Oh, sorry Miss (Ma'am)

brian

Senior Member
AmE (New Orleans)
So is there any other way (besides saying "meine Dame") to address a woman you accidentally bump into at the store, for example: Oh, sorry Miss (Ma'am) / Ops, scusi Signora / Excusez-moi Madame / etc. I think these are all quite common in other languages, but in German would "Entschuldigung, meine Dame" really sound too formal or out of place? (And of course you could just say "Entschuldigung," but for argument's/learning's sake let's assume we want to express "ma'am.")

Edit: This post was split from this thread and is a question/response in reference to bernd's post #2, in which he describes "meine Dame" as "considered very formal today."
 
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  • sokol

    Senior Member
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    I simply would say (in short) "Tschuldigung" for an accidental bump which most likely didn't cause any damage (so no hurting toes, no dirty shoes etc. but just the embarassment of physical contacт with a complete stranger); in case some damage probably has been done a more elaborate excuse would be appropriate.
     

    brian

    Senior Member
    AmE (New Orleans)
    Yeah but you just gave the same thing I said in my last sentence (in parentheses) minus the "Ent-"! :D

    So in short, can we say that German speakers today never address people without using the person's name? That is, you cannot say just "Frau/Herr/meine Dame/mein Herr/etc." like you can in other languages, e.g. "Signore," "Madame," "Señor," etc.?

    For example, what's the polite, affirmative response (in a formal context, in the military, etc.) "Yes, sir!" or "Sì, signore!" or "Oui, monsieur" in German?
     

    sokol

    Senior Member
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    Well, Brian, it would be very old-fashioned. :D

    If you want to talk to someone whose name you don't know a dialoge would develop approximately like that:

    A: Entschuldigung, könnten Sie mir bitte helfen?
    B: Ja, Bitte?
    A: Wissen Sie, wo ...?

    In the 19th century (in some old films, and in books) you might still see dialoges liket that:
    A: Entschuldigen Sie, gnädige Frau, könnten Sie mir bitte helfen? (...)

    No one talks like that anymore, as far as I know. :)


    The affirmative would be a different case. It is still old-fashioned to use these expressions but you might hear them still:
    - Jawohl, der Herr!
    (= In a shop, meaning "here you are!")

    Also speaking in third person this is perfectly acceptable and polite and only (probably, if at all) slightly old-fashioned:
    - Der Herr dort bräuchte Hilfe!
    (Talk from the shop-owner to a shop-assistant; the "Herr" in question may hear this - or even should hear this to let him know that someone will help him soon.)
    - Der Herr kriegt schon?
    (Question of a shop-assistant who is addressing the "Herr" in question directly - so he could use second person but he may use third person which sounds rather formal, but polite; it is a question about the "Herr" in question already is served by another shop-assistant or if he needs anything.)

    But still, typically in modern German speech you wouldn't use "Herr" or "Frau": just simply "Bitte", "Danke", "Entschuldigung" and many others (probably with explaining words added) would do.

    Or probably there are some exceptions where the use of "Herr" or "Frau" would be more typical.
     

    Sidjanga

    Senior Member
    German;southern tendencies
    So in short, can we say that German speakers today never address people without using the person's name?
    Yes, normally not.
    You can say Meine Dame/mein Herr, Werte Dame/werter Herr in a humorous way, but in any other context it will just sound terribly outdated.
    And I don't think anybody misses anything. It is just not said. :)

    If you want (Ent)schuldigung to sound a little more formal or are really (very) sorry you've just trodden on somebody's foot or something you can simply make it a little longer and say Oh, entschuldigen Sie (bitte/vielmals). (vielmals is actually also somewhat outdated, but sounds more "sorry" than just bitte.)
    For example, what's the polite, affirmative response (in a formal context, in the military, etc.) "Yes, sir!" or "Sì, signore!" or "Oui, monsieur" in German?
    As to the military, I am not sure, but I think you actually say Jawohl!

    Towards their boss, some say (at least in certain contexts) Ja, Chef., but I'd say it depends very much on the types of persons your boss is and you yourself are, what relation you have, and on the situation, if that is really a good thing to do. Here, too, I'd say it is used a lot more in a humorous way that being serious.
     
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    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    It is really a problem in German. Since prople started to consider the correct form "Mein Herr", "Meine Dame" antiquated (as a result of 1968) there is no commonly accepted equivalent for "Monsieur" and "Madame" any more.
     

    brian

    Senior Member
    AmE (New Orleans)
    Thanks for the responses.. very informative. :)

    sokol's explanation made me think of something similar. In English, to refer to an unknown man or woman, who is standing in view for example, we use the words "man" and "woman": That man/woman (over there) needs help. We would never say "that sir" or "that madame." In Italian, however, you could (and most likely would) say "il signore" or "la signora" (saying "la donna" sounds impolite to my ears).

    sokol already said that "der Herr dort" is used but may sound outdated. "Die Frau," however, is perfectly normal, right? What are the more common forms, if any? "Der Man"?...
     

    sokol

    Senior Member
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    sokol already said that "der Herr dort" is used but may sound outdated. "Die Frau," however, is perfectly normal, right? What are the more common forms, if any? "Der Man"?...
    Well no, there is actually no difference with those examples - only it would not be "Frau" (that would be very impolite, at least here in Austria) but "Dame", so to give those examples when referring to a woman:

    "Die Dame dort bräuchte Hilfe." (The lady over there needs help.)
    "Die Dame kriegt schon?" (Lady is already being served?)

    Of the other old-fashioned expressions I guess the "gnädige Frau" is rather specifically Austrian (not sure though). It is hardly ever used - well, let's say never (except ironically).
    Oh very well, probably it is still considered good style at Vienna Opernball, I don't know - never was there.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Brian, I sense from you questions that you are somewhat confused by "Frau" vs. when "Dame".

    Historically "Mann" and "Weib" were on the same level and "Herr" and "Frau". This older use has survived in "Herr XXX" and "Frau YYY". But only there! In all other cases, women have "moved one notch up". In general now, "Mann" and "Frau" are regarded as stylistically equivalent as well as "Herr" and "Dame". "Weib" you would use only in sexual contexts or in derogatory remarks.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Of the other old-fashioned expressions I guess the "gnädige Frau" is rather specifically Austrian (not sure though). It is hardly ever used - well, let's say never (except ironically).
    It is the same in Germany. My Father (born 1930) still occasionally uses "gnädige Frau". I (born 1959) would only use it, except as a joke.
     

    SaiH

    Senior Member
    Deutsch/Österreich
    "Weib" you would use only in sexual contexts or in derogatory remarks.
    Allerdings ist in den Dialekten oft noch die sprachgeschichtlich ältere Konnotation erhalten geblieben, wie auch bei der Bezeichnung Dirndl, was ein Synonym für Mädchen oder junge Frau ist, wohingegen eine Dirne im heutigen Standarddeutsch immer eine Prostituierte ist.
    'Weib' ist zB auch in einigen religiösen Kontexten erhalten geblieben. Am Land hört heute noch Gebete in der Form: "Gegrüßet seist du, Maria, voll der Gnade; der Herr ist mit dir; du bist gebenedeit unter den Weibern und gebenedeit ist..."
     
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