"ma'am" for a female student?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by absolutgeist, Jul 21, 2011.

  1. absolutgeist New Member

    I was watching this movie that was about a story of a teacher and a prep school students
    Even though he was a teacher, he kept calling (male) students "Sir", such as in " Does anyone have a question?... you, sir."

    Seemed like over-mannered to me, but suddenly I was wondering,

    When a teacher wants call a female student (Not adult) in this manner, would he want to say "ma'am"?

    Like "would anyone answer this question?.........(pointing at someone) you, ma'am!" (she panics)

    If not, what would a teacher call a young female student in a corteous manner?
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2011
  2. owlman5

    owlman5 Senior Member

    Using "sir" and "ma'am" should be fine, Absolutgeist, but they definitely have an old-fashioned ring about them in the ears of younger speakers. I, who am 51, often use both terms, particularly with people whose names I don't know, such as sales clerks. Sometimes people smile or look slightly surprised, above all when they are younger than I am. That doesn't bother me. It's a friendly form of address, and I'm too old to worry about sounding hep. Different people will likely offer different suggestions for terms to use when addressing female students. I'd be happy with "ma'am" even if some of those girls rolled their eyes, scowled, or giggled when I used it. :)

    PS Just remember that any expression gets old if you use it too much. If I were that teacher, I'd come up with a few more terms of address. Using "sir" in every sentence would be boring, which is a bad idea for those who want people to pay attention to them.
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2011
  3. 'Miss.'

  4. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    In my own experience and observation, teachers do not address students as "sir" and "ma'am", and it would seem weird to me. The normal form of address with children is first name. At the college/university level, surnames are occasionally used and the form of address would be "Mr [surname]" or "Ms [surname]".

    "Sir" and "ma'am" in my experience are forms used in addressing someone older than the speaker, or a person of any age who is in a higher position or a position of authority. ("Yes, sir" or "yes, ma'am" is desirable even when responding to a very young police officer.)
  5. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    Addressing inferiors as "sir" and "madam" is old fashioned and/or very formal and invariably was done at fee paying schools or those state schools that thought they were on a level with such places. In other circumstances, it is to be used for its effect only.

    As a slight aside, the upper classes of the UK used to address their pets (dogs & horses mainly) as "sir" and "madam", "Down Fido! I say down, sir!"

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