1. nephlm
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    nephlm Member

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    Ms. vs Miss

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by nephlm, Jul 7, 2012.

    I'm having trouble knowing which to use. i have of what I think are gray areas, so I'm trolling for opinions.

    Case 1:
    A formal marine sergeant addressing a civilian 17 year old girl while in the official commission of his duties and affording her the same level of respect as he would the base commander's daughter. He's known her for several years so he settled on an address with she was 14 or 15 and may or may not have updated his form of address. It is also in front of his privates so he has to set the right tone.

    I suspect if he was addressing her directly he might just call her ma'am, despite it being wildly incorrect, but when referring to her to a third party, that doesn't really work.

    “PFC Winters, see Ms./Miss Winborne to her quarters.”

    It seems as though Miss is generally used until a woman is about 18, so she's right on the cusp. I'm not sure how the military's emphasis on showing respect and titles would play into this. So any opinions on what title the Sergeant would use?

    Case2:
    When my friends with kids introduce adult women to them they are often introduced as miss/ms. (not sure which) first name. Teachers are often referred to Ms./Miss surname.

    So the aforementioned Ms./Miss Winborne has a teacher, legal guardian and surrogate mother whom she internally refers to as Ms./Miss Amy. By etiquette reasoning she is old enough that she shouldn't be called Miss anymore, however in my research Miss is apparently often used with teachers regardless of age or marital status. The choice would have been made while the girl was about 10 and Amy was in her late 20's if it makes a difference.

    So is it Miss Amy or Ms. Amy?
     
  2. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    1) The sergeant would probably use "Miss" in the second person and "ma'am" in the direct address. Military men tend to be more conservative, and Marines more so than other branches, in my experience -- although that is a generality, and not a hard-and-fast rule.

    2) Probably "Ms", by dint of the fact that in a teaching setting, the more modern usage is more likely to be accepted.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    'ms' is generally used when the marital status of a woman is unknown... if she's known to be single, then one uses 'miss'... and if married, 'mrs'... if she's known to prefer 'ms' then that's what's used...
     
  4. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    In Case #1 I agree the Marine would probably refer to her as Miss, especially if he's been doing so for a number of years.

    Case #2 is trickier. My experience is the same as what you found -- my son's teachers in his preschool a few years ago were all referred to as Miss [First Name], irrespective of the teacher's age or marital status. So far in his elementary school, though, they still go by Miss/Ms/Mrs [Last Name]. So I'm not sure how this would go if your character was introduced to this teacher at 10. It seems possible in the scenario you describe that she might initially refer to the teacher as Ms. [Last Name] but later on, *might* refer to her just by her first name without the title. Choosing between the alternatives you've given, however, I'd also say the more likely title is Ms., but you could go either way.

    Generally, though, for a grown woman I'd always use "Ms. [Last Name]."
     
  5. Patrick Gallant
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    Patrick Gallant Member

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    Many professors and teachers will still choose to use Miss regardless of marital status in many educational institution. I imagine it is a personal preference and distinction of the trade of teaching, because I know it the same way mamamia does. There is of course exceptions to all of our rules. Isn't English wonderful? :)
     
  6. Complex
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    Complex Senior Member

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    Martial status unknown or unstressed is Ms. which includes the option for once divorced, in fact I recall a teacher who angrily corrected us children that her name was 'Ms. X' not 'Mrs. X' because 'Mr. X' was a bad man. Didn't really go into detail, but the details of this 'Miss, Ms., and Mrs.' was laid out to us that 'never married' was Miss. While Mrs. was currently married. Making Ms. to be the divorced or widowed.

    Meaning Miss is for the confirmed unmarried (never married, in actuality) which indicates availability by name. Mrs. is currently married and it thus unavailable for courting, do not even attempt to woo her. Ms. takes up the 'Status unknown' and 'Once married' option that says she is no longer a 'Miss'. Though the preference is honored and 'Ma'am' still presents a valid option against the others.
     
  7. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    I can remember a time before ms was thought up.

    A single woman was a 'miss' - a married woman was a 'mrs' thereby you knew whether a woman was married or not by her title. Whereas men were known a 'mr' married or not.

    The fact that a man's marital status was unknown by his title and a woman's was there for everyone to see was deemed unfair by (i think) feminists, some one came with an alternative to miss/mrs, they took the first and last letter of each and came up with 'ms' which does not give away anything other than it is a female.

    It is up to the individual woman to use which ever title she chooses and I guess we should respect their wishes. If you do not know their marital status or what they personally prefer then play it safe and use 'ms'

    Being divorced or widowed as nothing to do with it.
     
  8. Complex
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    Complex Senior Member

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    Unless you are 400 years old then I think you mean about the resurgence of the term. Though it wasn't feminists that did so either. After all Ms. is a shortening of Mistress, which is a word that many so-called feminists hate.
     
  9. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    What's your basis for saying that feminists hate it? Sure, it has a modern negative connotation, but that's just modern baggage; there's nothing inherently wrong with the word. And I'm a feminist.

    Re the original question, I've always understood that "Ms." is intended to be a precise equivalent of "Mr." - a title for an adult that does not communicate that adult's marital status. I suspect that if your character learned his forms of address more than roughly thirty years ago, he would not be accustomed to using "Ms." If he's younger than that, it's hard to predict.
     
  10. Complex
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    Complex Senior Member

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    Rather then argue about feminism or something on the term 'Mistress', I'm going to politely decline on the matter for staying on topic. As for why a divorcee or widow cannot go back to 'Miss' is because 'Miss refers to an unmarried woman. Unless you come from the southern half of the USA, where the term Miss was used regardless of marital status, the term really did identify the eligibility of a woman for marriage by name. I could pull some older books to back this, but again we are dealing with older usage versus modern usage which is a decaying of such distinctions.

    Thirty years is a fairly good grasp, but I think the resurgence was in the 1950s and supported strongly by the 1970s.
     
  11. nephlm
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    nephlm Member

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    I think this thread is fairly convincing that I could use either title for either woman without it sounding off.

    In case 1 I thik the marine is going to go with ma'am when directly addressing her and miss when referencing her.

    In case 2 I don't think there is much to convincingly argue one way or the other. In the end I went with Ms. just to provide contrast and indicate different status compared to the girl.

    Thanks for everyone's opinions.
     
  12. BonanzaGirl1
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    BonanzaGirl1 Member

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    On the subject of Ms. v Miss.. its really annoying when you have to fill in a form and they give you no choice of either Miss or Ms and there is only Ms.
     

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