Madam pronunciation (UK)

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Pimothy, Oct 14, 2009.

  1. Pimothy Member

    English + Dutch, UK
    Dear all,

    Is there a difference in the pronunciation for the two meanings of the word 'madam'?

    I am referring here to these two meanings:
    - "a polite term of address to a woman, originally used only to a woman of rank or authority"
    - "the woman in charge of a house of prostitution"

    I am mainly concerned with the pronunciation in British English.

    Thank you very much,
  2. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    They're pronounced the same, Pimothy. As is the "madam" in 'she's a proper little madam', said of a girl-child who is rather full of herself.
  3. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Yes, both /'mædəm/ or MADDuhm. Very, very occasionally, I hear people trying to approximate the French pronunciation /mə'dɑːm/ or muhDAHM (although I would spell it 'madame' then).
  4. Elwintee Senior Member

    London England
    England English
    Yes. But when you meet the Queen you are told to call her 'Your Majesty' in your first response to whatever she says to you, and thereafter "ma'am" (pronounced 'mam').
  5. Pimothy Member

    English + Dutch, UK
    Sorry for the late reply.
    Thank you very much for the answers.

    I had always been under the impression that for the second meaning ("the woman in charge of a house of prostitution") the pronunciation was as it is in French. Thanks for setting me straight!
  6. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    For more on pronunciation, see Madam or Mam

    I have no idea how the madam in charge of a brothel is pronounced, of course, but I would be surprised if she routinely had a different pronunciation.
  7. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I'm adding to this post after 9 years because I've just been around the UK and I'm beginning to hear more and more of a French-style pronunciation (/madam/ with evenly stressed syllables) when people at hotels or smart department stores address my wife, particularly around London. Maybe they are saying madame rather than madam.
  8. heypresto

    heypresto Senior Member

    South East England
    English - England
    If I had a wife, and someone in a UK store or hotel were to address her as 'madame', I would either correct them, or take our business somewhere else, or quite possibly both. :D

    I'm not that keen on 'sir' and 'madam' in the first place, but 'madame' really takes the biscuit.
  9. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Thanks, heypresto. All I can say is that it occurred many times - stores, hotels, restaurants!

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