Based in part on this thread thread, I have a survey for women of all ages (note: I’m a young guy living in NYC):
Assume that I do not know your name (let’s say I’m at the next table from you in a coffee shop), and that I’m calling after you because I see you’ve forgotten your glove. I say: Ma’am! You forgot your glove…
Are you annoyed that I’ve called you ma’am? Note the context - I’m not being ironic or snotty, just trying to be helpful.
I ask this because my best friend (we’re the same age, 32) goes bananas when someone calls her “ma’am.” She thinks it makes her sound old. I think she’s bananas for thinking that - the person’s just being respectful, and the alternatives aren’t very attractive. “Miss,” to me, sounds diminutive and inappropriate for anyone over twelve (I don’t like referring to waitresses as “miss,” especially grandmotherly types). “Lady” makes the speaker sound like a cabdriver. What else is there?
I use Ma’am myself, partly because my mother was a Texan so I was raised that way.
If you’re annoyed - would you suggest some other way for a stranger (esp. a man) to address you? And, just out of curiosity - where are you from? I’d like to see the regional differences on this one. (My bananas friend is from the Boston area.)