Miss, Mrs. or Ms.?

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When I was a girl, there was a big movement to do away with "Miss" and "Mrs." as titles and stick with "Ms." as the feminine counterpart to "Mr."

It made absolutely perfect sense to my 9-year-old mind, and I have always insisted on using it, because in many situations no one needs to know my marital status.

However, it quickly attained some sort of stigma, and many women refused to use Ms. because they feared being labeled a wacky feminist.

What gives? What do young women these days choose?

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2000


I don't really think that this is what was intended when "Ms." was first coined, but in my opinion it's merely replaced "Miss" as the title given to single women. Most married women I know use "Mrs."; most single women use "Ms." I don't know anyone who refers to herself as "Miss." It sounds like the type of thing your grandma would write on your twelfth birthday card.

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2000

All my relatives (including my parents) address letters to me as "Miss."

But then they're from Louisiana. It's like that there.

I've always used "Ms." myself. I don't see the problem with it. Marital status shouldn't enter into a title. It makes it easier on everyone else too, since they don't have to puzzle these things out.

I respect whatever other people choose to call themselves. (Too bad my relatives don't think the same way!)

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2000

Ms if I must. Given that no one ever calls one by the honorific except telemarketers anyway, when someone addresses me as Mrs. H., I take that as my cue to put on my frostiest tone and say, "There is no such person at this number," and wait for the clueless weasel on the other end to run through the fruitless "lady of the house" loop.

Now, if I could only train my inlaws to address me by my real name, which I kept, I would be happy. I'm doing my best, though, by teaching my six-year-old nieces by marriage to spell my full name. "Why is your name not the same as Uncle A.'s, Auntie Katharine?"

Why, because I'm a nasty hairy-legged feminist, my sweet...

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2000

Ms, for me, always. Or at least, since I was maybe 15 or something.

For one thing I don't see why my marital status has to be told to the world, for another since I got married last year it seems to be the only correct title - I didn't change my name, so it would seem odd to go by Mrs, and yet Miss would be wrong too.

But mostly, its the former - one of those things I feel quite strongly about, and also take for granted ( do grown-up people still use miss? ) - but then I am regularly amazed by phone sales people saying 'Miss or Mrs?' when filling out forms.

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2000

I don't know, how about ma'am? Younger women tend to hate this, but there is no historical offense to using it that I know of. In fact, I think it's suppose to represent polite respect? And you can call me Sir. Thank you very much.

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2000

This is just so not an issue in Australia, or at least my bit of it (which is of course self-selecting). Everyone I know is Ms. I get called Miss by crusty old men, but I am quite fond of most of the crusty old men who do so I don't mind. Most women I know don't change their names when they got married. I didn't, on my first marriage, and my father said, in shock - "But why use your father's name rather than your husband's name?" Exactly. cheers

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2000

You are absolutely right, is was first proposed as an equal to Mr. because it does not signal married status. Thing is, some women want to broadcast their married status, so they don't use it, so it ends up 'sounding' single to many. But the intent was to have a title (if you must)that didn't depend on advertising your availability or un-.

I use Ms. so does my mom, who is married. but then she uses "professor" more.

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2000

I use Mrs. I'm 25, married for 18 months. I'm old fashioned in some ways though. I like being called Mrs. Smith, in fact I do correct people who call me Ms. I'm proud of who I'm married to, and I want the world to know.

I seem to be an oddball though, all my friends use Ms., most of them kept their maiden name, and most of them forget to use my correct name.

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2000

I use Ms., when I *can* choose. I'm 20, engaged, and plan on using Ms. after I'm married as well.

It's the equality thing for me, mostly.

'course, the kids I work with call me Miss Karen - the ones who don't just call me Karen, that is.

Now all I have to do is make my mom realize I don't want the "miss" title. She doesn't approve of Ms. for some reason. Maybe it's a Baptist thing.

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2000

I use Ms. Of course, I'm not a *young* woman any more. :)

I've always preferred Ms. to Miss, expecially in business situations. I used Mrs. socially when I was married. Since my divorce, I've used Ms. exclusively.

I like it when little kids call me "Miss Tracey," though. I like that a *lot* better than them just calling me Tracey.

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2000

Ms., invented or not, enables women to be known as themselves instead of in relation to a husband or lack thereof. Somehow, just a couple of years ago, this topic came up between my mother and me and she said she would never call a woman Ms. unless the woman asked her to. To do so uninvited would be rude, she thought. On the other hand I would never use Miss or Mrs. as a title unless I were asked, because for me to assume I know, or need to know, someone's marital status is rude.

In the same vein, my grandmother would only ever want a male gyn (how we got on *this* topic I wish I could remember!) because she wouldn't want a woman touching her "down there" [her phrase] whereas I only ever want a female gyn--for the exact same reason. I think it's interesting that we are both squeamish about the same thing but come to opposite solutions. Similarly, my mother and I know choose how we address people for courtesy's sake, but though courtesy is our common motivation we use opposite methods. That's purely a generational thing, I hope; she's several years behind her own and I used to be a few years ahead of mine.

When I need to attract the attention of a stranger, though, I say, "Miss, Ma'am, or Sir, you dropped your envelop" (or what have you) because there is no Sir-equivalent. Actually I use the impersonal "excuse me," and hope the person I mean hears me; if they don't I get more precise about titles. And louder.

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2000

I use Miss.

I am 31 years old and unmarried. I just prefer it. Can't really say why. "Ms." makes my skin crawl, but if someone prefers me to call them "Ms," I'll do it without voicing my own opinion on the matter.

Life is short, ya know? I choose my battles.

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2000

It's been an ick morning. I seem to be expressing my angst by getting all het up over the Ms. Miss debate. Perhaps I ought to switch to interpretive dance.

I'm going to stop posting now.

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2000

It's a little different in Quebec. There, when a woman marries, she keeps her last name. If she does want to change it, she has to go through a huge amount of paperwork and expense. To distinguish her from single women, she adds Madame (Mme) to her origional name. So if your name is Marie-Claire Robitoux, when you marry Philippe Maynard you become Mme Robitoux. Your children will have the last name Maynard. They also want to get rid of the Madame/Mademoiselle thing, and have all adult women addressed as Madame. There is no neutral title for women in French. I think it should be the person's option whether they're called Mme or Mlle (or Mrs, Ms or Miss).

This is a relatively new thing, and I think it was started in the 80s. It's not supposed to be retroactive, but my mother still gets mail from the government addressed to Mrs Patricia Brown. She always sends them back a letter requesting them to change their records. Mom married Dad in 1967-- way before the law was changed.

I personallygo by Ms Heather Croft. Miss is what people would call me when I was a kid, so I find it demeaning. When I get married, I might go by Mrs, but I haven't decided yet. I also haven't decided if I want to take my husband's name-- I guess it would depend on whether he had a cool name or not. I could stand being Heather Broatch (Which is my boyfriend's name), but if the guy's name is Featherstone, I'd have to think about it. I don't want to be Heather Featherstone.

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2000

I am married and I changed my name, yet I use Ms. professionally. My husband's last name was more distinctive than mine, and in my profession your name is your brand. And we both wanted to have the same name. But in a professional setting, I don't feel it is appropriate for people to know my marital status, so I prefer Ms. I suppose I use it socially as well, it just never comes up. Guess I have a pretty informal social circle. Before I was married I used my maiden name with Ms. for the same reason. When I travel to Germany however, everyone there calls me Frau (the title for a married woman), and I don't bother to correct them. German society is very formal, so trying to get them to use my first name was a lost cause.

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2000

You damn feminists.

No, really, I think all unearned titles are shows of disrespect. I mean, why bother differentiating gender at all. If we have actors and salespersons now, why even Ms?

In my stories I call people by their names. That seems to me the most respectful way of doing things. Unless it's an earned title like Colonel or PhD.

I'm just a high concept kind of guy.

Of course, if I were forced to write nonfiction, where idiots name their boys Lynn and Kim and Robin and other idiots name their girls Jamie and Jessie, well, who knows how low I would stoop?

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2000

I really don't ever use anything but if I have to check that box, I check "Ms.". It really doesn't matter to me- Ms., Miss, whatever. It's not that big of a deal.

And in defense of Louisiana--it is really the older generations who do that. It's all about being polite and mannerly--all of my relatives send mail to "Miss Erin...". They are not doing it for any other reason other than that is how they were raised. The kids in Louisiana these days aren't nearly as polite and the idiots in this state have actually passed a...I think it's called a Respect Law in the schools. Kids here are now FORCED to say "yes ma'am, no ma'am, yes sir, thankyou, please" etc. or they can suffer the consequences.

I live in a very odd state. *sigh*

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2000

Erin, you're absolutely right. Although sometimes I think the "Miss" title from my grandmother is meant as a subtle hint for me to get married. "Miss" at my age seems wrong to her -- some part of Louisiana also appear to be a bit behind on the idea that women don't need to be married.

But that all applies to writing. In South Louisiana at least, when I was growing up all the moms and older women were "Miz So-and-So." I don't know if "Miz" is actually "Ms." or if it's just a sneaky way of getting around the "Miss So-and-So" title for women who are married. I still call a few older female friends of the family "Miz Gloria" and "Miz Joan" (although other women politely told me I didn't have to anymore since I was, well, plenty grown up.)

I've never seen anything wrong with calling strangers "ma'am" or "sir" (unless you use the wrong gender-specific phrase) and I still do that with people I don't know. I've never heard a complaint. I think most people would prefer an error on the side of gentility rather than otherwise.

Is the "Miz" thing universal to the South? to Louisiana? found anywhere else? Miz Jette wants to know! :)

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2000

I'm not young, but I've always preferred Ms. My marital status isn't the business of people to whom I may be introduced, just like a man's.

However, it hasn't turned out to be the default term as I expected. When I'm someplace like a doctor's office, the person who calls me in from the waiting room looks at the form and sees that I'm married and that my name is Fox, and calls me "Mrs. Fox". That's wrong both ways - I didn't change my name when I got married so Fox isn't my married name. I don't usually bother to explain it, though.

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2000

If I go by a title now, it's Ms. Mostly because when I think of Miss it makes me think of when my Great Aunt would send us stuff it would be addressed that way. So I associate being a kid with Miss.

I'm getting married in a couple of months and I'm changing my name to his name. It just seems easier that way. Having a different name but being married is confusing to other people and most of the time you'll get called by their last name anyway. In fact, I already get mail with my first name and his last name, and he gets mail with his first name and MY last name. Whatever.

I'm just not stuck on it being either way, so I'll change my name for convenience. A hyphen is out of the question, given our names.

My parents are divorced after being married for 25 years. And what's weird is that my mother kept my father's name after the divorce. I mean, I wouldn't have wanted to change back to her maiden name because it makes her have a sing-song kind of name, but it's weird to explain to people that my parents have the same last name but they are no longer married. So she's Ms. Nancy Married Name.

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2000

I would rather be strangled than someone call me Miss. I am not married and I prefer "Ms." It is nobody's business what my marital status is, so Ms. keeps it neutral.

If someone refers to me as Miss, I might have to ascend a tower and start sniping people with a rifle. OK, I'm kidding... and that was a bit extreme, but it drives a point! *Laughs*

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2000

I always used MS until I became DR, my marital status is no one's business, especially in a professional situation. My brother's wife agreed to take our family name (he whined A LOT!) but she uses MS rather then MRS along with it. When we have female clients at the clinic I have instructed the staff to enter them into the files and address them as MS unless/until asked/told to do otherwise. Other then one older married female client everyone seems happy with this arrangement.

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2000

There's a bagger at my grocery store who's got to be 70 if not older, and when I first started going there, he addressed all women as "Miss" - as in, "Is plastic okay, Miss?" Someone complained to the manager, and now he addresses every female as "Lady" - "Need help out with that, lady?"

I much prefer "miss", I think.

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2000

The thing I think is funny is when women refer to themselves by their husbands' first and last names. For example, my great-grandmother was always Mrs. George N. Wade and never Mrs. Anna Wade.

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2000

Not to quibble (okay to quibble), but I understand when some of you say in a professional sense it not anyone's business what your martial status is, but if, as some of you've mentioned, it is a privacy issue, I assume you're against wearing a wedding ring?

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2000


Is it possible the reason that your mom didn't change her name back to her maiden name after the divorce was that she wanted to keep the same name as her children? When my mother remarried after my father died, she struggled with that, a little bit. She did end up taking her new husband's name, though.

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2000

I never even really thought about it much until the other day when my boss asked me what I preferred for a form he was filling out. I said anything was fine, he insisted, so I said Ms.

I'm Lynda to most folks - it's kinda mean to force them to try to pronounce my last name unnecessarily, I think. Other people's kids often call me Miss Lynda, and I'm known to do the same in reverse, including to my own... dunno where I got that.

Mrs. still sounds very old to me - and while I may be at an age where it sounds right to others, I don't care for the reminder. Mrs. Bustilloz is my mother in law, not me.

Ms. works when necessary and doesn't have any connotation for me - it's a nice, neutral title. But seriously, just call me Lynda. You could hurt your tongue on the last name.

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2000

Cory... I don't wear rings at work as I have eczema and I wash my hands *thoroughly* before and after each appointment and medical procedure, as well as enduring surgical scrubbing several times daily. However I don't feel that a ring on the third finger of your left hand is necessarily a "wedding" ring anymore. I know several unmarried people who wear a ring on that finger simply because they like it.

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2000

I don't think that the Miss/Ms/Mrs. issue is really about privacy for most women, but rather about respect. The title by which you address someone is, I think, reflective of their status in society, and by giving married and single women different titles, you imply that there is a fundamental difference between the two. Many women, myself included, simply choose not to be defined by their marital status in this way.

For this same reason, I know many physicians and Ph.D.s who prefer to be called Mr. or Ms. rather than Dr.

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2000

I'm a "Ms." I like its vagueness. I don't think it's fair that our culture insists on identifying women by marital status and not men, dammit! Not that anyone calls anyone by Mr. or M-anything these days. I had one very prissy teacher ("I do not do e-mail") who referred to everyone as Mr. or Miss, but no one else does. Work everyone goes by first names (except for one reporter who calls everyone by their last names), class it's first names...no point really!

I like nowadays how "Ms." is the usual choice now on forms you have to fill out.

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2000

Either one, I'm not fussed. When filling out forms, I do check "Ms." because I instinctively want to give those commanding me to fill out forms as little information/vaguest information possible about myself.

I also get a kick when friends call me by my last name. It sounds cool!

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2000

In response to Cory's question, and in agreement with Cathy, it is not so much a question of privacy, as it is the issue of what it is I want to highlight about myself in a professional setting. When I am meeting with a client, I want them thinking about me as a professional, not as someone's husband. In high tech, at least, everyone female I know goes by Ms., married or not, and I think it would sound very odd to actually use Mrs. in a professional setting. And, unlike Cathy, I often meet and develop relationships with my clients over the phone first, and so they can't see my wedding ring, which I do wear. Frankly, usually it is only one call, if that before we are on a first name basis.

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2000

On wedding rings: I was just reading on some other board last week about this guy who got VERY VERY pissy at women who chose to wear ANY sort of ring on The Ring Finger and refused to even talk to them if he was interested- he insisted on assuming they were married or indicating they didn't want to be picked up on. When I said you can pretty much tell which kinda ring is which, he snippily said he'd known lots of people with odd wedding rings. I gave up on him there.

But when you think about it, it's kinda obnoxious to insist that someone wear a "claimed already" sign forever and ever. I wouldn't want people checking my hand before my face and then deciding how to deal with me. Ok, convenient for the dating pool, but otherwise annoying.

'Course, my dad lost his wedding ring 20-odd years ago, and my mother rotates rings around a lot. We're not that dedicated!

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2000

Is it possible the reason that your mom didn't change her name back to her maiden name after the divorce was that she wanted to keep the same name as her children? When my mother remarried after my father died, she struggled with that, a little bit. She did end up taking her new husband's name, though.

After a long struggle, we decided to give our daughter our hyphenated last name, even though it will no doubt be a pain in the ass later, because she was a product of our marriage and we wanted her name to reflect that.

One day she may want to change that, and we're fine with that. We gave her an unpronouncable first name, too, so we're just loading her up with issues...

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2000

I've been called Ms. for as long as I can remember, except by one idiosyncratic designer who always calls me "Miss Perry".. but I rather like it, from her.

In the mid-80s, while living in England, I went along to the local bank to open an account. The desk clerk was filling out a form, and got to the part where she asked "and is that Miss or Mrs?". "Actually, it's Ms," I answered. She glanced quickly at me, then back at the form. Later in the conversation, she asked why I chose to be called that, as I didn't look like "one of them". One of what? Why, a hairy-legged feminist, to quote Katharine.

She was genuinely surprised by my explanation that, if a man's marital status wasn't necessary information, then why should a woman's need be? Hmmm...

I'm getting married next year, and will be keeping my own name. It's been good this far, it can take me the rest of the way. My future husband is perfectly cool with this. Don't know how his family will take it.

Naming etiquette used to be precise: Mrs. John Doe indicated a married woman. Mrs Nancy Doe was divorced, and Mrs Doe was a widow. Miss Clara Doe was an unmarried daughter. Miss Doe was the title reserved for the eldest daughter of the family.

My best friend Mae permanently negated the whole honorific issue when she got her PhD. "Is that Mrs, Miss, or Ms?" "Actually, it's Doctor."

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2000

I've never seen anything wrong with calling strangers "ma'am" or "sir" (unless you use the wrong gender-specific phrase)

I get called 'sir' sometimes. I am not a sir. I wish there were a gender-neutral honorific, or the people would omit it unless they were sure of the gender of the person they were talking to. And I don't even like my *gender* being important information to the guy taking my order at McDonalds, frankly. But every !@#$%^& time I go into the McD by work the !@#$ guy says "Can I take your order, sir .. ma'am?" I'm not sure if he's always correcting himself, or just wants to cover both bases. It generally ruins my day when I'm feeling hypersensitive and ugly to begin with. I work for the state relay system (on the phone) and frequently mis-identify young boys as girls, and occasionally make mistakes on adults. I've learned not to guess. I identify the gender of the voice to the Deaf person as what it sounds like to me, and correct myself later if I find I was wrong, and I don't use sir/ma'am unless I'm *sure*. I think it's possible to be polite without it.

-- Anonymous, May 24, 2000

What hacks me off is when people just assume they should call me Mrs., although I bear no outward signs of being married, just because they assume that someone my age wouldn't be single.

"Oh you poor dear, I didn't realize..."

-- Anonymous, May 24, 2000

Most of my clients call me "Mrs. Campbell." (Or more specifically, "Mrs. Cambell," or "Mrs. Camble." My clients are all convicted criminals and most of them are high school drop outs, which should give you some idea of what I think of folks who assume I'm a "Mrs."

The only time I like "Miss" is when it preceeds my first name and is used by someone under the age of ten. When I worked at a day care center I was "Miss Beth," and I liked that just fine. Otherwise, I'm a Ms., and I'd be a Ms. if I were married, as well. "Miss" sounds too young and "Mrs." sounds horriby old fashioned.

-- Anonymous, May 24, 2000

Actually, I'm wrong -- about half of my clients call me "Elizabeth." I call them all "Mr. Jones" or "Ms. Smith," unless I talk to them on the phone on a regular basis, in which case I sometimes revert to first names. That's pretty rare, though, and I don't do it unless I expect them to call me "Elizabeth."

-- Anonymous, May 24, 2000

sara, I'd be curious to hear why "Ms." makes you so angry, if you feel like talking about it.

I do wear a wedding ring and probably all the people I work with know I'm married. But there are other times when I meet people by phone or something when I don't think it should be the first thing they learn about me. I was Ms. before I had a wedding ring, and sometimes wore rings on that finger.

-- Anonymous, May 24, 2000

I dunno. I thought about it for awhile and couldn't really come up with a logical reason. I'm sort of stuck in the 50s when it comes to stuff like this. I have no problem with other people using "Ms."

I just prefer the sound of "Miss Astruc" to "Ms Astruc." Maybe it makes me feel young or something. Or maybe "Miss" sounds more formal, which would appeal to me, as well.

I don't have an answer, obviously.

-- Anonymous, May 24, 2000

Also, I'd like to add that Ms doesn't make me "angry." I just don't like the sound of it. As applied to me. YMMV.

-- Anonymous, May 24, 2000

I agree with Sara. I prefer to be called Miss, even though I'm 33 and divorced. I also kept my married name when I divorced. However, since Miss conveys being unmarried, that is appropriate to me. I am Miss Pierce. That's my name. "Ms." just sounds like I'm trying to hide something.

-- Anonymous, May 24, 2000

Ms, for preference, though I wouldn't bother to correct somebody who called me Miss (or Mrs for that matter). When my ex and I bought a car they had no way to indicate on the forms that, although we jointly owned car, we had different last names, so I got mail from them regularly with my last name hyphenated with his, although we weren't married. That was odd.
Can't say I really care much about the Miss/Ms/Mrs issue as it really isn't a problem (at least where I live). Everybody seems to use Ms, and is used to it. I am bothered by the changing of the last name thing, though.
Somebody above said why keep the father's name instead of the husband's, but that's not the point. It's my name. I was born with it, I grew up with it, and I intend to keep it.
I've also had publications under my current name and changing it would be like starting back at square one, professionally, so that's an issue too, but mainly I just find the whole idea offensive, and it irritates me that I have to defend the keeping-my-name thing and nobody requires the other people to defend their opinion that I ought to change my name.
Guess I'm just a hairy-legged feminist.
Joanne (Parietal Pericardium)

-- Anonymous, May 24, 2000

"nobody requires the other people to defend their opinion that I ought to change my name."

I've had to defend changing my name to many people. In fact I was told "Women like you set the feminist movement back 50 years." Because I changed my name? That's just bullshit. I look at marriage as a joining of 2 people. With this comes the blending of a family, including names. We discussed me keeping my maiden name, hyphenating (out of the question, my first name is hyphenated), changing, or combining names in some other way. I choose to change my name, I happy I did, now people can spell my name and pronounce my name.

I don't question other women though, it's an individual choice.

-- Anonymous, May 24, 2000

Count me in with you, then. There are some situations in which I would consider changing my name -- I'd hyphenate in a second if the man were willing to do the same (Jeremy would not be, if we were to get married); I might change my name if I were in one of my grumpy moods about how annoyingly common my current name is. (Go do a web search for "Elizabeth Campbell." It's insane.) But I don't think I'd go through with it in the end. I didn't think I felt strongly about this, but I've noticed that I lose a little respect for women when they get married and change their names these days; I'm aware that it's probably unfair of me to feel that way, but I do.

Most of the women I know and work with keep their names. And I don't know anyone who uses "Mrs." professionally.

We have a sort of running joke about this in my family, because my hippy sister and her husband came up with a creative way of solving the "whose name?" issue. They combined their last names (Kowal and Campbell) to come up with Kowbell. It certainly wouldn't suit everyone, but it's their legal name, and has been for years.

Jeremy and I have joked that we could be Lockbell or Campwood, but he flaty rejects my favorite combination, Cockwood. No sense of adventure, that boy.

My brother's new wife took his last name, and he made the same joke: Bergbell just didn't sound right.

I hereby propose that Rob and Julie officially change their last name to "Rumhud." It's cute.

-- Anonymous, May 24, 2000

That "count me with you" was directed at Joanne. Another post came in while I was writing.

-- Anonymous, May 24, 2000

Suzy, I notice that in your list of options that you considered, you didn't include your husband's changing his last name to yours.

I'm not criticizing; I just find it interesting that generally, when women defend their decision to change their last name, they mention some variant of, "We're a family now, and we should have one name." I don't think there's anything wrong with that, but why shouldn't you consider making the one name your last name? Or at least include it in your list of options.

Keith and I have talked about this, and considering that his last name is even more common than "Campbell," he said that he'd definitely think about changing his last name to mine, if we ever get married. In fact, he was the one who brought it up.

-- Anonymous, May 24, 2000

Excellent point, Jan.

I forgot to add that to my list ... if we decided that it was a good idea to have the same last name, and the man were willing to change his name (again, Jeremy wouldn't be) but we decided that for whatever reason it was easier for me to change mine (my last name is more common, his is Boreanaz, that kind of thing), I'd be okay with that.

-- Anonymous, May 24, 2000

"Suzy, I notice that in your list of options that you considered, you didn't include your husband's changing his last name to yours."

We actually did discuss that as well, but even though we have a common last name he is the last of his family line with a chance at having children (he has a nephew who is autistic). When we have children, we want them to carry on his family name. Their are several Pietras' (my maiden name pronounced p-triz) left to carry on the name.

-- Anonymous, May 24, 2000

I don't really get that whole "carry on the family name" thing. I changed my last name to my husband's last name after we got married, but I could just as easily have left it the same as my first husband's last name - my current (and last!) husband wouldn't really have cared.

Upon reflection, I really like the idea of a couple just picking a last name out of the air - you can go as weird or ordinary as you'd like; "Miller" or "Drycxzynx".

-- Anonymous, May 24, 2000

A fairly knotty question.

For the most part, I don't pay much attention unless I have to fill out a form, in which case, I check off the "Ms." box.

I've only been in the professional world for four years and I've always had very casual work environments where all employees used first names as the mode of address.

Only family members still write to me as "Miss Elizabeth Kelleher" -- especially my grandmother.

My friends omit any form of honorific altogether ... unless it's something we made up in college that only has meaning to us.

I will correct people if they address me as "Mrs." or "Miss." with a firm but polite "Ms." in response, but this happens so rarely, that I can't even remember the last time it happened.

More often, I just have to remind people to call me Beth rather than Elizabeth so that I don't wind up cringing every time someone walks into my cube to talk to me.

On the whole name changing issue, I've thought about it quite a bit. When my previous fiance and I were talking about names, we used to joke about combining them into something funky, like Kellowitz, or Leiboher, or just each keeping our own names.

Sabs on the other hand, is very attached to his name because he is the last male of his line. His father was an only child and he is also an only child and his father is alienated from his family, so he doesn't know any of his Billard relatives. He definitely wants to preserve his family name, but he doesn't want to step on my toes to do it either.

We've toyed around with the idea of naming our hypothetical sons after him and hypothetical daughters after me but then it might seem weird to people that children in the same family would have different names.

When it boils down to it, I have a feeling I'll just keep my name and not care much if I get called Mrs. Billard, although, when telemarketers ask for Mrs. Billard and Mr. Kelleher at our house, it is with great relish that I can say, in all truthfulness, that neither lives here.

(You know ... being a telemarketer must really suck as a job ... I mean, people never like to hear you on the line and you must get some really rude comebacks. Ugh.)

-- Anonymous, May 24, 2000

Hey, Beth, if you ever start working with prisoners, you'll probably be glad to have them call you Elizabeth because it allows you to disconnect a bit. I really hate it when one of the people answering the phone here corrects a prisoner and tells him I go by Beth.

I just got mail addressed to "Mrs. Elizabeth." I think that's pretty hilarious.

-- Anonymous, May 24, 2000

I've always used Ms, whether I was married or not. Unless someone wants to ask me on a date, my marital status is irrelevant. I didn't change my last name when I married either. The first time my mother- in-law mailed something to Mr and Mrs His-Last-Name, I explained politely. The second time, I explained politely. The third time, I wrote Not At This Address and had it returned. She then mailed anything else directly to her son, which is fine with me.

-- Anonymous, May 24, 2000

I think it may be a sign of the "success" of feminism than we have this choice. I'm not picky about what honorific people use for me, but it's nice to have a choice.

I've only been married 6 days, and no one's called me Mrs yet, except as a joke. I'm keeping my name [since I've had it for 48 years].

-- Anonymous, May 25, 2000

I use Ms. when forced to check off a box, but I really prefer that people call me Jennifer. When I was little, all of the kids in our town called the adults by their first names, so I'm used to that. Even my mom, the minister, was "Pastor Norene."

I thought -a lot- about changing my name when I got married. My mother remarried when I was a young teenager, leaving my brother and me with a different last name from her. I hated it. It made me feel like my family was broken. I really didn't want my kids to have to explain all the time the way I did. What I finally settled on was legally keeping all of my names (first, middle, and last) and adding my husband's name to the end of mine. Commonly, I use my first name, maiden name, and married name and when asked for my last name, I always give both of them.

-- Anonymous, May 25, 2000

I am a Mrs. and I took my husband's last name. His is easier to spell and pronounce. I also would like for our children to have the same last name as we do. I happen to like being a Mrs., I think it's fun. If I didn't think so I wouldn't have done it. I also wear a wedding ring, although I find most people don't think it IS a wedding ring since I don't have a big solitaire (I have an enternity band) and the wedding ring doesn't look like most. They are usually surprised to find out I am married.

I consider myself a feminist -- I simply chose what was right for me.

-- Anonymous, May 25, 2000

My paternal uncle has no children and my father has two daughters, and I thought my father would be pleased one of us (the one who also will have no children) would keep our name. In the same conversation, I had broken it to him that there wasn't going to be any walkie-poo-down-the-aisle bit either. He was fine with that, had expected it. Then I told him I wasn't going to change my name. It is the first time I had ever heard my father speak on a rising pitch: "You mean you're gonna HYPHENATE it?" With seven syllables altogether, Houlihan-Caccavale would be excessive, no? No, I told him, I'm just not going to change it at all. This was completely outside his experience. He gave us a check for a wedding present made out to "Cash" because he had no idea what name to use. Since then he's addressed Christmas cards to both of us with our full names, and birthday cards to me with my full name. He gets a star.

Minutes after the ceremony, Rich's aunt called me "Mrs. Caccavale." I told her, "I've kept my name. I'm still Ms. Lisa Houlihan." She rocked a bit but has since addressed all our mail correctly. She gets a star too.

One friend my own age is the only person who really doesn't understand it. "How will people know you're married if you don't take his name?" Who cares? How will anyone know Rich is married since he didn't take mine?

My grandmother tries, bless her, but it's even further outside her experience than my father's, so she sends her letters to Lisa Houlihan-Caccavale. That's fine. We get joint invitations to Mr. & Mrs. Rich Houlihan (from people who only know me). Whatever.

Rich's cousin sent a wedding invitation to "Mr. & Mrs. Richard Caccavale." I've always put our two correct names in whatever return addresses I write, and if his family have never registered that, whatever. When her thank you note included the salutation "Dear Rich and Sara," though, that riled me. Considerably. I've *met* these people, more than once. Sara. Sheesh.

I wish we did have a nice non-gender-, non-age-specific honorific for strangers. I hate to be ma'am'd, which is stupid of me, since I'm over 18 and I try to think of Miss vs. Ma'am as only a legal- adult demarcation. We could be pretend to be in 1790s France and call each other "Citizen," or 1920s Russia (or whatever its name was) and call each other "Comrade."

-- Anonymous, May 25, 2000

I was born in 1969, with good liberal parents, so "Ms." always seemed natural to me. When I was a kid, I usually referred to adult women as "Miz [whoever]", because then I didn't have to remember which title to use.

My wife (who decided to use "Mrs. Gordon" socially and "Dr. Pell" professionally) used to edit a synagogue newsletter. One of the things that made her job thankless was the stream of phone calls from women who complained about being called "Ms." instead of "Mrs.". (As someone else in this thread pointed out, the proper way to use "Mrs." is with the husband's first name, but she also knew that if she tried to enforce that stylistic rule, she'd be in real trouble.)

-- Anonymous, May 25, 2000

I consider myself very much a feminist but back when I taught school, I chose to be addressed as Miss Green. I liked the formality, actually, and found Miss more aesthetically pleasing to my ear to than Ms.

I married last fall and never considered changing my name or hyphenating, despite our both having one-syllable names. I don't recall having to specify a title since getting married, and am not sure what I'd choose. Luckily the only people who try to use titles are telemarketers.

-- Anonymous, May 25, 2000

I just noticed Jennifer Wade's post that her grandmother never used the name Mrs. Anna Wade but rather Mrs. Husbands Name (sorry I forgot it).

This is because Mrs. means "the mistress of". Mrs. should ONLY be used with the husband's name as in Mrs. John Doe. This means the mistress of John Doe. Mrs. Jane Doe obviously wouldn't be correct, however Mrs. Doe is.

I learned this from someone who went to a high falootin private school that taught manners and stuff like this.

-- Anonymous, May 25, 2000

Being 32 Miss sounds good right now..........

-- Anonymous, May 25, 2000

I clearly remember the first time a grocery store clerk told me, "Have a nice evening, Mrs. Drake!" I was floored. Wasn't it totally obvious that I was neither old enough nor respectable enough to be a Mrs?

Ms. has always been my choice. What does it matter if you're married or not? I don't get that attitude from my family, however. My mother insists on addressing packages to me as Mrs. Peter Drake.

As to the question of changing one's last name upon marriage, we picked something completely new to both of us. I like having a name that's easy to spell and pronounce. I'm sure many of our relatives thought we were weird, but everyone adjusted.

-- Anonymous, May 25, 2000

That "Mrs." = "mistress of" thing sounds like an urban legend to me. Isn't "Mr." a corruption of "master"? So why would a man use his own name after "Mister"? And what does "Miss" mean in that context?

-- Anonymous, May 25, 2000

Yes, I'm sure the mrs. = mistress of thing isn't true. "Mistress" used to be the honorific for married women. In Early America a married woman would be called "Mistress Smith" or whatever.

I always knew I wouldn't change my name to my husband's, and my preference was for us to both hyphenate our names. Either we both change our names or neither of us does. However, my husband felt that was too strange for him (I respect his choice, though I wish he didn't feel that way). He has no problem with me not using his name, but his mother and aunt do. They think it means I'm not sincere about our marriage and am hostile to their marriages. She addresses things to us as "Pat and Elizabeth" with no last names.

I was engaged to someone before Pat and we both planned to hypenate our names. He ended up marrying someone else and he changed his name to hers.

-- Anonymous, May 25, 2000

A little bit more from the etymological corner ...

I believe "Ma'am" is also a contraction for "Madam" or "Madame" which traces back to the honorifics for nobility in the medieval French world: "Ma dame" --> "my lady"

-- Anonymous, May 25, 2000

I've always used Ms. If I get married, I'll keep using it. No one ever told me there was a stigma attached to it. No one calls me Miss except for the DAR ladies, and I don't bother to correct them. I'm occasionally called Mrs, and tell people, "No, Mrs. W is my mother!" It always surprises me when people call me Mrs, for example the time I got my sewing machine repaired. Am I married just because I sew??

As for post-married names, I'd prefer hyphenation. In fact, that's part of my 'Is he husband material?' test.

Yes, another hairy-legged, hairy-arm-pitted feminist.

-- Anonymous, May 25, 2000

Like Beth, I'm alright with very young children calling me "Miss Lisa." Through high school and college, I taught toddlers how to swim, and hearing, "Hi, Miss Lisa!" was quite sweet.

The rest of the time, I'm fairly flexible. The only time I take umbrage to "Miss" is when I get email from someone who's very clearly trying to imply that I am but a mere slip of a girl, and therefore my writing cannot be given the same weighty consideration an adult might deserve.

Since I'm getting married in August (and keeping my name; that was never an issue), I imagine I'll probably spend the rest of my days answering to Ms. Schmeiser, or trying to find a tactful way to gently correct the well-meaning souls who will call me Mrs. Schmeiser.


-- Anonymous, May 25, 2000

I've always used Ms. I'm married and didn't change my name. I don't correct people if they use my married name in a social situation. I really don't care. The kid has his father's last name and my father's first name. If we had another, I'd raise the issue of using my last name. But I think we are stopping with one (who is currently having a tantrum on the rug by the computer).

-- Anonymous, May 25, 2000

beth I think "master" and "mister" were different, actually. I seem to recall (always a good source) that in England, where these honorifics kinda come from, (maybe by way of france-- messieur (p?)) boys were called "master." and at some point you grew up --I don't think it was marriage for men. it was a british thing, maybe when they stopped wearing short pants or something?-- and became mister.

-- Anonymous, May 26, 2000

My head is spinning, I just followed this thread and have about come to the conclusion that the best thing I can do is to politely say, "hey you," or not use a title at all.

Even today when some one says, "Mr. Doug," I instinctively look over my shoulder to see if my dad's ghost has just walked in.

For me saying ma'am in a respectful way has usually kept me out of deep doo doo, but some ladies resent even being addressed by a man, period.

If I know the person's preference I will speak to them using the nomenclature they desire.

Like a typical (I guess) male, I stand with hands out stretched, forearms bent at the elbow, with the expression on my face importing that not matter what I do it is wrong and, "Just how the heck am I going to get out of this ?"

Seems to me that a while back the procedure of opening doors was discussed at great length and sometimes participants in each had their own personal preference. Once a woman tried to slap my face because I opened the door for her. She wasn't successful because my attention was on the whole event, not on legs or breasts, just tryin' to be polite ma'am.

For me ma'am seems to work for whatever age the woman is, 5 to 105 years. But by all means I feel respect and convey it, I hope.

-- Anonymous, May 27, 2000

For myself, it's Ms. all the way, ever since I was in high school. Miss Jennifer sounds odd, like a little girl! And my mom is the only one who calls me Mrs. And I chose to change my last name when I got married. I eventually decided that I like the difficulty people have saying it! I'm a little perverse that way.

Plus, Klemme is a common name 'round here. With a first name like Jennifer, it's kind of a relief to have a distinctive last name (There's only 3 Daikers in the entire STATE!)

-- Anonymous, May 27, 2000

It doesn't come up all that much unless I'm filling in a form, and then I go for Mrs, since that's what I am.

I took my husband's name - Jackie Collins was just too much of a comedy name to miss out on, and I was sick of my maiden name - Nidd - being mis-spelt.

My friends all think it's hilarious to refer to me as a Mrs for some reason. I don't think anybody can quite fathom that I'm married. I'm not very wifey.

-- Anonymous, May 30, 2000

I like the idea of taking a new name as a couple -- The only problem is, it would inevitably bring out my instinct for the ridiculous and I'd dub myself "de Hockley-cum-Meston" or some other Wodehouseian nonsense which I would regret immediately after the wedding.


So, as I say, I think the idea of picking a new common name is a nice twist on an old tradition. There is something very chummy about sharing a last name, I find. (Full disclosure -- my wife had taken her first husband's name, and I more or less twisted her arm into choosing between taking mine or going back to her maiden name. She liked mine better, and there you go. But I've grown so much since then that I think it would be unfair to hold that against me.)

-- Anonymous, May 30, 2000

The whole honorific issue for women is very tangled. I prefer Ms. Only my parents and sisters refer to me as Miss Janine, and that's usually a sign that they have "an issue to discuss," like they're pissed with me or whatever. The more trying issue is the name decision once you get married. I got married in the '80s, and I did not want to change my name at all because my name is very rare and I have no brothers. My husband took that as a sign of no faith in the marriage, and insisted that I take his name. I compromised with a hyphenate, which made my published byline superlong (by Janine Coveney-McAdams)--too long to fit one line at the magazine's column width. After a year of marriage, my byline got to be pretty well known in the industry I was covering, but people simply could not pronounce Janine or Coveney (are people generally illiterate?) and when they saw McAdams they pounced with relief. In fact, there were several people I dealt with who *only* called me McAdams. I got divorced in the mid '90s, and went back to using my maiden name. Now people are stumped. They don't know what to call me. They mangle my name (mail addressed to Janice Covenzey, Janie McCovey, and Jannin Coventry), and for the past five years people have been congratulating me on my wedding. One idiot said, "Mr Coveney must be a lucky guy," and I said, "I'll let my father know." Is it true that divorced women don't take their names back? Why do people assume only a marriage will change a name?

-- Anonymous, May 30, 2000

Unless there are children involved, I think it's odd when divorced women who've changed their names don't go back to their old names. I mean, why would you want his name following you through life unless you're in some situation where name recognition is terribly important and you've become known under that name? and I don't think most of us are in that situation.

I have friends who divorced and she wanted to keep his name because she liked it better than her maiden name. He didn't really want her to, but couldn't do anything about it. He remarried, his new wife changed HER name, and now there are two Mrs Porters in our social circle. Everybody knows the situation, it's no secret, but most people think it was a little odd of Mrs. P #1.

Before we were married my husband's mother used to call me "Miss E" even when she was asked not to. Now she doesn't know what to call me.

-- Anonymous, May 30, 2000

I think that Mrs. meant not "mistress of" but "mistress", which was the female equivalent of "mister" rather than "concubine". [Master is indeed a formal term of address for boys, still used by people who wish they were in regency romances.] Mrs. John Q. Smith is a title, not a name, meaning "wife of John Q. Smith". Mrs. John Smith's *name* is Alice Smith. My husband's grandmother, after her husband died, uses Alice Smith where before she used Mrs. John Q. Smith. But she was a debutante and knows the formalities.

Me, I've always used Ms. and kept my name when I got married. I never really considered anything else, and I wasn't even very interested in it before everyone started asking me whether I was going to change my name or hyphenate ("No."). Afterwards, only my deep commitment to domestic harmony prevented a rather scathing note to my father-in-law, who sent us two packages to Mr. and Mrs. Husband's Name...despite the fact that the first thank-you note included my full name. It does, however, mean that when telemarketers call for "Mrs. Husband's Name", I can hang up. They don't do that so often as they did ten years ago, though.

-- Anonymous, June 07, 2000

I used Ms. until I got my Ph.D. Now, if I must use an honorific (usually I leave that box blank) I use Dr. My parents both had Ph.D.'s, and whenever people would phone up looking for one of them, they would assume that Dr. Theodor was a man. My mom's first name is Frances, and most junk mailers make the same assumption and her junk mail comes to Dr. Francis...

So I used to answer the phone, and they'd ask for Dr. Theodor, and I'd ask which one, and they'd get all confused.

My mother changed her name when she got married, but when my parents split she kept the name, because she had published under that name. It was just easier. And I will keep my name if I get married, in part for the same reasons. It gets really confusing trying to find research papers for women under two or more names.

-- Anonymous, June 09, 2000

I'm going to veer slightly off the title issue for a second.

My maiden name was ugly, unusual and made me prone to schoolyard teasing, so I grew up wishing for a pretty surname. When I was 21 I decided to do something about it. I took my mother's maiden name, partly because it was quite pretty and went well with my first name, but was still fairly unique (in its spelling). When I met my husband much hilarity abounded due to the fact that his surname rhymed with my maiden name and had even uglier schoolyard connotations. No way in hell was I putting up with that.

I kept my name and I'm a Ms. Partly because it's nobody's business whether I'm married, single, divorced, de facto or whatever unless I choose to tell them, partly because it's just easier that way, particularly professionally. My in-laws don't have a problem with it. Some of my elder relatives by marriage do, but that's their problem.

What's more, my husband and I discussed the issue at length (he was considering taking my adopted name but elected to keep his own) and have decided that if we produce offpring they will be known by my surname. Besides, he has two brothers and at least one of them wouldn't stand for his kids taking his wife's surname. The family name will carry on. (This, my in-laws may not be so fine with, but again... their problem.)

For me, the name issue was primarily aesthetic (my father, to whom I am close, had no problem with my name change) but to appease my more tradionalist mother I rejected all other name options I'd come up with and stuck with her maiden name. The irony is that it's not 'her' name at all - it's her stepfather's. Ah well. What's more, there are no male heirs to that name. It's all up to me. I've shouldered my burden bravely.

A name is such a personal thing. Why shouldn't you be called what you want to be called? Ditto for the Ms/Miss/Mrs issue. I'm 28, a lot of my female friends have married in the last couple of years and every single one of them is a Mrs Husband's Surname. All my single female friends, bar one who makes no secret of her status in order not to put off prospective suitors, are addressed by Ms. The married ones think I'm a little odd, both for my name/title choice and the fact I don't wear a wedding ring, but the singles are highly supportive. As is my husband.

God, I go on a lot. Sorry.

-- Anonymous, June 11, 2000

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