Hello sir/Madam

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Mike2947, Dec 19, 2011.

  1. Mike2947 Senior Member

    Chinese
    Hello everybody,
    I have not seen people saying "Hello Madam" as much as they say "Hello sir". Is "Hello madam" as prevalent as "Hello sir"? Actually I have used this one, but sometimes I think the person I refer to looks at me strangely.
    Thank you :)
     
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2011
  2. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    Common terms of address used for strangers vary enormously depending on where you are. Based on numerous previous comments on this forum, it seems that Americans are much more formal in addressing strangers than most Britons are, and the term "sir" is vastly more common in everyday conversation in the US than it is in the UK. On the other hand, "Madam" is not so common; its far more common replacement in the US is its shorter form "ma'am", which in the US always rhymes with "ham", and "miss" may also be used to address an unknown woman regardless of the age of the person addressed. That being said, it would still be odd to tack either a "sir" or a "ma'am" onto the greeting "Hello!", even if speaking to a stranger.
     
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2011
  3. Copyright

    Copyright Senior Member

    Penang
    American English
    I was waiting for someone to express my thoughts so I could simply agree. Thank you, GWB.
     
  4. Pertinax

    Pertinax Senior Member

    Queensland, Aust
    BrE->AuE
    In my experience in Australia, the terms "sir" and "madam" are used only by staff addressing customers in shops, hotels, etc. The more formally the customer is dressed, and the more white hairs they have, the more likely the use of the honorific.

    In that context "sir" and "madam" are equally likely, but the relative informality of "hello" makes it a poor choice of word first.
     
  5. dukaine Senior Member

    Richmond, VA
    English - American
    In case you were wondering with what to replace "hello", in the US you would say "Good morning", "Good afternoon", "Good evening", "Welcome", or whatever form of formal introduction suits the situation.
     
  6. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    In the US, anyone would use them with anyone else. For example, if one passenger accidentally left an umbrella behind when getting up to get off a bus, anywhere in the US it would be entirely natural and common for another passenger who noticed it to call out "Sir (or Ma'am, or Miss), you forgot your umbrella!"

    There is a popular televsion show in the US called "Judge Judy", in which a retired judge from the state court in New York settles actual small-claims cases between a plaintiff and a defendant. I notice that Judge Judy habitually addresses women as "Madam" (and I am sure she did it in the past while actually serving as a judge), and men as "Sir", and the parties to the lawsuit commonly answer the judge's questions with "yes ma'am" or "no ma'am."
     
  7. Pertinax

    Pertinax Senior Member

    Queensland, Aust
    BrE->AuE
    Yes, I was aware that Americans use "sir" much more freely, both from American novels, programs like Judge Judy (which is screened here twice daily), and from expatriate Australians. They don't, I think, use it quite as freely as, say, Samuel Johnson, who added a "sir", as a salutation of mutual respect, every few sentences, but nevertheless it remains far more common than in BrE. In this respect, as in so many others, the older forms of English speech are better preserved in America.
     

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