Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Yes ma'am, no ma'am

In the South, we say "yes ma'am" and "no ma'am" or in the words of Hank Williams, Jr., "We say grace, and we say ma'am. If you ain't into that, we don't give a damn." (A country boy can survive.)

I was buying my lunch at the school cafeteria today and the person checking me out is a generation above me and so when she asked a question, the words "yes, ma'am" popped out. Then it occurred to me that I hadn't said that in a while. And that no one really does say that here that I've ever noticed. And then I realized that I don't seem to be teaching B to say "yes sir" and "yes ma'am." I don't know if it's because N doesn't do that being from Washington state? Or is B, being 5, only just coming into the age of needing to do this? Maybe in 3rd grade, people do say "yes ma'am" to their teacher, but not in 1st? His teachers in pre-school all go by first name; and before that in Hawaii they use auntie and uncle for someone who cares for you. I spend a lot of time saying, "say thank you" and "say please", but I don't seem to be doing the ma'am teaching.

Do you say "ma'am?" Are you teaching your children (or did you teach) your children to do so? Now that I've realized I haven't been doing this, I might start. A little bit of carrying his heritage culture forward, you know?


Precie said...

Hubby and I occasionally address male friends and kind strangers as "sir" in Child's presence. (i.e., man holds door open for us at school so I say, "Thank you, sir!")

But we don't do "ma'am"...These days I think "ma'am" is much tougher to do. Frankly, I don't want adults calling me ma'am. Makes me feel old.

Sammy Jankis said...

I think this is a slowly dying holdover from yesteryear. I've noticed among my peers that most of their parents (the children's grandparents) try to teach the small ones to say sir and ma'am. But it doesn't seem to be all that important to my peers, just their parents. I don't think I've even said the word ma'am or sir in front of my two year old unless I wasn't thinking and said it to someone else. Heck, I don't find myself saying it much myself any more and I speak with legislators on an almost daily basis. Of course, it could just be my egocentric view of the world. Perhaps I'm the only one not doing it or I just haven't noticed others doing it.

Mamaebeth said...

if you say ma'am and sir, B will eventually pick it up.

i was making it a point to say ma'am and sir around JD for awhile. i have gotten out of the habit i think. my sister thought it was funny that i would tell him "no sir" if instead of just saying "no".

i think it is a nice tradition if you reinforce that this part of polite speach like please and thank you.

Mommy to Ander and Wife to Box said...

As the mom of Sammy's two year old ;), I'm pretty sure our kid hadn't heard the word "ma'am".

I know people intend it well, so it doesn't offend me or anything, but it conjures images of slavery for me. I cringe everytime, because in my head, I hear "yes, Master." UGH! So I don't teach it to Ander, even though we are really into teaching respect. I would much prefer Ander to say, "yes, Mr. Paca."

sylvia said...

You know, I have ALWAYS sung that as "If you ain't in the back, we don't give a damn." As in, in the back of the truck.

Yes, I am aware that that makes no sense, now that I think about it. But I'd never thought about it until now.

Courtney said...

mine will say all four: yes mam'm, yes sir, thank you and please

i don't think we were told as strictly to do them and thats a sham, i think it is very disrecptful. i also don't believe it has to be said just becasue some one is older than u, say it to some one is younger. i try to say it all the time as an adult. i started it about 5 years ago, mom noticed,

alot of formal stuff is bullshit but i strongley believe that polientness is important.

McKoala said...

Bear in mind that I'm not American, let alone southern. To my Euro ears, Ma'am is something you say to the Queen.

We have a friend who calls me ma'am all the time and it drives me insane. If I ask him to do something then he says 'yes ma'am' and I immediately feel guilty, like I've asked too much, yet for him it's just how he says he's happy to do it!

pacatrue said...

I think I'll go with either m'lady or madame instead. Oui, madame; non, madame.

ChrisEldin said...

I like "ma'am." Feels so southern and gentile.
Especially if a young officer in uniform says it in just the right way. Baby.
Okay, what's the question again?

Robin S. said...

I like ma'am in certain places and in certain ways - but, even though I'm from the South, I didn't teach the ma'am thing to my kids. There's something about it that sounds dated to me, or stilted, or something.

But I did insist on polite behavior- and they get it, and do it, and know why it's important, even if they never use it with me!