The Miss/Mrs./Ms. Debate Researched

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It has always driven me wild when a married woman signed her name on correspondence as “Ms.”. All my daughter’s female teachers did this, and even my name-badge was printed “Ms.” when I clearly indicated I was a “Mrs.” I had to get this annoyance off my chest, so I naturally turned to Facebook to vent. Little did I know this post regarding the use of the title Miss/Mrs./Ms. would spark such a debate. I had stated, “One more time, from the top: when one does not know the marital status of a female, use ‘Miss’. ‘Ms.’ is for a woman who is no longer married. The ‘Mr.’ is gone. Get it?”

I received an earful from friends and others about this, from “I did not know this. Interesting….” to a lengthy post stating very politely, “I appreciate what you are saying but I disagree. Mrs. does refer to married and Miss can refer to single woman. Any woman, according to 1978 edition of, Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Book of Etiquette states that a woman regardless of marital status can elect to use Ms. rather than Mrs. or Miss.

Because I was now curious when this title evolution took place, a little research was merited. I first stopped by the website www.ecenglish.com, but quickly noticed no one had remarked on it since 2009. Still, the same question was there; when to use Miss/Mrs.//Ms. A few of the comments confirmed my Facebook post thoughts, and a few were more along the lines of Amy Vanderbilt’s rules.

My second stop was an English language learning website, www.eslcafe.com. If you don’t think English is the most difficult language on the planet to learn, what with all of our homonyms and rule-breaking “i before e except for weird” exceptions, please let me know. (Having now taught it for 15 years I couldn’t explain some of these things if my life depended on it.) Author Dan Oliver stated Ms. should be used neutrally like Mr. is for males both married and unmarried.

Ms. is used for three occasions, he continues, those being for a woman in a position of authority, like a teacher; if one does not know the woman’s marital status; or if the woman is the addressee’s age or older. Tell me that isn’t going to get someone in trouble trying to guess!

It is a matter of choice when it comes to a divorced woman still using her ex’s last name. She can still be Mrs. What-Was-I-Thinking? if she wants to be. Mrs. can also be used by widows. My head was starting to spin, and I was born here!

For years I have taught a book in my English classes where a much older woman, a teacher, went by Miss. When the father, talking to the son about the problem with her, addresses her as Mrs., he is corrected by the son stating “It’s Miss.” The father snidely replies, “That figures.” The meaning is clear – no one had ever asked her to get married because she was so nasty.

Since the writing of that book, though, the feminist movement has declared that Ms. can be used for any mature woman’s title. The website www.womeninbusiness.about.com goes into a discussion about the former use of the word mistress when it was still the feminine version of mister and not something tawdry. Definitely one of the English language’s smarter moves. Author Lakle Wolfe concurred that the word has been compressed to Ms. for married or unmarried women.

The only thing that is clear is Miss and Mr. can easily stand on their own if when addressing someone and one does not know his or her last name. For example, “Excuse me, Miss?” “Hey, Mr.?”

So I stand corrected, but I still don’t like it. Fortunately, with our hasty speech these days, the address is likely to come out “Mizz” anyway. Either way, etiquette fans, you’ll be safe.

Courtesy in Medicine? “Inconceivable!”

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So I had an accident yesterday. A fall, actually. It was my own fault; I should not have been standing on the dresser to dust the top of the mirror. My “ladder” was the footboard of the bed, and the rest is history. As you can imagine, I ended up getting pretty badly hurt. X-rays were taken of my hip and wrist, but thank goodness nothing is broken. Well, mostly my pride as I have some great scrapes on my face and a hole in my lip.

My timing was pretty good as there is a new medical office in my neighborhood and I was able to visit them two times this week. (The first time was for record-breaking hay fever.) The best part was the personal care. Really. Eye contact. Genuine concern. Giving names first. Infused “spa water” in the reception area. Even the administrative assistant pronounced my name correctly.

What I can’t express enough was the joy I was feeling, banged-up as I was, after experiencing big-box medical care for the last two years. Seriously, the giant, not-to-be-named-ever-again-in-my-presence healthcare facility felt like that scene Beetlejuice when the main character goes in to get some case-work forms filled out. Take a number, we’ll get to you, stand behind that line, take a place between the lower portion of the sawn-in-half woman and the witch-doctor.

This is what worries me: healthcare is becoming more and more complicated. There doesn’t seem to be any way to get around that. The human touch that is so important in the healing process will be lost in the parade of cases seen day in and day out. Human beings, especially Americans, are growing too adept at compartmentalizing their empathy for their fellow beings, and what happens from there is the very real tendency to overlook conditions. There have been studies done proving that doctors, when presented with a plain file on a patient, rushed and misdiagnosed described symptoms. However, when the patient’s picture was attached to the file, the amount of misdiagnoses declined.

Remember the business adage, “People will only do business with people they know, like, and trust.” Your body is your business, so you want people you know, like, and trust handling it. This is where the relationship-building all business people are taught comes in, and doctors need to pay attention. Patients are people at their most vulnerable and that trust factor has to be present. Why medical professionals, for the most part, cannot grasp this concept is beyond me. Stop being “owned” by the drug companies, and start listening more to your heart. I mean, that is why you became a doctor in the first place, right? You wanted to help people, not help patients. And the bonus is these people will be better patients if they know you truly care.

Oops! That may empty the hospitals if people start taking better care of themselves, which may lower healthcare costs, but isn’t that what we want? (For more on “Putting the ‘Human’ Back in ‘Human Resources'”(TM), go to www.courtesybootcamp.com.)

It seems when we relate to one another as nonhuman, put some label on them, that’s when the problems occur. The incidents of malpractice, the school shootings, the road rage, the crimes against innocent people just going about their business. Apathy for our fellow man has grown exponentially as we withdraw into our own selves to avoid getting too involved with each other. But ironically we check in on Facebook and 90 times today to see what other people are doing. Studies prove, though, that we do this to compare our lives to theirs, and then start feeling bad about ourselves for not living as excitingly as other people do. (As if everything that can be read online is true.)

There is good news, and that is that we were all born with empathy. We just lose it somewhere along the way in the name of being “professional”. The prescription then is to start practicing it more. Wave to people. Look each other in the eyes. Acknowledge that person on the sidewalk approaching you. Pick up litter that is blowing around just to feel better about yourself. There is a reason that good news websites are so appealing; people are looking for the good in the world, and there is nothing, absolutely nothing, stopping you from being it.

Now according to doctor’s orders, and because I like her and want to be a good patient, I have to get back to icing my bumps and bruises.