Ma'am to the Queen?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Andreas_Jensen, May 20, 2007.

  1. Andreas_Jensen Senior Member

    Yesterday I watched the movie The Queen (with my girlfriend of course :D) and I was quite surprised by the fact that the British queen is addressed with a word that unmistakably sound like "ma'am" as in: "Welcome to my ranch, ma'am!". The Danish queen should only be addressed "Your majesty". Is it the same title as in the Wild West or is it something different? And does anyone know how that form of titulation arose?

    Thanks in advance!

    - Andreas
  2. Elowen Member

    English English
    You’re supposed to address the Queen as “Your Majesty” the first time, then after that as “Ma’am”.
  3. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
  4. The Scrivener Banned

    On the "naughty step".
    England. English
    It should be noted that Ma'am is pronounced to rhyme with ham, not with harm.
  5. LouisaB Senior Member

    English, UK
    Normally yes, but not (I think) with the Queen. Certainly on Royal visits (to the school I used to teach at) the equerry instructed us all to say 'Ma'am' as in 'harm'. But this is nearly ten years ago now, so maybe usage has changed?

  6. The Scrivener Banned

    On the "naughty step".
    England. English
    I'm going by what I have heard royal advisors saying in TV documentaries.

    I found this post in an old thread.
  7. LouisaB Senior Member

    English, UK
    Thanks, Scrivener.

    I'm not sure about the link in the post (as I think it's AE, and refers to general rather than royal usage), but royal advisers in documentaries would certainly know better than I do! :D As I say, my information is ten years out of date - and I can't say I chat to the Queen much myself these days....

  8. dobes Senior Member

    bratislava, slovakia
    US English(Boston/NY)
    Do you mean that the first time in your life you meet the Queen, you call her "Your Majesty" and then every time after that you call her "ma'am"? Or do you call her "Your Majesty" the first time you address her at each meeting?
  9. The Scrivener Banned

    On the "naughty step".
    England. English
    :D Oh? She often pops in for a chat over a cup of Earl Grey when she has some spare time. But she allows me to call her 'Lilibet'. :D

    This is from a Daily Telegraph report on her recent visit to the USA.

    I can't imagine Americans going weak at the knees in the royal presence. :D. I certainly wouldn't if I were to meet G. Bush.

    Here is the source.

    Sorry to harp on. I expect you have gathered that I am an ardent monarchist. :cool:
  10. dobes Senior Member

    bratislava, slovakia
    US English(Boston/NY)
    I don't know. Royalty is a different thing from politicians. I wouldn't go 'weak in the knees' at meeting Tony Blair either, though I simultaneously admire and pity him, but the Queen... maybe.

    And it seems they mentioned the 'rhymes with ham' thing because it is the American pronunciation. Until this thread, I never knew there was another one! Or, rather, I'd heard of 'marm', but I thought it was spelled that way.
  11. LouisaB Senior Member

    English, UK
    You're not harping on at all - the Telegraph is an excellent source of reference, and on the basis of that I'd say you're absolutely right. 'Ma'am' to rhyme with 'ham' it is!


    P.S. No shame in being a monarchist. I'm one too... ;)
  12. The Scrivener Banned

    On the "naughty step".
    England. English
    You have to wait to be spoken to first. She might say, "How do you do?" You reply, "How do you do, Your Majesty?" Then she may ask you a question, to which you reply, "Yes, Ma'am" or "No, Ma'am".

    Her household staff, including the closest members, such as her Private Secretary, wait for her to say, "Good morning, xxxxx." They reply, "Good morning, Your Majesty." Thereafter she is addressed as Ma'am.

    This happens every day!

    Oh, the tedium of royal protocol. But the sovereign is revered as having been chosen by God. Not so long ago one had to leave the 'presence' walking backwards. I believe a couple of token backward steps may now be taken and then one can turn round and walk normally.
  13. Musical Chairs Senior Member

    Japan & US, Japanese & English
    I've heard "Your Highness" too but it seems that people say "Your Majesty" (more).
  14. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    As I understand it, "Your Highness" would be for anyone in the royal family other than the queen (Prince Charles, for example.)
  15. Musical Chairs Senior Member

    Japan & US, Japanese & English
    I never knew that! :)

    Edit: how much do they have to be "royal" to be called "Your Highness?" Would Prince Charle's cousin's daughter's aunt's brother be a "Highness?"
  16. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    We're straying a bit off-topic here, but I suppose in one way it does discuss what the Queen of England is not called. :)

    In present usage the following members of the British Royal Family normally have the right to be addressed as Royal Highness (HRH, His or Her Royal Highness): The children of past and present Sovereigns, the grandchildren in the male-line and the eldest son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales (decree of 31 May 1898). A change of sovereign does not entail the forfeiture of the style of Royal Highness. However, the sovereign has the right to grant or revoke the style of HRH and other titles (e.g., Princess Royal).

    I believe this issue of revoking the use of the title came up in both Diana's and Fergie's divorces from the princes.
  17. Musical Chairs Senior Member

    Japan & US, Japanese & English
    If a "Highness" or "Majesty" doesn't want to be called that, do people listen? (For example, I heard Princess Diana wanted to be called just "Diana" but I don't know if people really did call her that.)
  18. The Scrivener Banned

    On the "naughty step".
    England. English
    The Queen has no choice in the matter. Court protocol has to be observed at all times. As for the "Highnesses", they have to be correctly addressed while carrying out public duties. When they are in private, with their friends, I expect they don't bother with their titles.

    Who knows abour Diana? The media could say anything they liked about her, true or not.
  19. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    And reverting to the pronunciation of "ma'am" - yes, for The Queen it definitely rhymes with "ham". In all other circumstances (in present day BrE) it rhymes with "harm". I think in the past it may have rhymed with "dumb"...


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