Madam or Mam

Discussion in 'English Only' started by silversurfer, Apr 30, 2007.

  1. silversurfer Member

    Hindi - Indian
    Dear Forum,

    what is corresponding of Sir (when you are addressing a women). I know we could say Madam, but it sounds bit old.

    I remember somebody saying Mame or Mam, but when I use the dictionary the defination of Mam: it is saying Mam=a member of Mayan people.

    In good english can I say Mam (instead of Madam)

    thanks for help
  2. No, you should write and use Madam in formal setting. Ma`am is a colloquial American form for "Madam".
  3. Sallyb36

    Sallyb36 Senior Member

    Liverpool UK
    British UK
    No, It would be:
    Dear Sir/Madam,

    The word you are thinking of is Ma'am, and is American.
  4. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    Just a note... although "ma'am" is indeed American, we would not use it in the salutation of a letter. We would use "Madam". "Ma'am" is in spoken AE.

    - James
  5. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I think Her Majesty would be somewhat taken aback to discover that Ma'am is AE :eek:

    It's another example of something that was routine usage in BE before you all left, has remained routine usage in AE, but has become specialised in BE - for use when speaking to female royalty or female superior officers in the forces and police.

  6. She knows that, I guess:D
    But that is only for the Queen in the UK.
  7. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Ma'am is not colloquial. It was at one time the routine mode of address to a woman of equal or superior rank.

    (Comments based on OED)
  8. Dimcl Senior Member

    British Columbia, Canada
    Canadian English
    Unfortunately, it has also morphed into the address of young wait staff to women obviously older than themselves and is now thrown around by said youngsters in an obvious attempt to show some kind of misguided deference to older women. As such, it has become a source of irritation to many of my female friends.
  9. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    "Madam": used
    • at the beginning of a letter in tandem with "Sir" when you don't know the addressee's name
    • to women customers (if you're lucky) by shop assistants and waiters (alternatives include love, ducks, dear:eek: )
    "Ma'am" (with long 'a' to rhyme with 'calm'): used by junior military/police to senior military/police who happen to be female. I used to work as a civilian with the British Army/Navy/Air Force. How I loved being called "Ma'am" <sigh>....

    "Ma'am" (with short 'a' to rhyme with 'ham'): used in addressing HM The Queen. I'm sure LRV can confirm:)

  10. savannah Senior Member

    English, USA
    Interestingly, it's almost de rigeur in my neck of the woods (the Deep South, USA). Indeed, the state of Louisiana passed a law making "ma'am" and "sir" the required form of address for grade-school children to their teachers. And I still say "yes, ma'am" or "no ma'am" to all older women when I'm home in the South--including my mother. (This is a common pratice in the region). Now that I've finally entered my 3rd decade, I find it charming when my neices and nephews and other small children call me "ma'am." I'd question their manners if they didn't.

    Maybe it'll be a different story when teenagers start calling me "ma'am"!:D
  11. LMorland

    LMorland Senior Member

    Du retour à la Bastille !
    American living in France
    I would agree, even though my part of the South is not quite so deep (central Florida). I remember my sixth grade teacher, early in the school year, asking a question of a student, and he responded, "Yes."

    "You say, 'yes, ma'am!'" she retorted. She spoke with such ferocity that it felt as if a cattle prod had been used ... on all of us! :)

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