls Connie 'Lady' because she has the title of Lady as part of her name.

    Madam is often used as a derogatory noun too, for a young woman who behaves in a superior fashion. "She's a right madam!"
  5. longxianchen Senior Member

    Thank you three. I've known the meaning of ma'am.
    Since that it's very polite, why is it also a kind of mock please?
  6. Hermione Golightly

    Hermione Golightly Senior Member

    British English
    Because he's being extremely rude indeed, probably suggesting she needs sex to put her right, and he doesn't have to address her in any special way. It's quite common for men and sometimes women to address a woman they are arguing with, as 'my love', 'sweetheart' or 'darlin'', as a form of sarcastic insult.
    He has no respect for her at all.
  7. Copperknickers Senior Member

    Scotland - Scots and English
    Because it's sarcasm, and that's what sarcasm is: saying one thing and meaning the opposite. In order to be very sarcastic, you have to use words which are very respectful: the more respectful the words, the more sarcastic you are being. Sarcasm is conveyed through context and tone of voice, so you can't tell the difference simply from looking at the words by themselves.

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