Sep
9

THE FOUR-LETTER WORD NO WOMAN WANTS TO BE CALLED

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One lady writes,

Have you ever been guilty of looking at others your own age and thinking, surely I can’t look that old. Well, you’ll love this one.   My name is Alice Smith and I was sitting in the waiting room for my first appointment with a new dentist. I noticed his diploma, which had his full name.  Suddenly, I remembered a tall, handsome, dark-haired boy with the same name had been in my high school class some thirty-odd years ago. Could he be the same guy that i had a secret crush on, way back then?  Upon seeing him, however, I quickly discarded any such thought. This balding, gray-haired man with the deeply lined face was way too old to have been my classmate.  After he examined my teeth, I asked him if he had attended Morgan Park High school.  “Yes. Yes, I did.” he gleamed with pride. “When did you graduate?” I asked.  He answered, “In 1967. Why do you ask?’” “You were in my class!’”I exclaimed.  He looked at me closely. Then, that ugly, old, bald, wrinkled, fat, gray-haired man asked, “What did you teach?”

When I was growing up, I was taught that responding to grown-ups with a mere “Yes” or “No” was  impolite.  (“Yeah” being unforgivably rude.)  Instead, we were instructed to say, “Yes, sir” or “No, ma’am”.   But now “ma’am” has become persona non grata.  Let me explain.  The word “ma’am” is a shortened version of madame, from the French word meaning “my lady”.  It is a courtesy term meant to convey respect and deference.  And in past generations, women who were addressed as such, considered it to be just that, a sign of honour.

Perhaps the best example is the iconic 1960s television show, Dragnet, where Detective Joe Friday became famous for the phrase, “Just the facts, ma’am”.

But for today’s generation of women, it is considered anything but flattering.

This came to light in a U.S. Senate hearing on one of the President’s military nominees when General Michael Walsh addressed Senator Barbara Boxer as “Ma’am” and not “Senator” He was accused of being a misogynist, a sexist, a plain old male chauvinist pig of the worst sort.

Especially are these women appalled by, in their own mind, the association of the term with getting old.  In a recent national survey on what age it was all right to finally call a lady “ma’am”, the general female consensus was as follows: at age 90 (okay), at age 80 (possibly), at age 70 (probably), at age 60 (unlikely), at age 50 (never) – or as one woman put it, “not unless you are the queen of some country”.

Bottom line?  My wife can call me anything she wants, as long as it is not late for supper.   Yes siree!