Is ma'am used in The US?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Tenacious Learner, Mar 22, 2013.

  1. Tenacious Learner

    Tenacious Learner Senior Member

    Spanish
    Hi teachers,
    Is ma'am used in The USA as a form of polite address for a woman?

    Will that be cash or charge (madam) ma'am?

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. e2efour Senior Member

    England (aged 75)
    UK English
    You have quoted the above from the American Heritage Dictionary. Do you mean in the UK? Have you read the previous discussions?
    In the UK it is used mainly when talking to the Queen and members of the royal family and also to female superiors (e.g. in the police force). I would not say it is generallly a form of polite address.
     
  3. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    The original question about the US is also very difficult to answer. If I were asked:
    I would say, "Yes and no." There are so many issues here: Where in the US are you? How old are you? What race/class/gender are you? What's the situation?

    Suffice to say, I do not use "ma'am." (But then again, I don't find myself saying "sir" very often, either.)
     
  4. Tenacious Learner

    Tenacious Learner Senior Member

    Spanish
    Hi e2efour,
    Thanks for your reply. I have quoted my post from the Free on Line Dictionary. Have I read the previous discussions? No, I haven't.

    TS
     
  5. Miss Julie

    Miss Julie Senior Member

    Chicago metro area
    English-U.S.
    If I see a woman I don't know and need to call her attention, I use "ma'am," as in:

    Excuse me, ma'am, you dropped something.

    To me, saying anything else--"Hey, you!" "Hey, lady!"--would be rude.
     
  6. Tenacious Learner

    Tenacious Learner Senior Member

    Spanish
    Hi lucas-sp,
    Thanks for your reply. I'm in Spain. I asked that because I know that in the UK is used 'when talking to the Queen ...' as e2efour said.

    TS
     
  7. JustKate

    JustKate Moderate Mod

    Ma'am is in some parts of the country extremely common. In others it's not as common, but it is nonetheless used. How else can you politely address a woman whose name you don't know? Maybe miss, but that seems kind of silly when used for anybody older than, say, 30.

    I use it all the time. I use sir, too, for that matter. Lots of people do likewise here in the Midwest.
     
  8. Tenacious Learner

    Tenacious Learner Senior Member

    Spanish
    Hi Miss Julie,
    Would you say 'ma'am' to thank a woman too?

    TS
     
  9. Miss Julie

    Miss Julie Senior Member

    Chicago metro area
    English-U.S.
    Yes, I would. I imagine JustKate would, too. :D
     
  10. Hau Ruck

    Hau Ruck Senior Member

    United States - Midwest
    English - U.S.
    Both my parents were in the Army. As such, 'ma'am' was instilled in me all through my life.
    I still catch myself saying it (some women hate that term as it makes them feel 'old').

    It's quite an appropriate way to be respectful in most of the U.S.
    And as far as the military is concerned, it is the way you address a female.
     
  11. JustKate

    JustKate Moderate Mod

    That I would. "Yes ma'am," "thank you, ma'am," "no ma'am" - all of these are things that I say all the time.
     
  12. Tenacious Learner

    Tenacious Learner Senior Member

    Spanish
    Hi teachers,
    Thanks a lot for all your replies. Crystal clear. :)

    TS
     
  13. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    :thumbsup: Here in New York, too!
     
  14. -mack-

    -mack- Senior Member

    Los Angeles
    American English
    For calling the attention of a woman you do not know, ma'am is probably the most appropriate option. Miss is usually also okay for a young woman (e.g., a teenager, where you might feel odd calling her ma'am). Of course, if you do know her, her title and name is most appropriate. (Ms./Miss/Mrs./Professor/Doctor _______).

    "Yes, ma'am," is also an appropriate way to convey respect when answering a question or responding to a command. (E.g., "License, registration, and proof of insurance." "Yes, ma'am." :D)
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2013
  15. Sparky Malarky

    Sparky Malarky Moderator

    Indiana
    English - US
    People in the south are far more likely to respond to questions by other adults with "yes sir" and "yes ma'am." Also, as mentioned, this is the proper form of address in the military, and service members tend to carry the habit into civilian life.
     
  16. Egmont Senior Member

    Massachusetts, U.S.
    English - U.S.
    If, and only if, (a) she is a commissioned officer and (b) she outranks you - that is, the same situation in which you would address a man as sir. This thread is not about military forms of address in general, but ma'am is not a general form of address for women in the military.
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2013
  17. Hau Ruck

    Hau Ruck Senior Member

    United States - Midwest
    English - U.S.
    A very good point and very true. :) My mom was a light bird so I was just used to hearing people say it to her. (As well as yours truly, haha)
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2013
  18. sinkya Senior Member

    Chinese
    I've read other similar threads but they did not answer my question.
    I'd really appreciate it if you could help me figure this out.

    Do people in the U.S. say to their female bosses "Ma'am?" Ex. "Good morning, ma'am." "Yes, ma'am."??

    From what I've read in the form, I guess "ma'am" won't be used as wrote above...unless your boss is a member of a royal family or you are in a military...but please correct me if I'm wrong.

    Thank you!
     
  19. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    California
    English - US
    You are right that we don't use "ma'am" when addressing our boss. We usually use names when we are addressing them, sometimes their first names, and sometimes their last names and titles, depending on their preference.

    If we are being especially formal in a greeting, we might say "Good morning, Ms Jones", for instance, but that would be unusually formal in most work places. Normally we just say "Good morning."

    In places I have worked, people would not say "yes, Ms Jones" in response to instructions. They would usually say something like "I'll do that right away". In fact, "Yes, Ms Jones" could be mistaken for sarcasm, as it is so unexpected.

    At least, this is my experience in the region where I live.
     
  20. sinkya Senior Member

    Chinese
    Thank you!
     

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