And then there’s the example from the Sayers book, Busman’s Honeymoon, where Harriet Vane marries Lord Peter Wimsey and becomes Lady Peter Wimsey.
That’s still British etiquette for titled people. The present Queen’s cousin Prince Michael of Kent is married to a lady named Marie Christine, but known formally as HRH Princess Michael of Kent. Their son Lord Frederick Windsor is married to Lady Frederick Windsor, known professionally under her maiden name as Sophie Winkelman.
Someone taught you that in the 21st century?! What country did you live in?
I wouldn’t correct you, but it would annoy me. I’ve been “Ms” since I started using titles at all. I took my husband’s last name when I got married, and changed my name from
Ms. Firstname BirthSurname
Ms. Firstname HusbandSurname
I think less of people who call me Mrs., Especially those who call me Mrs. Husbandname.
Just saying “excuse me” doesn’t confirm that I am speaking to the right person. Some offices just call people by their first and last name, but I’ve been told that is rude (especially for a young man like me addressing an older person).
In the workplace, and only in the workplace, I call my boss “Doctor”.
Yeah, I vividly remember my very first school teacher telling us the proper way to address women (including herself) as miss or missus. And we went over it again when we learned how to write letters.
Don’t let it annoy you. It only takes me one second to make a note of your preference, and then it never happens again.
We have a place for title on our intake forms but most people leave it blank.
It only takes one second for you, but it’s emotional work for me, and stressful. And maybe you’ll remember, but the next guy won’t.
Sorry, if you protectively call me “Mrs” I’ll just think less of you and never tell you why.
That’s how most of these things work, you know. No one corrects anyone if they suffer a microaggression, they just feel a little crummy, think less of the offender, and move on with their day.
And if you are someone who doesn’t matter to me, like the clerk handing me an intake form whom I’ll never see again, eh, the world is full of annoyances.
Or maybe i will see you again… Trans people, who run into more microaggressions than most of us, have talked to me about if the dentist gets their name/gender wrong they will say something, and if that doesn’t work they will find a new dentist. But if it’s just the receptionist… Is it worth finding a new dentist over that?
Honestly, if you have a role where you need to say who is next to be served, i recommend you use the full name for everyone, with no titles. Or, if you have a title on your intake form, use the title given. Mr. John Smith if he entered a title, John Smith if he left that field blank.
I’m wondering who these people are that you see in the lobby and what are the circumstances under which
- you know that they are married
- know their surname but don’t know their preference for Mrs./Miss/Ms
- can’t say “excuse me”
- and can’t call them by their first and last name because someone told you it’s rude- which I have literally never heard before. It might sound weird in certain exchanges, but for the most part, those conversations don’t require any form of direct address. " Good morning, Lisa Smith" sounds weird , but there’s nothing wrong with just saying " Good morning"
I mean, you clearly aren’t saying “You dropped your glove, Mrs. McGillicuddy” because “excuse me” works for that. If you are calling someone’s name from a sign-in list , there’s nothing wrong with using the person’s first and last names (which also lessens the possibility of the wrong Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms Hernandez coming forward)
Oh, and BTW when young children are being taught, we often simplify and leave out things like “Ms. is the equivalent of Mr. and is used for both unmarried and married women unless you know that they prefer Mrs. or Miss”. Although I must say I’m surprised 1) That a teacher in this century in the US* even taught you “Miss” . which I haven’t seen used for someone over about 12 years old in years and that 2) In 20 years you haven’t figured out that it doesn’t always work that way.
- I specify the US because in other languages, the words usually translated as “Mrs” or “Miss” denote age as much as or more than marital status - calling a 60 year old never-married Italian woman “signorina” might be taken about as well as calling her “spinster”
I am a teacher, which is one of few professions where honorifics in the workplace are common. My boss defaults to “Miss” for never married women of any age. And I’ve known unmarried women who preferred “Miss”, which baffles me.
Most students default to “Mrs”, even though I never, ever use it. Adults are 50/50. There does seem to be this weird undercurrent that it’s a little more formal, a little more respectful, than “Ms”. It’s really weird. I always default to “Ms” unless someone has expressed a preference directly or indirectly.
Many native Spanish speakers use “Miss” in place of “ma’am” in class. That’s kind of a different thing.
Do they actually say missus? Because, when I was growing up in the 1990s, the kids always said something that sounded like “mizz” for everyone. The only exceptions I can think of had one syllable last names.
Heck, I always assumed that’s where “Ms” came from–people were already shortening missus to mizz and voicing the S’s in miss–both when speaking quickly.
I know a couple, both academics, who list their names as “Dr.^2 Lastname”.
And personally, when I’m referring to women by last name, I always use Ms, regardless of what I do or don’t know about their last name, unless they specifically request “Mrs.” or “Miss”. Except that in speech, for whatever reason I never seem to get the voicing very strong, so it often comes out sounding like “Miss”. I need to work on that.
They write it on papers or as a header on emails.
We got a few xmas cards in the mail. Because my gf and I have different last names and are not married, it was interesting to see how folks addressed the cards.
Her coworkers all used GF First Name Last Name, & my First Name Last Name.
My friends/relatives used My First Name Last Name, & GF First Name Last Name.
A few oddballs used my last name for both of us, and one person used her last name for both of us.
I understand where you’re coming from with that. On the other hand, I’m sorry, you’ll just have to think a little less of me.
If I go around addressing women as “miss” or without a title, I think I would get more backlash (and cause more microaggressions) than I do currently when I assume by default that a married woman prefers to be addressed as “missus”. This is a squeaky wheel sort of thing. In particular,
This does not match my experience with the other side of the issue. Married women who prefer to be called “missus” (or their husbands) do correct me. Not every week but often enough.
Yeah, it really surprised me when I started out and people would complain to me how rude it is to address them by their first and last name without title. In a doctor’s office! I expected some curmudgeons to correct me with a, “thats Mrs. X to you, whippersnapper”. I did not expect people to actually ask to see the manager (me) and complain about it. But it happened, multiple times, and here I am.
Again, this is a squeaky wheel gets the grease sort of situation.
I manage two offices for a small medical practice and occasionally cover the reception desk.
- Marital status is collected during intake, which may occur before first contact with the patient (eg: referrals from another doctor, in which case we cold call the patient)
- Most referrals/other doctor notes lack title information. Those which have Mr/Ms/Mrs are in at least some cases automatically generated based on sex and marital status. We have intake forms with a space for title, but first patient contact almost always comes before the forms are returned, and patients rarely fill out the title.
- “excuse me” does not confirm the identity of the person I am speaking with. I have to confirm that I’m speaking to the right person before I can divulge or discuss protected health information. I could be cold calling a phone number lifted from some grainy fax, I could be calling someone in the lobby from the receptionist’s desk, I could be speaking to a someone in an exam room or the hallway, I could be speaking with someone on one of many phone lines transferred to me, or (esp. with COVID) I could be calling someone sitting in a “golf cart with a green roof parked outside”.
- I know, it’s weird, but it’s a thing. Trust me. I think it’s because the patients address our doctor as “Dr.” and they expect reciprocal formality. But also, our patient base is over 70% senior citizens, our revenue is over 90% Medicare, and one of our offices is literally located in the world’s largest retirement community (hence the golf carts and the phone book). So the standards of polite conversation are a bit antiquated.
Well, yeah, if you’re working in God’s waiting room I suppose it might be different. But if that’s the case, you shouldn’t carry your defaults outside it - that’s a particular situation where huge percentage of married women have indeed taken their husband’s name and use Mrs. You’re right about the standards being antiquated- but that also means they don’t apply everywhere.
I live in “God’s Waiting Room”…
You know, this may be a difference between people with privilege and those without. I suppose if must people know your preferred address, and you only rarely run into a clerk who calls you something else, it’s not that uncomfortable to say, “I’m married, please call me Mrs.” My trans friends complain all the time about how tiresome it is to constantly be misgendered, and how they don’t usually have the energy to correct strangers.
But… Some of your clients must be getting into baby boom territory. Maybe it’s regional, but I don’t know anyone babyboom or younger who is offended if a stranger calls them “Ms”.
I still think you should use what’s on the intake form, which means use no title if they left that blank. Obviously, if they provided a title, you should use it.
Fwiw, the receptionists in my doctor’s waiting room, which is large enough that it’s reasonably likely there are two "Mr. Wong"s there, always calls out “Sam Wong”, not “Mr. Wong”. (Nor “Mr. Sam Wong”)
Contradicting myself a little …
30 years ago my sister worked as a receptionist in a large medical office. Intimidated by the whole Ms/Mrs/Miss thing, she addressed the women by their first names. But she addressed the men as “Mr Lastname”. So she would ask for “Jane” or “Mr Smith”. There are obvious problems with this approach, and yours is better. Thirty years ago, there were a lot of women who didn’t like to be called “Ms”, though.
When I was in high school in the 1980s, I realized that I was calling all my teachers “Miss Last Name” even when I knew for a fact that they were married, presumably out of habit (and the really old fashioned assumption that when a teacher got married, she retired?)
Until middle school I thought Miss was for unmarried women, Mrs. was for married women, & Ms. was for divorced women.
So you’re refusing to use the woman’s actual name, even though you know it?
If I were her, I’d be pretty ticked off.