Monday, October 10, 2011

"Manners Monday" - Hey You Guys! How to Properly Address the Fairer Sex

My daughters had their aunt and cousins from Seattle visit with us last weekend for the holidays.  We were six girls living under the same roof (my husband was at home too, but this article is about the ladies).  As you can imagine, there was a lot of female bonding and also a fair amount of primping and coiffing.  The young girls, ages four to nine, would spend the longest time getting ready.  They were experimenting with makeup (all for fun of course!), spritzing the perfume, trying on different outfits, coordinating accessories and basically preparing to make their grand entrance at any time.  On occasion, emotions ran high, feelings got hurt and someone inevitably ended up in tears, but all in all it was a wonderful time together and we can’t wait for them to return soon!    

Over the course of our weekend, I noticed a particular trend, a common expression that seemed to roll off the tongue of everyone that seemed to address our group.  Here we were, a clique of only females and still we were being addressed as “guys!!”  “Hey you guys.”  “What would you guys like to order?”  “Do you guys want to go swimming?”  You get the point.  Since when did this expression come to be acceptable when addressing members of the fairer sex?  Why is it that when a group of women are altogether, they are still perpetually referred to as “guys?”  I started dreaming up ways to tabulate how many times we would be addressed as guys throughout the day and fantasized about receiving a $5.00 bill for each time the word was mentioned.  I imagined it wouldn’t take long for me to retire on my earnings. 

Looking back, I tried to remember when I first heard the words uttered and I was reminded of an old skit from the “Electric Company” that I used to watch in the early 70’s (oops, I’m dating myself).  The sketch featured Rita Moreno and Bill Cosby as grocers who were supposed to deliver bottles of milk.  When they arrived at the door, there was a torn note with a half-written message that was hard to decipher.  To get the attention of the people inside, Rita Moreno began to holler at the top of her lungs, “Hey you guys!”  That was more than thirty years ago and the expression still lives on.  Our modern day television is filled with characters constantly referring to one another as “you guys” regardless of gender.  

The question remains, why hasn’t “hey you girls” or “hey girls” caught on in more social circles, especially when the conversation is geared solely towards a group of ladies, women or girls without any male presence in sight?  Although the expression, “you guys” may sound more casual, I think it’s high time we incorporated a bit more formality when referring to the ladies.  After all, I think we deserve it!  And while we’re on the subject, how about a little refresher on the variety of social titles one might use to address a lady. 

Mrs. Traditionally, a woman’s marital status dictated her social title; therefore, the use of the title Mrs. came to be closely associated with a woman who was married.  For example, a woman who was married to Mr. John Smith, became Mrs. Smith when she married and used the full name, Mrs. John Smith, in social situations. The woman would use the title Mrs. along with her first name only in the event of divorce in which case she would be referred to as Mrs. Susan Smith. 

Ms.  The use of the title, Ms., became popular in the early 1970’s and became an all-purpose title of address used for a woman who was single, married or using their professional name. We typically refer to this as the title to use, when in doubt. 

Miss.  The title Miss is still used to refer to a woman usually around the age of 15 or younger.  Miss is also used as an alternative to Ms. with certain unmarried women who prefer to use the more traditional title.  The dance world has also incorporated the use of the title Miss as most instructors introduce themselves using the title Miss followed by their first name and this is the way prefer their students to address them.

Ma’am.   The title Ma’am was typically used in the Southeast region of the United States as a show of courtesy and respect towards another female.  The term was never intended to be used with women of similar age or status. This title carries with it a certain stigma as some women find the term to label them as matronly or old and would prefer to be called the more appealing title Ms. or Miss. 

Madam or MadameThis title is reserved to politely address a French woman whether she is married or unmarried.  It is the equivalent of using the titles Mrs. or Ms. 

Where do you stand on the use of "you guys?"  Do you abuse this phrase or do you make concessions when addressing just the ladies?  Share with us.  We'd love to hear from you!

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