Date: Thu, 5 Mar 1998 14:40:34 -0500
From: Beverly Flanigan flanigan[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]OAK.CATS.OHIOU.EDU
Subject: Re: Ms.

"Traditional" is a relative term, of course. In general, 'Ms' is catching
on widely in the U.S. and bears little stigma (except in the South? But
remember Ms. Lillian!). And in any case, the term is alive and well,
whether it "makes sense" or not. BTW, I'm the opposite of your older PEI
woman: When addressed as Mrs., I say "Ms., if you please"--and I always get
a polite acceptance of it. I teach a course on Language and Gender, and
students never have a problem with the term.

At 11:47 AM 3/5/98 -0400, you wrote:
I have also run into people wondering about the meaning of the term

When I was teaching English in the Czech Republic, and introduced
myself as Ms. Spalding, my teenaged students asked me, did your
husband die? Or are you a feminist? And/or a lesbian? (Feminism and
homosexuality, I since gathered, being mostly looked down upon by
Eastern Europe, my students weren't sure if feminism and
homosexuality might be linked ...)

I was shocked and amused, and the questions sparked a discussion on
whether or not it makes sense to have a word such as Ms. (Czech
language doesn't have it), and on views of feminism.

Another experience was during a temporary phone job in the fall, here
in the smaller, more traditional community of PEI, phoning alumni
of all ages. We addressed all women as Ms., as a policy, and
I found that the older women often corrected me with, I'm a
"Mrs.," dear.

These experiences brought me to this conclusion:

- When you live in a more traditional community, perhaps only
divorced or homosexual women, who have to brave being different
anyways, would use a less traditional term such as Ms.
- This may lead to the conclusion by others in such a community, that
the meaning of Ms. ACTUALLY IS "divorced, widowed or homosexual
- Obviously this was not the intent of those who first coined the
term! And hopefully we can continue to preserve its original sense,
that of NOT classifying women by their marital status.

- Ms.
Jane Spalding-Jamieson
UPEI Linguistics Student