Ask Laskas: “Is Ma’am Offensive?”

Jeanne Marie Laskas writes our magazine's monthly advice column; now it's your turn to help solve readers' problems.

Ask Laskas: “Is Ma’am Offensive?”

Reader Question: I’m the youngest person at my current job, and I’m naturally inclined to address upper management as “sir” or “ma’am.” However, I’ve received some backlash on using these respectful terms. Whats the big deal? Have people really become that sensitive? I still see nothing wrong with my courteous mannerisms.
—Perplexed Youngster

What’s your take? Give your best advice in the comments below, and your answer might appear in the magazine.

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  • Your Comments

    • Not a maam

      It is offensive because in America, in the South, the term was only to be used by black sleaves and was only to be used to refer to their married slave owners. In fact, there used to be a law in place that white people were not allowed to use that word. Somehow, it has become a sign of respect. However, if you look at it from coming from the French word Madam,

      • Not a maam

        Then only a married woman would be called ma’am. However, the French do not use ma’am, they use madam.And the Queen of England is mum or mom. A sign of respect is to use the name or the title.

    • Jd

      They’re just words, who cares? And if you really think about it, why should you be expected to show an elevated level of respect to people who are in a position above you? Really though, what have they done to make them better than anyone else? We’re all just people. In my head ma’am and sir are the same as calling someone woman or man in a more formal way. They just fill space. Do what you want.