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

    • mg1948

      Continue to say Ma’am and sir. I is a sign of respect or of authority. If they object, then ask them what they want to be called. It’s hard to undo manners no matter what age you are.

    • Sir

      I’m in my 30′s and from the south.  I often say ma’am to women of all ages, even teens.  But I am happy to change it to ‘moron’ for anyone so politically correct as to take offense.

    • Kristi_ram

      You look like a ma’am yourself lady!

    • Stiltsgreen

      the united states goverment exspects it citizens to report an inbreeding problem to a federal agency. i suggest that the goverment compare population census numbers with crime rates. in 1984 an infestation was found in marshall county min. that county had a population of less than 8500 people.  the city of philadelphia had the same crime rate with more than one and a half million people. 

    • Kathy Babineaux

      I too use ma’am and sir as a term of respect,  If someone tells me that they are offended by its use, I explain that I mean it in only a respectful way.  Because the goal is respect, however, I would respect their wishes if they prefer for me not to use it and try to call them by their preferred name. I would also ask for their understanding if I slip up and use the terminology again because it is a part of my upbringing.  Most of the time, people are understanding and appreciate that you make the effort to make them feel comfortable with the way you address them.

      Kathy Babineaux – Southern born and bred

    • OKeagan

      In the October RD, the question about speaking to someone on a cell phone in the restroom: People never cut off saying, I’m busy now.  They keep talking.  If it were me and personal, I would not blab outloud.  If the overheard conversation seems too personal to you, cough or something. If the conversation continues then endure it and say nothing. The dirty laundry is on thier heads.

    • Primcessanne

      when europe got rid of its inbreeding problem 80 years ago,first they killed off everyone five feet two and under, and that took care of more than 54%. but then they looked around almost a decade later and there was even more of it. so they probably should have just started with everyone five feet and under.

    • Primcessanne

      signs of inbreeding women with deep grooves and crevices on the backs of thier lower calves after age 50, men with four inch hips, club foot, dark blonde hair,brown eyes with peachy colored skin, (thats how its worded on the list the us. goverment has),  pointed ears, u shaped mouth,  children born with dark skin on thier faces but not on thier bodies, women with darkblonde hair and red hair on thier armpits and legs. pernod colored eyes,  (splotchy blue eyes with green& sometimes brown spots in them.)   

    • celestet

      im 42 and  i still say ma’am to my childrens teachers. but if its offensive to them you shouldnt call them maam or sir.

    • Mary J

      This is just petty-picking nonsense really. The Terms Ma’am or Sir are just common courtesy words that have been used in this country for years. Even in professional businesses or conducting business it has been used.

      There is nothing wrong using a neutral and respectful terms such as Ma’m or Sir but there are those out there now for whatever reason who may deem it as a reflection upon their age specifically(?) or some other mentality, rather than common courtesy of a neutral terminology.

      There are a variety of people who work at the workplace that come from all different backgrounds and mannerisms. Sorry to say our country is involving into extreme liberalism that even the terms “Ma’m” and “Sir” are considered offensive by some now.