Sir and ma'am

Discussion in 'Teacher Time Out' started by lucybelle, May 6, 2014.

  1. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

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    For those in the USA- do you use "sir" and "ma'am" when talking to people? I was thinking about it the other day, I always use those terms but I think it's because I was born and raised in the south. I'm trying to figure out if I need to teach my esposo to say "sir" and "ma'am" when talking to people.

    I wouldn't use it with someone familiar, more for like if I call a business on the phone or am doing some sort of transaction. Or if I meet a friend's parents or parents of students I would call them sir or ma'am.

    :thumb:
     
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  3. bandnerdtx

    bandnerdtx Aficionado

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    I'm from the South, and it is absolutely expected that you use "sir" and "ma'am" when talking to strangers (even those younger than you), and when speaking to elders (strangers and familiar). Basically, the only people we don't say "sir" or "ma'am" to are friends and relatives close to our age or younger. LOL. I like it, and I expect it from my students.
     
  4. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    My hoosband is from the South and he uses these terms all the time. I am from the Midwest and I do not. I think that where you live might influence whether your husband should use the terms.
     
  5. underthesun

    underthesun Rookie

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    As someone who lived in the Southeast for quite a few years, I use "sir" and "ma'am" almost all of the time. The only time I don't is when there is a different term that someone prefers (for instance, I've had mentors who prefer "Professor" instead of "ma'am"). Even if I'm speaking with someone just a few years older than me, if I'm answering a yes or no question, I always include a "sir" or a "ma'am" in there.

    I've also lived in the Northeast and the West, too, and I never dropped this habit. I've noticed that it most definitely is not as common outside of the Southeast region, but I've never gotten funny looks for it, either. I think it's always appreciated, if not expected, so I say it's always better to use it.

    Phone calls are tricky, though. I use "sir" and "ma'am" when answering with a "yes" or "no," but if I am not answering a question, I use whatever name they gave me. For instance, if I'm calling into an office to request information or something, and the woman answers the phone with "You've reached _______, this is Karen speaking," then I am going to make a point of saying "Thank you, Karen!" and "Have a nice day, Karen!" instead of "Thank you, Ma'am." They say that the most beautiful word in a language to any given person is their name, after all.
     
  6. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    I don't, and I hate being called anything but my first name! Ma'am makes me feel so old. My kids call me Ms. Last name but some have taken to calling me Ms. Last namey or just last namey. I prefer it.
     
  7. Go Blue!

    Go Blue! Connoisseur

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    I'm from the Northeast, but I use both terms ALL the time. Although, I mostly use them to address non-family members (except for my elders) and people I don't know well or that I am not close to such as strangers, my co-workers, my students, etc. I also use it for people younger than me (I'm 28).
     
  8. waterfall

    waterfall Maven

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    The only way I would use either of those terms is if I was trying to get someone's attention and didn't know their name. Such as, "Sir, you left your credit card on the counter" or something like that. One of my friends out here is from Georgia and she uses sir and ma'am all the time, and doesn't understand why everyone's response is,"Don't call me ma'am, I'm not that old!" She continues to use the terms, because to her it's impolite not to.
     
  9. YoungTeacherGuy

    YoungTeacherGuy Phenom

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    After reading this post and doing a little reflection, I realized that I usually call most people sir/ma'am.

    About an hour ago, a teacher was standing at my door wanting to chat and I said, "Come in, ma'am!"

    Growing up, my parents were BIG on teaching us to be respectful. The good manners I picked up as a kid have stayed with me throughout adulthood.
     
  10. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

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    I remember the first time someone called me ma'am I was maybe 18 years old working at a shoe store and I was like WHAT? ME? I'm not that old! haha Now I'm used to it as a 27 year old.

    I call everyone sir or ma'am. I realized it the other day when I made a phone call and was all "yes ma'am", "thank you ma'am", "one more question, ma'am"...
     
  11. Ms. I

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    I'm not from the south and was born in the mid-70s. Sir & ma'am have never crossed my lips.
     
  12. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    I don't, but my son who went to school in the south does.
     
  13. giraffe326

    giraffe326 Virtuoso

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    I used it more when I lived in the south, but I never enforced it with my students. You could tell which parents were strict about it.
     
  14. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    I lived in the south for a bit...I loved the Miss, Mister, sir, ma'am culture....I find myself slipping into it sometimes...that plus my husband is a retired Naval officer...have heard and experienced A LOT of sir and Ma'am...
    We actually call our cat sir sometimes when he's causing trouble...:)
     
  15. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    I was raised in the south and absolutely say sir and ma'am.
     
  16. yellowdaisies

    yellowdaisies Fanatic

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    :) That made me smile.

    It's definitely regional. The only time I hear those terms used around here is an employee at a restaurant/store etc talking to a customer. Or an "excuse me, Sir" type of situation like waterfall mentioned. Otherwise, no.
     
  17. teacherintexas

    teacherintexas Maven

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    I don't see how it could hurt, but then I'm from the south as well.
     
  18. PinkCupcake

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    Born, raised, and live in the south I couldn't imagine not saying sir and ma'am. I was taught this while growing up. To me it's a sign of respect and manners.
     
  19. Harper

    Harper Companion

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    Now that I am living outside of the South, I DO get funny looks, often comments, and some outright "please don't call me that." Often the looks and comments are positive, or at least inquisitive. But, some people really don't like it for a variety of reasons. One person I know says that it feels patronizing. In my super diverse area, one must also tread carefully on gender identities. I try to remember those who are truly bothered by it, and make an effort to substitute their name, but old habits die hard. (And I flinch, waiting for my dad to smack me on the back of the head for forgetting to say it! :lol:). I think those individuals realize I am trying though and appreciate my effort.

    All that said, I love it. Will never change :).

    To the original question - if you are moving back to the South, you need to teach your esposo to say it! If not, then you can safely skip it.
     
  20. underthesun

    underthesun Rookie

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    Do you really? Wow! I'm so surprised by that; I honestly have never gotten so much as a weird look from it, and I've lived out West for a few years now. Scratch that, I DID get weird looks when I was abroad, now that I think of it, but I'm not counting those. xD

    I wonder if maybe we use it differently? I really only use it for the "Yes, Ma'am," / "No, Sir," kind of comments. I know I don't throw it into every dialogue I have with someone, so I wonder if that has anything to do with it? :confused: I feel like for the number of times I've said it, statistically, someone should have been all "No, my MOM is Ma'am," by now.
     
  21. teach1

    teach1 Companion

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    I'm from the northeast originally and I've never used them. Like Waterfall said, sometimes I might hear someone say "Excuse me, Sir... where is the jewelry section??" to get a clerk's attention, but rarely.

    I also think there are many other ways to be perfectly polite without using sir and ma'am and I don't think not using them is a sign of bad manners.
     
  22. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    I say it to anyone, no matter the age. I even say it to my yr old daughter.
     
  23. HistoryVA

    HistoryVA Devotee

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    I was raised in a military household, so it's ingrained behavior for me. I use with all ages, though and especially with my students. Just saying the words "yes" or "no" in reponse to a question feels incredibly awkward to me with the "sir" or "ma'am."
     
  24. cby1224

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    I absolutely feel as though it is important. My daughter (4) was taught to use it instead of replying just yes or no. My son will also be taught to use ma'am and sir. The importance is a simply respect for others. You give respect, you get respect!

    I am from the South so that factors into it, but regardless, I feel like it is important.
     
  25. txmomteacher2

    txmomteacher2 Connoisseur

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    I use sir and ma'am, but I haven't made my own children use it. They just have to be respectful and you can tell when a child is being disrespectful. The same way at school. I don't expect to be called anything but Mrs. Txmom. But if they answer me in a naaaa or a yeaaa I will correct them into saying yes or no. I really don't like being called just by my last name but this community it is acceptable and so I am learning to live with it. In fact I have one student who all year has called me only by my last name.
     
  26. Harper

    Harper Companion

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    I don't overuse and doubt we are using it differently, mostly I just use it in the yes,sir and no,ma'am sense. Maybe it is specific "micro" geography; my area is quite liberal. A local preschool said they "were equals" so the kids should NOT say sir or ma'am, but use instructors first names. I get lots of "No, mom is Ma'am. I am too young to be a Ma'am. Sir? I am not in the military." Just my current geography, I guess. I wish it weren't that way :(
     
  27. Bella2010

    Bella2010 Habitué

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    Absolutely. We're teaching DH to do the same thing. The other day we were at Walmart and he walked in front of a lady. He said, "Excuse me ma'am." :wub: I am always so impressed at the handful of my kids who say "sir" and "ma'am" all the time and not just when they're in trouble. :p
     
  28. i8myhomework

    i8myhomework Comrade

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    Exactly!

    I grew up southern and used to speak that way. I moved East and while I'm still polite, both "sir" and "ma'am" have left my vocab. I think they sound hokey and awful. I cringe whenever I hear them both used sincerely.

    Thank god I rarely hear it.
     
  29. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    I don't say it seriously, and I have a hard time taking anyone seriously if they address me as sir (or the occasional ma'am for anyone who only sees my long hair).
     
  30. underthesun

    underthesun Rookie

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    Oh, you're probably right; it probably is a more "micro"geography thing! I'm in a college town right now, so while we're also pretty liberal, there's a heavy population that are from out-of-state, too, so that demographic might change things. I can totally understand the whole "we're equals" thing, but I just don't know if I'd ever be comfortable just saying "yes" without adding the "Sir." I'd be waiting to get smacked the whole time, too, haha. I don't know... oddly enough, now that I think about it, I never think it's disrespectful if someone answers me without tacking on a "Ma'am," but for some reason, if /I/ don't add it to my responses, I feel like I'm being terrible rude.
     
  31. bison

    bison Habitué

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    Same region and I was going to say exactly this! It would be unnecessary and unusual here.
     
  32. Mamacita

    Mamacita Aficionado

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    "Sir" and "ma'am" are just basic good manners.
     
  33. DizneeTeachR

    DizneeTeachR Virtuoso

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    I use it when I don't know people...which most people do in this area!
     
  34. kellzy

    kellzy Comrade

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    It depends, when dealing with strangers, in a formal environment, or in business type situations, then yes, however, in just day-to-day interaction with those I know well, then usually not. In my religious organization (which is a big part of my personal culture) I either use first names or Brother/Sister Last Name.
     
  35. Irishdave

    Irishdave Enthusiast

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    I think it is just MORE polite when you do use it.
    I was born in California raised in NY and I have almost always used Sir and Ma'am just something my parents and grandmother taught me. Dad was a New Yorker, mom was from Southern Illinois and grandma was from Kentucky/Illinois.
    The only time I have not heard it as often is when I was in North Carolina there it was "Sugar" Or "Honey," along with "bless your heart."
     
  36. HistoryVA

    HistoryVA Devotee

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    Which, when used correctly in the South, can be the most nasty thing someone could say! :lol:
     
  37. Irishdave

    Irishdave Enthusiast

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    See The people in the south are more polite even when they are cutting you down you still want to say "Thank You"
     
  38. teach1

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    I'm going to have to disagree. I don't think saying "sir" and "ma'am" is MORE polite, and I definitely don't think they are "basic good manners."

    If you want to say that "Thank you very much" is more polite than "Thanks".... of course, that is the English language. "Sir" and "ma'am" are a different fruit entirely.
     
  39. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    I also disagree. I hate being called ma'am. Being polite is so much about tone. There's a huge difference between a well-said "Excuse me please" and a "Excuse ME!" The latter implies that you think the other person was in the wrong.

    I think please and thank you should be standard. I think holding the door open should also be standard. I don't think sir and ma'am are necessary in every part of the country.
     
  40. DrivingPigeon

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    I live in Wisconsin, and I rarely use these terms. I really only use them to get the attention of someone I don't know. For example, "Ma'am, you dropped this!"

    When I worked in a grocery store, I used them a few times, and people usually responded with, "I'm not THAT old!"
     
  41. underthesun

    underthesun Rookie

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    :lol: I'm not convinced that can be considered polite, though. When I lived in the South, I remembered people always talking about how they couldn't understand how rude New Yorkers were, for instance, and I always remember laughing at that. For one, I've always found the majority of the state very polite, and I do remember hearing Sir and Ma'am in my upstate hometown. But more importantly, I'd always laugh and say, "Well, say what you want about Northerners, but at least you'll usually know where you stand; if they have a problem with you, they'll tell you to your face, rather than smile and fake sweetness only to rant behind your back."

    Of course, that's a huge joking generalization that is usually made; I'm more than well aware that plenty of people in the South are fantastic and very polite. I've just noticed more of the backhanded FAKE politeness when I've been in the South, is all. And I'm not convinced that's actually politeness.
     

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