Miss or Mrs.?

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spring&autumn

Member
Chinese
I noticed something odd when I was watching the TV series Dallas. In the show, the husband and the daughters-in-law all call the lady "Miss Ellie." Isn't that wrong? She is married. shouldn't it be Mrs.? And I thought it was grammatically wrong to use given names after Miss. Since the husband's surname is Ewing, shouldn't she be addressed as Mrs. Ewing? Thanks.
 
  • Ponyprof

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    It's a Southern usage, quite old fashioned.

    I would associate it with servants speaking to employers.

    Also older books that attempt phonetic transcription of black servants' speech indicate that typically they truncated "Mrs" into "Miz" which is next door to "miss."

    Despite racial segregation, black speech patterns historically influence white speech patterns in the South because of the predominance of black house servants and nannies. Also before the civil war there were counties with majority black populations.

    The children and the family may have grown up using the term of address for the mother used by their black nannies. And the scriptwriters may have chosen to amplify the "southernisms" in the dialogue.

    Dallas was in the first wave of popular culture representation of the New South that saw new economic prosperity in the 1970s.
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    london calling is correct: this is an old fashioned southern custom. It is more familiar than addressing a married woman as "Mrs." with her surname (such as "Mrs. Ewing"in this example.) In fiction you see it in To Kill a Mockingbird when the Finch children address their friend and neighbor Maude Atkinson (who was a widow, and would formally be addressed as "Mrs. Atkinson") as "Miss Maudie." In real life, those of us who are old enough to remember the elderly mother of President Jimmy Carter (who was from the South) recall that she was always referred to as "Miss Lillian."
     
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