Menu
Jump to content

What's with the ads?

Æthelthryth the Texan

North/south behaviors. Is this true?

Recommended Posts

Every time she addressed the teacher, she would call her ma'am. And the teacher would tell her not to do so, it was rude. The teacher told the little girl several times to stop calling her ma'am before she sent the child to the principal's office, because she would not stop. I don't think the teacher knew at the time that the child thought she was being polite. But she gave her grace the first few times.

 

This probably made as much sense to the little girl as being told that the words "please" and "thank you" are rude. I mean, how hard would that habit be to break! Hearing that others think Ma'am is rude is like if someone told you on this thread that in their area "please" is rude. It's almost unfathomable. 

  • Like 9

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Holding doors-Yes, we do that here.

 

Saying sir-Only employees say this to male customers. Children don't say this to fathers or to other adults.

 

Saying ma'am-Only employees say this to elderly women; women under 65ish are addressed as "Miss." Saying "ma'am" to a woman who isn't elderly is risky here.  People assume you mean "very old lady" when you say it, so you should be sure the person hearing "ma'am" considers themselves elderly or you should be fairly sure they're not from here and won't take offense. Children don't say this to parents or to other adults.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This probably made as much sense to the little girl as being told that the words "please" and "thank you" are rude. I mean, how hard would that habit be to break! Hearing that others think Ma'am is rude is like if someone told you on this thread that in their area "please" is rude. It's almost unfathomable. 

 

I do get that..... also remember that this would have been 40+ years ago, where a much higher level of respect was expected in the classroom. The teacher had a student who repeatedly did what she asked her not to do, so after a few days of her not stopping, she sent her to the principal. I get it, now, that it was ingrained in her. As her classmate, I was just stunned that she kept saying "ma'am", which I knew better than to say if I didn't want to get in trouble. Today, we are also in a more transient world, so maybe teachers in different places would know ma'am is considered respectful to non-elderly in some places. Moving to the south actually brought that memory vividly back to me, as well as the conversation with the now adult classmate, at our reunion. I don't like being called ma'am but when I lived in the south, I got used to it. Took me a while since it was so ingrained in me that it was something of respect only for the elderly and very disrespectful for anyone else.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I wonder how it transitioned in the north to mean only the elderly? When I look up the definition, it just is a reference to a woman, right? As opposed to Miss, which would be a young girl or unmarried woman. Wondering when that change happened. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've relocated to the south, and can't really get used to the ma'am and sir. Or the "Miss first name" that kids call a friend of the family. There's definitely more layers of tradition, and many generations of family history, than what I'm used to out west.

I think the chattiness can be more of a rural/city thing, but maybe a southern thing too. And even I'm picking up the chatting in the store a little.

The drivers seem more polite. I was surprised to find that most drivers will let you into their lane, even in the city, and I'm not honked at when I don't know what I'm doing.

 

Eta: holding doors- here in the south I have more people opening the door for me to go first, rather than holding it open a little after they go through. It's actually very helpful when you're carrying a toddler and holding another ones hand! But I get the door held more when I look like I need it, and not so much when I'm unencumbered, which is just how it should be.

 

Oh, I also don't hear nearly as many people swearing at their kids as in the west and Midwest. Kids don't swear where adults can hear them much either.

Edited by ThursdayNext

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes!  This is it exactly!

 

Yeah, I'm pretty stunned by this too.   Are people really so ignorant of different customs? 

 

Ummm, did you read the OP?  Yes, people are really so ignorant.

 

FYI, I really hate the thread title. I can't read "North/South" in this context without hearing Vivian Leigh saying "Oh Ashley" in my head.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This probably made as much sense to the little girl as being told that the words "please" and "thank you" are rude. I mean, how hard would that habit be to break! Hearing that others think Ma'am is rude is like if someone told you on this thread that in their area "please" is rude. It's almost unfathomable. 

 

Although if it is said constantly (ma'am and sir) it isn't about being polite anymore IMO . it's just some word people use all the time.  We don't use please and thank you constantly.  it has a meaning.  When someone does something or we want something. I've encountered the ma'am and sir thing as being more just some filler word.

 

To give an example as to why I believe that; I once worked for an answering service.  One night I got a crank call from some guy who said obscene things into the phone.  He had a very heavy southern accent and in between the lewd remarks he said ma'am several times.  I doubt he was being respectful. He's probably just so used to saying it he can't not say it. 

 

I wouldn't tell anyone they were being rude if they called me ma'am though.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I dislike making huge generalizations about people. Just like politeness is universal so are racism and gossip. I've lived up north and am back in the south and saw it all over. I saw the most overt and hateful racism in Boston of all places. But I also met some lovely and wonderful people there too.

 

Customs are different- like ma'am and sir being regional. I also noticed that cussing in a business setting was much more accepted up north. Don't get me wrong, folks cuss down here where I live but generally not in business situations. I remember being stunned when I was chatting with some people at a business social function. One of the women mentioned something about getting a great f*^%ing tomato at the farmers market or something. No one batted an eye and others cussed too so it really wasn't a big deal. It happened on several different occasions - esp in Philly, NYC and Boston. Down here that would be unusual. Just noting a custom not saying that Yankees are more foul mouthed. It's just a difference in where it is considered acceptable. And perhaps it was a city vs rural thing now that I think about it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm familiar with "sir/ma'am" used sarcastacally, I've done it myself, especially to my kids.  I also use it in a playful way with my kids or close friends.  

 

I think it's a mistake to say it's different levels of politeness or polite vs. rude.  I think it has more to do with level of formailty.  In the north, I think using "sir/ma'am" comes across as treating everyday, casual situations with more formality than they require.  Which makes it come across as disingenuine and therefore is seen as rude.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This brings up a question. I'm curious, are any of the folks not from the South having people from the South who move into your areas pressuring you to start using "ma'am/sir" or actively chastising you or your children for not doing so, calling you rude, etc, or are they just using it themselves? I've never lived anywhere else, so I have no experience with this. I've had quite a number of folks move here from other places and try to pressure people who live here into not using the terms, going far beyond just noting the difference to actively criticizing.

We are in the south, but not from here.

Well, no one is pressuring, but it has been pointed out. ;) I quickly learned that if we continued to use the word "butt", we would be a "bad influence" and other church kids could not play with ours. I've learned not to ask kids to just call me by my first name. Other adults have been shocked at our kids answering casually to us. When I ask my kids if they want a cheese stick, "Yeah" is perfectly acceptable to me. But not here. We do get a bit of a pass with people knowing we are northern, but probably people think my kids are rude. Kids are expected to use a lot of manners/formality in some circles, even if the grown ups don't.

Edited by ThursdayNext
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would have appreciated it :)

 

I comment on things people are picking up at the grocery store all the time :)

 

That would be odd to me.  If someone asked, or was looking at me in a, 'Please help me decide' kind of way, I'd help out, of course.  I've had a cashier ask me how to use celeriac, for example.  But just randomly commenting on someone's shopping would seem unusual.  I wouldn't be offended, but I'd not particularly welcome it either.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I wonder how it transitioned in the north to mean only the elderly? When I look up the definition, it just is a reference to a woman, right? As opposed to Miss, which would be a young girl or unmarried woman. Wondering when that change happened. 

 

I don't know but my father tells me that he did not call adults ma'am unless they were elderly. He was born right before WW2 began. Not sure about sir, I remember talking about that but don't remember at the moment what he told me. We called adult women "Mrs. or Miss. Smith" rather than ma'am. Store clerks would be "excuse me, Miss, could you help me". We did call male workers in stores sir, now that I think about it. But if you knew their name, you would do that.  But was it a change? Or was it always just different?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That would be odd to me.  If someone asked, or was looking at me in a, 'Please help me decide' kind of way, I'd help out, of course.  I've had a cashier ask me how to use celeriac, for example.  But just randomly commenting on someone's shopping would seem unusual.  I wouldn't be offended, but I'd not particularly welcome it either.

 

I think it's fairly common here? Usually more with older people and myself...maybe not others? Not sure. But happens fairly frequently that I comment, or someone else does. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't know but my father tells me that he did not call adults ma'am unless they were elderly. He was born right before WW2 began. Not sure about sir, I remember talking about that but don't remember at the moment what he told me. We called adult women "Mrs. or Miss. Smith" rather than ma'am. Store clerks would be "excuse me, Miss, could you help me". We did call male workers in stores sir, now that I think about it. But if you knew their name, you would do that.  But was it a change? Or was it always just different?

 

Well, Ma'am is short for Madam, right? And Madam didn't imply elderly anywhere that I know of. So I think it was a change, just not sure when.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I wonder how it transitioned in the north to mean only the elderly? When I look up the definition, it just is a reference to a woman, right? As opposed to Miss, which would be a young girl or unmarried woman. Wondering when that change happened. 

 

I never lived in the north but I grew up on the west coast part of my childhood. I always associated it with an elderly woman. Maybe the person that wrote the dictionary grew up in the South and didn't get the memo it means old! ;)

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, Ma'am is short for Madam, right? And Madam didn't imply elderly anywhere that I know of. So I think it was a change, just not sure when.

 

Okay, I pulled out my Jane Austen.  And it was no help at all.  People lived in such small communities that they all knew the names.  I imagine the villages being about the size of the one where I now live: under 100 houses.  And if this was one's entire society, there would be no opportunity for 'sir' and 'ma'am' - the names would be known and used.  It's all 'Mr Knightley' and 'Miss Woodhouse'.

 

FWIW, the only person reliably called 'Ma'am' in Britain is the Queen.  And even then, people get it wrong: apparently it should rhyme with 'ham' not 'palm'.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sir or Ma'am as an insult is probably related to the service sector, where "Ma'am" is kind of a euphemism for something cruder, as in "Ma'am, please stop -- you're making a scene."

 

Certain types of small-town politeness don't scale up very well. A friendly hello to every person you meet may be fine when you see maybe a dozen people all day, but not when you see 12,000. In large cities, politeness is more about ignoring one another to help others lessen the claustrophobia of there always being people in their personal space.

DH's favorite line (stolen from The Simpson's) - The only time I get called "sir" is when it is followed by "you're making a scene".

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ok, more googling tells me that ma'am is short for Madam, which was a corruption of "ma dame" or "my lady". Dame was in particular used for married women (so a Mrs.) or women in a position of authority. Nothing about age, but there is the issue of authority, which some have brought up. Miss would be used for an unmarried woman. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ok, more googling tells me that ma'am is short for Madam, which was a corruption of "ma dame" or "my lady". Dame was in particular used for married women (so a Mrs.) or women in a position of authority. Nothing about age, but there is the issue of authority, which some have brought up. Miss would be used for an unmarried woman. 

 

Isn't it weird though that we insist on calling unmarried women something else, but men and boys get the same title irregardless? 

 

Just musing about that. 

 

I once worked in a nursing home and there was a resident who had never been married.  She used to get so angry when people called her Mrs.  I agree it's annoying, but nobody would really know that!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm from the south and spent this past summer living in MO. I found that the people up there were "rude" as all get out by Southern standards. I loved a lot of things about this past summer, but the "rude" culture of the locals was not one of them. I'm happy to be back home.

 

LOL!  Opposite experience here.  We spent some time in MO last year, and oldest was so amazed by the courtesy and friendliness of the people that living there was added as a life goal.  Obviously, we live in the north.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh, I almost forgot! At my daughter's Tae Kwon Do school the students call the instructors and masters "sir" and "ma'am" and the instructors and masters call the students of all ages (4-middle age) "sir" and "ma'am."  The Master was born and raised in Seoul, South Korea and his wife, one of the instructors, was born and raised in the NE United States. 

Commenting on a stranger's purchases at the grocery store is unusual here, but would most likely be interpreted as friendly chit chat.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My friend (that never says she or ma'am) just pointed out to me that she has never in her life heard of a man being offended by being referred to as Sir either online or irl.

 

She speaks the truth.

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I told a stranger her lipstick was on point the other day, and someone I knew asked why I said that.

 

... Because I liked her lipstick and she'd clearly gone out of her way to do it up especially well.

 

The person said the lipstick lady probably thought I was a creeper.

 

I mean maybe? But you can't just go through life talking to no one just in case...

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Random question- how do people near you behave in the grocery store aisles? I don't mean do they chat but how do they actually behave. When I lived in the Midwest I was shocked that people stopped their carts and would stand looking at their options in the middle of the aisle and didn't move out of the way when others came down the aisle. It seemed so rude to me but everyone seemed to take it as normal. Here most people will quickly move their carts and themselves if they left them in the middle so others can pass.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I told a stranger her lipstick was on point the other day, and someone I knew asked why I said that.

 

... Because I liked her lipstick and she'd clearly gone out of her way to do it up especially well.

 

The person said the lipstick lady probably thought I was a creeper.

 

I mean maybe? But you can't just go through life talking to no one just in case...

 

I was at a wedding last week and couldn't stop myself from telling another guest - a stranger to me - that I thought her dress was beautiful.  It really was.

 

She seemed happy enough to be told that.  Maybe she thought I was a creeper? 

 

Kind of weird to think it's not OK to give a random person a compliment.  It's not exactly but sort of like a random act of kindness, isn't it?  Instead of someone buying breakfast for the person behind them in line (as happened to me at a local convenience store not too long ago), it's just - maybe? - helping to make a person feel good.  

 

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Random question- how do people near you behave in the grocery store aisles? I don't mean do they chat but how do they actually behave. When I lived in the Midwest I was shocked that people stopped their carts and would stand looking at their options in the middle of the aisle and didn't move out of the way when others came down the aisle. It seemed so rude to me but everyone seemed to take it as normal. Here most people will quickly move their carts and themselves if they left them in the middle so others can pass.

 

Most of the time when I see that, it's obvious the person is distracted/absorbed in their task and doesn't notice that they are in the way.   I've found that simply saying "excuse me, can I get by?" works pretty well.    I don't take it that they are being rude. 

 

But maybe it's because sometimes I have to take more than 2 seconds to choose a product in the grocery store as I fly by with my cart.   I've been practically pushed out of the way when I've tried reading labels. Whole Foods is the worst for this in my experience, with Trader Joe's a close second.  Not blocking the aisle, but - obviously - blocking the section I'm standing in front of as I tried to read ingredients.  Sometimes it takes a minute to figure out what food to buy.   I'm always ready to move out of the way when someone asks me to, but so often people don't bother, they just shove their way forward.

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

People don't drop the F bomb much in most business settings here in the SW.  When my husband's work took him to Long Island, NY for a few months he was shocked to hear it in every other sentence in a business setting. It was a high tech engineering setting, not loading cargo on the docks or mob boss meetings.  People use the F bomb here frequently, but it's considered unprofessional and trashy at work.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Most of the time when I see that, it's obvious the person is distracted/absorbed in their task and doesn't notice that they are in the way. I've found that simply saying "excuse me, can I get by?" works pretty well. I don't take it that they are being rude.

 

But maybe it's because sometimes I have to take more than 2 seconds to choose a product in the grocery store as I fly by with my cart. I've been practically pushed out of the way when I've tried reading labels. Whole Foods is the worst for this in my experience, with Trader Joe's a close second. Not blocking the aisle, but - obviously - blocking the section I'm standing in front of as I tried to read ingredients. Sometimes it takes a minute to figure out what food to buy. I'm always ready to move out of the way when someone asks me to, but so often people don't bother, they just shove their way forward.

 

Yes! Wf is the worst! TJ is bad but I think it's cause the aisles are narrower.

 

I totally get distracted and pausing. But this was pretty much universal. And if you politely said excuse me they gave you the look of death. Ok maybe I'm projecting but they def looked irritated. It was a weird regional or possibly even just the one area I was in.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We are in the south, but not from here.

Well, no one is pressuring, but it has been pointed out. ;) I quickly learned that if we continued to use the word "butt", we would be a "bad influence" and other church kids could not play with ours. I've learned not to ask kids to just call me by my first name. Other adults have been shocked at our kids answering casually to us. When I ask my kids if they want a cheese stick, "Yeah" is perfectly acceptable to me. But not here. We do get a bit of a pass with people knowing we are northern, but probably people think my kids are rude. Kids are expected to use a lot of manners/formality in some circles, even if the grown ups don't.

 

This would be the reverse of what I was asking.

 

What I am seeing are folks who move here from the North or other areas being highly vocally critical and trying to get the native Southerners to change to fit a more Northern/etc mode of speech and behavior because they consider that the Northern way they are used to is right/superior. 

 

I was wondering if folks who live in the West or North, for instance, have Southerners who move into their area and start criticizing them  and saying the Westerners or Northerners should change to a more Southern mode of speech and behavior because the Southern way are used to is right/superior.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Isn't it weird though that we insist on calling unmarried women something else, but men and boys get the same title irregardless? 

 

Just musing about that. 

 

I once worked in a nursing home and there was a resident who had never been married.  She used to get so angry when people called her Mrs.  I agree it's annoying, but nobody would really know that!

 

Well, young boys are "master".

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I wonder how it transitioned in the north to mean only the elderly? When I look up the definition, it just is a reference to a woman, right? As opposed to Miss, which would be a young girl or unmarried woman. Wondering when that change happened. 

 

Every woman wants to look young forever.  Opening an introduction by addressing someone as "person who appears to be past her prime" would be rude. Perhaps that is why us northerners avoid it.  

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Grew up in New Orleans....ALWAYS said ma'am and sir. I have lived up north and never a ma'am or sir heard except from me. It's a sign of respect even if they do look young. I won't stop because it's sincere respect from me.

 

No problem striking up a conversation either. If I thought it was rude to do that my family would have never had to opportunity to "adopt" a young adult who as an orphan in Jamaica, was adopted by an American family and abused. He left that state after high school to move down south where he knew no one and was homeless for several months. Landed a job at restaurant where my family met him...the rest is history...he's in our family now...we are the place he comes for Christmas and Thanksgiving and anytime in between! So glad I didn't keep my southern mouth closed.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This would be the reverse of what I was asking.

 

What I am seeing are folks who move here from the North or other areas being highly vocally critical and trying to get the native Southerners to change to fit a more Northern/etc mode of speech and behavior because they consider that the Northern way they are used to is right/superior. 

 

What would you guesstimate the ratio of non-critics to critics is?  We don't get criticism from transplants here.  We get observations about differences, but I haven't heard much in the way of judgement.

 

People from places with influxes of people from other regions expect some level of change to happen over time creating a more melting pot type situation.  My anecdotal experience with people from The South (relatives mostly) is that they're very attached to tradition for its own sake, making the typical cultural change that happens all over the rest of the country and many places in the world much more difficult.  This is why many people not from the South think Southerners are several decades behind the rest of the nation in social attitudes. I have no idea what people from the South think about it neither do I have any way of measuring the amount of change or the amount of time a region could be "behind" another.  I do know that the term "old fashioned" is frequently used when describing Southern customs. Southerners appear to resist change more categorically.  Most people in other regions expect progressive social change over time because they've experienced it over time.  Like I said, I'm no expert, my experience is limited to about a dozen people.

 

 

I was wondering if folks who live in the West or North, for instance, have Southerners who move into their area and start criticizing them  and saying the Westerners or Northerners should change to a more Southern mode of speech and behavior because the Southern way are used to is right/superior.

 

I haven't witnessed much of that.  The Southerners I know stopped insisting their children use "sir" and "ma'am" here with a few exceptions.  There is a couple at a church I went to who aren't from The South but insist their son use it even though no one else does which is weird.

 

 

 

 

 

Well, young boys are "master".

 

I know that's how it used to be, but I've never once heard anyone actually use the term like I've heard people use sir and ma'am.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Grew up in New Orleans....ALWAYS said ma'am and sir. I have lived up north and never a ma'am or sir heard except from me. It's a sign of respect even if they do look young. I won't stop because it's sincere respect from me.

 

No problem striking up a conversation either. If I thought it was rude to do that my family would have never had to opportunity to "adopt" a young adult who as an orphan in Jamaica, was adopted by an American family and abused. He left that state after high school to move down south where he knew no one and was homeless for several months. Landed a job at restaurant where my family met him...the rest is history...he's in our family now...we are the place he comes for Christmas and Thanksgiving and anytime in between! So glad I didn't keep my southern mouth closed.

Wow. What a wonderful, heartwarming example of southern superiority . Clearly, this poor orphan, if he was unfortunate enough to have remained in the north, would have died a miserable death on the streets.

 

Excuse me while I go pick up my eyeballs as they seem to have rolled away.

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I assume we are talking about general conversation, not personal conversation.  I've had people/cashier comment on something in my grocery cart, as in 'I bought that last week and cooked it ...whatever... and it was delicious'. We exchange pleasantries with the waitress.  Sure, I run into that frequently, and I participate.  I might even mention my dh dislikes chicken but everyone else loves it.  More personal than that, no.  I'm not a mean, rude person, but I really would feel awkward if a random stranger started sharing their deepest secrets.  Plus, I was raised that it was impolite to share too much personal information; that was kept in the home.

 

When dh and I were in Houston for his surgery, I found quite a few people sharing their health struggles, but I didn't find that too odd.  We were staying close to the big medical centers, and most people there had some pretty serious health issues going on.  When people are in a crisis, I don't think it's rude or odd to want to talk and share.  But I wouldn't expect that from someone sitting in the booth next to me at the restaurant.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Random question- how do people near you behave in the grocery store aisles? I don't mean do they chat but how do they actually behave. When I lived in the Midwest I was shocked that people stopped their carts and would stand looking at their options in the middle of the aisle and didn't move out of the way when others came down the aisle. It seemed so rude to me but everyone seemed to take it as normal. Here most people will quickly move their carts and themselves if they left them in the middle so others can pass.

 

Here - and pretty much everywhere we've been - people not only move out of the way, they also apologize for blocking the aisle if it caused a delay for us.  On our travels we tend to stop by grocery stores often - esp when we're camping.  The only place I recall people being super rude was (in or near) Fishkill, NY at a Walmart.  People wouldn't move and seemed downright angry.  I'm not sure if that's normal (as we never went back) or if there was something in the air that day.  It's definitely a memory we've kept though.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Random question- how do people near you behave in the grocery store aisles? I don't mean do they chat but how do they actually behave. When I lived in the Midwest I was shocked that people stopped their carts and would stand looking at their options in the middle of the aisle and didn't move out of the way when others came down the aisle. It seemed so rude to me but everyone seemed to take it as normal. Here most people will quickly move their carts and themselves if they left them in the middle so others can pass.

 

We have some who are clueless or just don't seem to care about blocking aisles, but most folks are considerate and move out of the way. I get more aggravated at the ones who are chatting with their friends and blocking the aisle. Now something that really irritates are the people who decide to use the handicapped parking spaces as cart returns. It's become a big problem in our area.

 

I did have one memorable grocery store trip in Hackensack, NJ. People seemed angry and extremely rude in general. One woman practically crawled over my cart to go after the cheese, when a simple "excuse me" would have alerted me to her presence and I would have moved. That experience has definitely colored my perception of NJ.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks, I wondered if that was what you meant. If I understand you correctly, you see these terms as inherently used only by those of lower rank/power/social role to those of higher rank/power/social role?

 

So how would you diagram the fact that I and others are telling you we regularly say "ma'am" or "sir" to the teenager at the drive-through window, the waitress, the janitor, or a random fellow customer of my same age and apparent socioeconomic and educational class in a store?  By using the terms I am indeed showing deference to those people because they are deserving of respect as fellow human beings, not because of their social position or power over me, the same respect I show when I say them to the doctor, police officer, or professor. I am speaking here specifically of how the terms are used by Southerners in the South (at least in my area and experience as a native Southerner), since you referred to them specifically as Southern quirks, not how they may be used in other areas of the country or by those from such areas.

 

My question is, what is the consequence if you do not use the term ma'am?

 

If I don't use the term "sir" to refer deferentially to- say- a judge, there is  a bit of an edge to that action.  It has to be "Sir" or use a title: "Justice Brenner".  Similarly, my mover who called me Ma'am would otherwise have only called me "Mrs. ____"  or perhaps used the first name in a very respectful tone.  Otherwise it would probably read as a little impertinent .

 

What happens when a Southern doesn't show due deference to others, including teens at a drive through window? Is the lack of ma'am a gesture of disrespect? Or maybe of being "raised wrong"?    I'm guessing.  If that's the case then the other side of the coin of "showing deference because they deserve respect as a human being" is "I want to display my proper upbringing"? 

 

Trying to figure this out a bit.  Can't tell if it's a meanless reflex in the south or part of a social code that can brand you if you if you fail to live up to it - or both - or neither.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Trying to figure this out a bit.  Can't tell if it's a meanless reflex in the south or part of a social code that can brand you if you if you fail to live up to it - or both - or neither.

 

Not using it is along the same lines as not saying please and thank you. 

 

Edited to Add: in the areas where it's use is common, not in general. Obviously in many areas it isn't used at all, and where I am it is used by some and not others. 

Edited by ktgrok

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow. What a wonderful, heartwarming example of southern superiority . Clearly, this poor orphan, if he was unfortunate enough to have remained in the north, would have died a miserable death on the streets.

 

Excuse me while I go pick up my eyeballs as they seem to have rolled away.

I am sorry I offended you. I was only giving an example of what might have been a missed opportunity. I never did intend to imply superiority at all. We truly love this young man as if he were our own and him experiencing abuse was not a consequence of living up north. I don't think I implied that either. Once again, I am sorry it struck a chord like that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Grew up in New Orleans....ALWAYS said ma'am and sir. I have lived up north and never a ma'am or sir heard except from me. It's a sign of respect even if they do look young. I won't stop because it's sincere respect from me.

 

No problem striking up a conversation either. If I thought it was rude to do that my family would have never had to opportunity to "adopt" a young adult who as an orphan in Jamaica, was adopted by an American family and abused. He left that state after high school to move down south where he knew no one and was homeless for several months. Landed a job at restaurant where my family met him...the rest is history...he's in our family now...we are the place he comes for Christmas and Thanksgiving and anytime in between! So glad I didn't keep my southern mouth closed.

Re: what I bolded...(bear in mind I am thinking of a general you as I write this) Communication is a 2-way street though. Persisting in a form of communication that you know the receiver will perceive as rude/strange/out of the norm is strange to me. It doesn't matter if your intentions are good/sincere. 

 

 

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What would you guesstimate the ratio of non-critics to critics is?  We don't get criticism from transplants here.  We get observations about differences, but I haven't heard much in the way of judgement. 

 

People from places with influxes of people from other regions expect some level of change to happen over time creating a more melting pot type situation.  My anecdotal experience with people from The South (relatives mostly) is that they're very attached to tradition for its own sake, making the typical cultural change that happens all over the rest of the country and many places in the world much more difficult.  This is why many people not from the South think Southerners are several decades behind the rest of the nation in social attitudes. I have no idea what people from the South think about it neither do I have any way of measuring the amount of change or the amount of time a region could be "behind" another.  I do know that the term "old fashioned" is frequently used when describing Southern customs. Southerners appear to resist change more categorically.  Most people in other regions expect progressive social change over time because they've experienced it over time.  Like I said, I'm no expert, my experience is limited to about a dozen people. 

 

More observations than judgments in general, I think, but still a number with the endless "how we did it in ...... was so much better."

 

I wonder how much of that perception of being "behind" as a region comes from the big waves of transplants and immigration coming to the South much later in general than much of the rest of the country, particularly outside of large cities, so the percentage of "native" vs "transplant" can be quite a bit different depending on where you are. You don't usually get the melting pot or much pressure for cultural change if there's not a corresponding change in demographics. That's why I said earlier that some of these North/South differences being described seem to me to be more about small town vs larger population concentrations. In the cities you are more likely to see the melting pot, which drops off sharply the more you move out from there.

 

Truly, in the town where I grew up (small town next to a large city), everyone there had been there for generations until we started getting waves of regional migration in the 80s when the business landscape started really changing from textiles. It's gone from about 17K in 1980 (just before I graduated high school) to over 85K now. We had a lot of families move in from upstate NY with IBM, then from Virginia with Phillip Morris, then from all over as we became more of a bedroom community for the large city next door. Ethnic diversity other than white and African-American was entirely absent until much later than that, when we started to get large waves of Hispanic families moving in closer to 2000. We're now one of the fastest-growing areas in the country, but it isn't evenly spread out http://demography.cpc.unc.edu/2015/12/08/population-growth-in-the-carolinas-projected-vs-observed-trends/  

 

When I was growing up, judging by our area the major world religions were Baptist, Presbyterian, and Lutheran ;), and now there's a lot more religious diversity (Roman Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist, with mosques, Hindu temples, even a Sikh gurdwara and a Jain center nearby). My daughter is appalled that when I was a child we used to have to go into the large city nearby for "authentic Mexican food" at Taco Bell and my closest experience to Chinese food was LaChoy chow mein in a can. She's grown up with ready and frequent access to a much wider variety. It's a lot of change in a short period of time, which can make some folks cling more closely to the familiar.

 

As to social progression, well, NC used to be better in that regard than in recent years, especially in the cities (though it still had quite a ways to go), which is very frustrating to those of us who have been pushing that progression for decades.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My 15 ds was dating a southern girl whose parents were born and raised in the south as well. My ds did not use the ma'am and sir consistently as I have not taught that but they have picked it up some. The parents were nice people but I know they did consider my son rude. The gf brought it up to him a few times. I think the mom thought he lacked manners and the dad felt disrespected. Odd to me because these were very kind people. It was just very ingrained that any decent boy from a good family would have these basic manners.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My question is, what is the consequence if you do not use the term ma'am?

 

If I don't use the term "sir" to refer deferentially to- say- a judge, there is  a bit of an edge to that action.  It has to be "Sir" or use a title: "Justice Brenner".  Similarly, my mover who called me Ma'am would otherwise have only called me "Mrs. ____"  or perhaps used the first name in a very respectful tone.  Otherwise it would probably read as a little impertinent .

 

What happens when a Southern doesn't show due deference to others, including teens at a drive through window? Is the lack of ma'am a gesture of disrespect? Or maybe of being "raised wrong"?    I'm guessing.  If that's the case then the other side of the coin of "showing deference because they deserve respect as a human being" is "I want to display my proper upbringing"? 

 

Trying to figure this out a bit.  Can't tell if it's a meanless reflex in the south or part of a social code that can brand you if you if you fail to live up to it - or both - or neither.

 

I'd say it's changing and depends on the area and the social situation. It isn't just a meaningless reflex, but I don't see around here the level of censure if one doesn't use it that I used to. When I was a child, it was definitely a sign of "not being brought up right," now it can be hit or miss. My daughter says it sometimes, not others. That may be due to the increased melting pot pressures driving cultural change discussed in another post.

 

I use it in a variety of ways, so there's not an easy answer. I would consider saying "bless you" when someone sneezes to be an example of the meaningless reflex, as I don't think there are many who truly believe that by saying that they are protecting the sneezer's soul from danger. "Sir/ma'am" isn't in that category in general. It's perhaps closest to a reflex when I say it if someone calls my name ("Sir?") as an acknowledgement that I heard them and am paying attention or as a hurried assent ("yes'm"). In conversation, it's an intentional act acknowledging respect to the other person, maybe similar to "namaste"? Sometimes it's used primarily for emphasis ("yes, MA'AM, you bet I did."). I say it to show respect to someone in authority. I can and have absolutely used it sarcastically as well. There are probably other nuances I am not seeing at the moment.

 

I like ktgrok's comparison to "please" and "thank you."  They are expressions that can be used reflexively, merely to grease social wheels, to curry favor, to show deference, sarcastically, or hatefully, as well as sincerely, and can be interpreted as any of the above by the listener depending on the filter of time/place/experience through which they hear it. None of the uses or responses negates the validity of the others.

 

Perhaps part of it in my case comes from my background. I'm from a long line of textile workers on one side and my grandfather on the other side was a dirt-poor sharecropper, so there was a lot of "we may not have a lot of money, but we can have good manners toward everybody and we are just as good as anybody" attitude. Maybe it is less prominent or used differently in higher Southern socioeconomic circles, but I don't know.

 

Edited by KarenNC
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Never in my life encountered that though.

 

The only places I've encountered it are in Batman ;), old movies, old books, and in directions on addressing wedding invitations (though we didn't need it, as "_____ and family" covered all our situations).

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Never in my life encountered that though.

 

The only places I've encountered it are in Batman ;), old movies, old books, and in directions on addressing wedding invitations (though we didn't need it, as "_____ and family" covered all our situations).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My ex's parents always addressed birthday cards to "master first name" when sending birthday cards. 

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was only half serious about my comment saying that it must mean old. Obviously it has a different meaning to different people. If I think people want to hear ma'am/sir I'm more likely to use it. If I think it will offend someone, I will not use it. It was so foreign to me when I first moved to the South, but now it's not so weird. I think people should just be somewhat flexible. I have ds use sir/ma'am because when in Rome...

 

If you've ever seen Beauty and the Beast (the CW tv show) I think there's an ep where the main character gets offended for being called ma'am. I don't think it's so much an attitude of "things are better in this area, we must do it their way" so much as "Where I come from, this word is not appreciated, so I find it hard to start using it."

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...