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By Diana Diamond

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About this blog: So much is right — and wrong — about what is happening in Palo Alto. In this blog I want to discuss all that with you. I know many residents care about this town, and I want to explore our collective interests to help ...  (More)

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Be careful what you call me.

Uploaded: Mar 25, 2019
Please don’t call me a “lady.” Or collectively address my friends and myself as “ladies.” Oftentimes, I get emails that start off with “Dear Ladies.” Indeed, even emails sent from women’s groups have the “Dear Ladies” salutation, an honorific title that should be abolished. Emails to men don’t start off with “Dear Gents,” so why the disparity?

This old-fashioned term brings to mind women of the past, in long flowing dresses, politely having afternoon teas or delicately walking adorned with hats or bonnets and a gentleman at their sides. That’s not what today’s women are all about.

Dictionaries support my mental vision of the word “lady.” Merriam-Webster: a) a woman having proprietary rights or authority especially as a feudal superior b) a woman receiving the homage or devotion of a knight or lover. Oxford Dictionary: a) a woman of good social position, b) a courteous, decorous, or genteel woman. I am not decorous nor particularly genteel.

Labeling us all the time as “ladies” is still overused in public life. Servers will say to women dining together, “Hello, ladies.” Or “What can I get you ladies.”

How an individual is addressed can create an interesting discussion. Maya Angelou objected in 1989 to being called “Maya” by a 20-year-old black woman, according to a recent AP article. “I am not Maya. I am 62 years old,” she told the young girl. And she was right – given her background (and mine), when I was in my teens and twenties it was impolite to call an older person by his or her first name without permission. And given Angelou’s southern background, I can understand why she objected.

Calling women “girls” is equally disparaging. I am no longer a girl. I was a girl in K-12. Calling men “boys” is demeaning, especially for blacks in the South.

In California, first names have been in for a long time. I waited in line at a cell phone store the other day and when it was my turn, the staff person said, “Hi, Diana. How can I help you today, Diana.”? But I’ve accepted that as a West Coast habit.

And while I am on this rant, I also have always objected to being addressed by my marital status. I was “Miss” and then married and became “Mrs.” Socially okay, but then professionally? Why should my marital status make a difference? Why should I be addressed either “Miss” or Mrs.,” as teachers frequently are? Men, single and married, are only and always addressed as “Mr.”

Call me “Ms.” That’s just fine. By the way, when I was first married, my husband was an ensign in the Navy. I didn’t have a name or a title. I was just labeled a “dependent.” Very degrading.

There are times, of course, when the female gender can be called “ladies, as when a speaker opens his/her remarks before an audience, “Ladies and Gentlemen.”

But all the rest of the debate and how refer to women becomes a dilemma. “Okay, how should we address you? What should we say,” some male friends of mine asked.

“How are you addressed in an email sent to several men,” I replied.

Scratching their heads, they said they never thought of it – but maybe it’s “Hi,” or “To all,” or even “Guys.” Guys is fine with me for men and women, since it has become a unisex word. “Hi” is good, too. Anyone have better ideas?

What is it worth to you?


Posted by Scott Diamond, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Mar 25, 2019 at 4:33 pm

How about “Mom"? :-) Always fun to see what you will write

Posted by DIana Diamond, a resident of Midtown,
on Mar 25, 2019 at 6:58 pm

DIana Diamond is a registered user.

Scott --

I love you but you are not unbiased. I don't want people other than you calling me Mom!

Love, your mother

Posted by Queen of Denmark, a resident of Professorville,
on Mar 26, 2019 at 1:33 am

"The lady doth protest too much, methinks"

Posted by The Name Game, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Mar 26, 2019 at 8:45 am

Some women don't even like to be referred to as Ms. apparently has an age connotation to it. *scratching head*

I like to use "Hey babe" as some women find it flattering & not all that sexist. Perhaps it makes them feel younger, which is cool as 70 is apparently the new 50 (and somewhat more bizarrely), 50 is now the new 30. *not buying it*

Age reference (implied or via a lie) has a lot to do with it...while to me, a 'chick' is a woman 26 or younger, many women (some even in their 40s) don't mind being referred to as one. Of course they are deluding themselves.

Preferred titles and one's respective age are the key determinants. In the 'old days', an elderly woman called 'Miss' conjurred up an image of an old spinster. Speaking of the 'old days' young boys were often referred to as 'Master.

Good to see that we have gone past these unneccessary forms of address. The next title that should be eliminated is 'The Honorable' in reference to some are not even close.

Posted by Bob, a resident of Stanford,
on Mar 26, 2019 at 8:59 am

Jesus! Get over yourself, woman.

Posted by Clarify, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Mar 26, 2019 at 11:23 am

>Why should I be addressed either “Miss" ...Call me “Ms."

Excuse me but please clarify how one is to distinguish between a VERBAL "Miss" or a "Ms". i.e., how does one pronounce them differently? and on the receiving side, how do you know if it was either?

Posted by Call Me Madam, a resident of Community Center,
on Mar 26, 2019 at 12:16 pm

This would make a great Seinfeld episode...if it was still on the air.

Posted by Diana Diamond, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Mar 26, 2019 at 1:31 pm

Diana Diamond is a registered user.

You asked about the pronounciation difference between "Ms." and "Miss."

"Ms." is pronounced with a "z" sound at the end --0 as in miz.' The word "Miss" has an "s" emphasis, as in "missss."

The receiving side should be able to hear the difference.

Thanks for asking!

Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Mar 26, 2019 at 7:02 pm

I was glad to follow the old rules when they existed, and I'll be glad to follow the new rules when they exist. Until then please don't bite too hard. I'm doing my best in a world without rules.

Posted by A Ms., a resident of South of Midtown,
on Mar 27, 2019 at 1:49 am

Plural: "What can I get you folks?" sounds fine to me for a restaurant server.

Singly, for women, "Ms." should always be safe. I do not wish to be defined by either my age or my marital status.

Actually, one type of woman seems to be called "Miss" all her life, and that is the actress who was a great and famous beauty in her youth, and I guess everyone wants to maintain the fiction that she is still young, and youthfully beautiful, even when that is no longer the case. To wit: Elizabeth Taylor always seemed to be called "Miss Taylor".

Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Downtown North,
on Mar 27, 2019 at 9:22 am

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

So I presume Double D is out of the question?

I did get into a beef or flaming email with two people in our Downtown North list serve and one I said "just delete lady" which was meant to be barbed. (which is my mother's name, my dearly departed). And then since her name is Elaine I sent i meant "just delete, Lanie". This was earlier this week.

I had a sticker from Stanford that says "OF COURSE I'M A FEMINIST" (which to me means women should have equal rights as men" and people picked at the sticker and I wasn't sure if it meant they were anti-feminist or didn't think I was a feminist.

Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Downtown North,
on Mar 27, 2019 at 9:23 am

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

I'm kinda old school in that I object when women call each other "dude"

Posted by Anneke, a resident of Professorville,
on Mar 27, 2019 at 11:40 am

Dear Diana:

Actually, a very good subject. I grew up saying "U" (polite form of you or "Vous" in French) to my parents. My brothers and sisters allowed their children to call them by the more familiar form "Je" or "Tu" in French. In my sister's case, her sons sometimes call her "Irma," her first name, but always with respect.

As an aunt, the children and grandchildren of my oldest brother call me by my first name, Anneke. Even though I love the title "Tante" or "Auntie," they told me I was "too young" for that title, even though I am seventy years old. It must be a compliment!

When I see my neighbors, I will call them either by their first names or by "dear neighbors." They know we love them.

The world of titles is changing, and that is fine with me, as long as the respect and politeness do not change.

Posted by Wilton, a resident of East Palo Alto,
on Mar 27, 2019 at 12:49 pm

I just say, "yo mama" & it gets the point across.

Posted by Just a person, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Mar 27, 2019 at 3:11 pm

What is interesting is that this is a problem at all.
There is no problem addressing men or boys, but it is so hard to figure out how refer to those strange creatures, women.
Probably a reflection of the difficulty women experience attempting to be full fledged adults, human beings.

Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Mar 27, 2019 at 7:41 pm

"... the actress who was a great and famous beauty in her youth, and I guess everyone wants to maintain the fiction that she is still young, and youthfully beautiful, even when that is no longer the case. To wit: Elizabeth Taylor always seemed to be called "Miss Taylor".

I must humbly but vehemently beg to differ about your "fiction" assertion.

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Mar 27, 2019 at 9:14 pm

This topic has come to my mind also.
If I were to email you, I would simply address you like this: Dear Diana Diamond...
I like to be called Ms.
Ms. is almost always perfect.
I think kids should call me that unless they know me well.
Once kids are young adults, they certainly can call me by my first name.

One approach is upon first meeting or addressing someone, to use their entire name or inquire “how should I address you?"
- with the reverse being covered, too.

Some who hold doctorates or who are M.D.s are very sensitive to their title - and some say “just call me Bob" (or whatever).
You never know!!

Posted by Call Me Doctor, a resident of Los Altos,
on Mar 27, 2019 at 11:08 pm

> Some who hold doctorates or who are M.D.s are very sensitive to their title

IMO...Outside of the classroom, Ph.Ds should not expect (or demand) to be called doctor as it is purely an academic title reference best reserved for academia.

OK for MDs & dentists.

The worst ones are the chiropractors who want to be called doctor all of the time...them and optometrists.

Posted by DIana Diamond, a resident of Midtown,
on Mar 28, 2019 at 12:20 pm

DIana Diamond is a registered user.

To Call me Doctor:

I agree with you. Newspapers only use the "Doctor" word for MDs (and maybe dentists). That is done to avoid confusing the public that a Ph.D. in, say, education is not a doctor who can help you medically.


Posted by Abitarian, a resident of Downtown North,
on Mar 30, 2019 at 7:58 am

Ms., Miss, Mrs., Girls, Ladies are all fine by me, but I always cringe when anyone calls me Ma'am.

BTW, except on television or in movies, I never heard anyone use the term "folks" before leaving New York.

Posted by Annoyed, a resident of another community,
on Apr 1, 2019 at 12:47 pm

People called me Miss when I was young. People call me Ma'am now.

I have lots of highly visible grey hair. Makes me cringe when store employees call me Young Lady. WTF?

I graduated from a local college during the mid-1990s. There, students consistently called male teachers by their title and surname (e.g., Professor Smith) and they called female teachers by their forename (e.g., Susan)! Likewise, U.S. mass media outlets invariably refer to male politicians by their surnames and female politicians by their forenames, with the exception of one male called Bernie. Again, WTF?

Posted by Female, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Apr 9, 2019 at 8:35 am

In all honesty, I just wish we could get over this "being offended" or "causing offense" stance nowadays.

I prefer to be called a lady, than anything else. It certainly is better than "hey you". Back in the day, it was much more polite to call a female a lady rather than a woman. Even the doors to restrooms were ladies rather than women or female.

If someone politely addresses me as anything I will take it in the courteous manner it was intended. If someone wants me to start using modern made up terms to suit their tender sensibilities, then they are not going to find me worrying about whether that particular individual prefers one title over another. I have more important things to worry about than whether I am offending someone when I consider I am being as polite as my parents taught me when I was a child.

If someone is rude to me or wants to insult me, I will know by the tone of their voice or the four letter words contained in their statements. Otherwise, I will accept good manners as what was intended.

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