Please, do call me Mademoiselle


When I was younger and a bit more feisty, I was vehemently against being called Mademoiselle. Why should men only have one description while women are categorised by being married or not? But now, though I still agree with this sentiment in principle, I secretly love it when a shopkeeper adresses me as Mademoiselle, mostly accompanied by a wink. Makes me feel young and sexy!

You see, in France we still address each other with Madame, Monsieur and Mademoiselle — the equivalent of Sir, Madam and Miss. These terms, as far as I can tell, have completely dissapeared out of the English/American vocabulary. I really like this politeness. When I walk into a bakery I greet everyone in there with a general “Bonjour Monsieur/Dames” and when it is my turn I get told “A vous, Madame”.

There is a campaign in France to get rid of the Mademoiselle,  which makes total sense. My grandmother’s two best friends, 90 and 92 respectively, are still known as Mademoiselle as they never got married. I address them as Mademoiselle, whilst they call me Madame, and there is not a lot of logic in that. I do hope the shopkeepers will continue to call me Mademoiselle though (and not forget the wink)!

What about in your country, are women still being addressed as Senorita, Senorina or Fräulein?

– Emilie x

The illustration is of Coco Chanel, one of France’s most famous Mademoiselles, by Adrian Tomine for the New Yorker.

8 COMMENTS - Add your own

1. Penny | February 9, 2012 | Reply

I vividly recall the abolition of Fräulein – I think I was 10 and suddenly all official letters to me were adressed to Frau…that was my mother, not me!!!! I know people talked a lot about it in the beginning, but I think we all adapted quite quickly and Fräulein is hardly ever used, except in a reproachful tone (junges Fräulein, – insert reproach here-). I don’t miss it. Buuuuut, Mademoiselle sounds a lot more charming than Fräulein : )))).

2. vanessa | February 9, 2012 | Reply

Here in Brasil, the equivalents are senhora (madame), senhorita (mademoiselles) and senhor (monsieur)… Senhor is still very used when addressing men. As for the women, senhora is more commonly used. Senhorita was used to fit the single ladies, but I think that nowadays, people choose the forms based on women’s age instead of marital state… I see people calling little girls senhoritas a lot of times, at shops and restaurants, mostly, like a nice and sweet way to talk to them.
Just a language curiosity: here, “madames” are women with a lot of money (or the ones who pretend they have it) that don’t care much about work of any kind! and do nothing but shopping for living! ;)

3. vanessa | February 9, 2012 | Reply

so loved reading this! i love going to paris and being called mademoiselle too (which arguably does not happen as often as it used to, and definitely never happens when i have my 2 children trailing behind!)..but it’s sweet to hear. and i do like that mademoiselle vs madame title very much..On a related topic of name calling, how do you feel about the Tu vs Vous? maybe another post? i cannot stand it, having to debate each time you speak to someone if it should be a vous or a tu…So…Oui to Mademoiselle. Non to Vous!!!

4. Emilie in Paris | February 9, 2012 | Reply

Ha, very funny, yes that is another post. I was trying to write that one just yesterday, so watch this space. I am soo confused by the Tu et Vous…

5. Esther in Amsterdam | February 9, 2012 | Reply

In the Netherlands, it’s similar. We say ‘Meneer’ (men in general), ‘Mevrouw’ (married) or Mejuffrouw (unmarried). Like in all the comments above, the word ‘Mejuffrouw’ is very old-fashioned and not much used anymore. In fact, female school teachers are still called ‘juffrouw’, short for ‘mejuffrouw’ and coming from the times that school teachers were to be unmarried (so either a ‘mejuffrouw’ or a nun). My mum had to quit teaching when she got married — this was in 1968!
But, we also have the words ‘jongedame’ (young lady) for girls and ‘jongeman’ (young man) for boys, a bit old-fashioned but you still hear it every now and then and it’s so cute — I hope this will stay forever. Of course I’m quite simply a ‘Mevrouw’, I’ve left the days of ‘jongedame’ long behind… xxx

6. Clara de Paris | February 9, 2012 | Reply

Hello!
Here in Québec (Canada), we stopped a while ago using mademoiselle since it was not “politically correct”. Some French speaking people also proposed to use the word “madelle” for young women and older women so that there is not discrimination between Madame and Mademoiselle! All of this sounds a bit silly to me! I also like being called Mademoiselle here or in paris, ça fait toujours plaisir!
Karine

7. Katharina | February 9, 2012 | Reply

Fräulein has gone out of fashion a long time ago and I am glad about that. I am a Frau, a Madame, a Ms. or a woman. Fräulein had a certain charme, just like Mademoiselle, but I’d much rather we live without it.

I feel the existence of Fräulein adds to the feeling that marriage is an achievement for women, something I resent with all my heart. I am married and happily so, but that is no-one else’s business.

8. JaNae | February 17, 2012 | Reply

here in the states it depends on where you live. I’m out West but my mother is from the South so I grew up saying “yes, ma’am/sir” And I make sure my kids use it too. Although I have had a few women get upset and ask my kids not to call them “ma’am” because they think it denotes old age. I think it’s polite and lovely, especially when visiting the South and having waiters call my daughter miss and me ma’am, with their charming southern accents.

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