Sunday, March 16, 2008

Madame K vs. Mademoiselle K.

OK, this has nothing to do with nothing, but I had to bring this up just for a brief minute.
The strangest thing happened to me while I was in Paris. I suddenly became a “Mademoiselle” again. As soon as I stepped off the train I noticed that everywhere I went in Paris, servers and cashiers automatically referred to me as “Mademoiselle”.

Now, I'm not complaining, but I found this little fact both strange and fascinating. Here in Eastern France I am always referred to as “Madame”. In fact any woman who is obviously past her mid-twenties is a “Madame” in my neck of the woods regardless of whether or not she is wearing a wedding band. But in Paris this is certainly not the case. Even my friend Nat, who is adorably 6 months pregnant, gets referred to as “Mademoiselle” when she is out and about in the city of lights.

So of course now I am crazy curious to hear from the rest of you ex-pat gals in France. (A bunch of you will have to de-lurk for this little poll.)

Where you live, are you a “Madame” or a “Mademoiselle”?


David said...

My (just made up) theory:
-In Paris, most women in their twenties and even their thirties are still single.
-In the rest of France, much less, but also I guess tradition has a heavier weight, and back in the day everybody was married past 25.

But as I'm always referred as Monsieur (except by my butcher who "jeune homme"s me, but he's joking) I can't really tell where Madame is more prominent and where Mademoiselle is...

Megan said...

Hmm, was Madame for a little while, but now that I am working in more of a "college town" it is Mademoiselle a lot more. Also, not wearing my wedding ring because of a finger rash (yeah, nice) but I find that that doesn't usually make a difference with french shopkeepers.

Penny said...

No, I'm definitely Madame. But at 40, if anyone called me Mademoiselle, I'd think they were joking anyway!


Astrid said...

I get both even though I wear my wedding ring. Since my staus changed recently I think Madame sounds wrong - my reaction always being - "I'm not a Madame... wait a second - Doh! yes I am..."

Travel said...

I was taught that it any adult woman should be adressed as "Madame" with assumption being that she was so beautiful that someone must have married her. But then that was 30+ years ago when I was being taught French by this delightful 250 pound woman who was married to the biggest nellie queen in town (yes we all knew he was, be we were not sure that he knew he was.)


The Late Bloomer said...

Ah, this can be a sticky subject for me... I've started feeling like I must "look" older these days, and I don't know if it's a combination of my shorter haircut, the way I dress in the winter, or what, but I've been getting Madame more and more, even though in the past I always used to get Mademoiselle. Now, when I wear my long, heavy winter coat, I guess it does give off more of a Madame vibe, but STILL -- I can't even quite explain why I'm so sensitive about this, but I guess I'm just going to have to resign myself to the fact that I've officially become Madame! (and I'm not even married, at least not now!)

Cherise said...

I can't comment on France but on Switzerland - I usually get Madame everywhere, incl. large cities or small towns, except when the speaker is much older (like 60-70+), then I'm Mademoiselle.

I definitely look Madame, with all the grey hairs and carrying a baby.

Samantha said...

I'm a "mademoiselle"....but then again, I look about 12.

My students call me "Madame" though, and I still laugh inwardly every time.

Lauren said...

Hmmm, I'm living in Paris, and last instance I remember was a "Madame." I'll keep my ears open for a week and repost (re-delurk).

Reb said...

I'm Mademoiselle unless I'm a)with the baby, b)looking really really ragged c)being served by a youngin'

Interestingly enough, I'm usually Mademoiselle when I'm with my husband. When I first got married, I wanted so bad to be Madame but now, it hurts...

screamish said...

Some of my first year FAC students fresh out of school call me "madame".

I also get "missus" from a few of them who must have looked up madame in the dictionary. I think they think they're being polite, but MISSUS shouted out in class sounds like "OY, YOU!"

From a redfaced lecher in the post office I hate "madamoiselle" (patronizing), other times I hate "madame" (sarcastic)

I love "madamoiselle" from old ladies, usually they're about to reach up and pinch my cheek (while using VOUS)

its all so confusing!!

David said...

I'm confused by the fact that you all seem so confused about this.
Isn't it roughly the same in English with Miss and Mrs/Madam?

Madame K said...

David- No it's quite different in the US actually.

Miss -- Young girl or unmarried woman. (and rarely used these days)

Mrs. -- Married woman. (Not age related and you don't refer to a woman as Mrs. unless you are certain she is married.)

Ms. --What you use if you don't know a woman's marital status. Generally used in formal business writing. (Also not related to age.)

This doesn't really vary much from one region of the US to another, where from what I can tell, in France it really is regional.

I personally don't care one way or the other, but "Madame" is shorter and easier to spell!

David said...

Thanks for the explanation, Madame K, but if I'm not wrong, you're explaining the differences in writing (and when followed by a last name), aren't you?

From what I remember when I lived in the US, you called a young woman Miss and an older one Madam, pretty much like in France (but I must admit that I never really paid attention to the "fine prints").

Back to the French Madame and Mademoiselle, and thinking about it, I'm not sure that the differences are that regional (except for the Parisian exception), I think it's more a question of generation and even education from the people addressing you.

I never really thought about it before, and now I'm really wondering... :-)

Heather said...

I live stateside, but when anyone calls me ma'am it peeves me even though I know it shouldn't. somehow I take it as looking like I should have kids in tow rather than a respect term.

Alisa said...

Madame if accompanied by my husband (unless of course they think I'm his daughter, which sometimes happens despite our only 4.5 year age difference, since he looks older & I look younger) or my children, Mademoiselle if I'm alone.

For the record, I live in Picardie, but haven't noticed much difference in the above distinction since we lived in Seine-St-Denis and then Val d'Oise.

OMYWORD! said...

When I moved from Arizona to Alabama (what was I thinking?), I was taken aback at how everyone said "Yes, Ma'am." I was under 30! But it made me feel so ooold.

Now I live in the 18th in Paris, just turned 51 yesterday, and as far as I can tell, everyone calls me Madame. That sentence, in itself, has interesting connotaions in the US. Wasn't there a movie entitled "Call Me Madame"? hehe

I'm glad nobody called me Mademoiselle previously, because I didn't have to make the transition. :-))

P.S. - I clicked through to this post because I am a huge fan of the amazing Parisian rock chick who calls herself "Mademoiselle K." I thought perhaps you met her or went to a concert. You can google her to see videos and links. Her myspace name is 01mademoisellek. Enjoy!

Syd said...

Late in the day, but at nearly 36 I'm a madame. Rural doesn't begin to describe it.