Verbal Etiquette question here: c'mon down teachers, professors, et all!

I insist my children call all adults by their “proper” name: Mr. Surname, Mrs. Surname, Ms. Surname, Miss Surname.

No Miss Julie, Miss Jennifer, etc. Certainly no first names.

I’ve run into a problem with our social life and circle of friends. Since I do a lot of lactivist and birth right’s work, plus attend a secular playgroup, I spend a lot of time with liberal, married women who retained their maiden name. One even has a hyphenated name, but it does not contain her husband’s last name. :ehh:

So on that note, I was out blueberry picking with one of the maiden namers, and we got to pondering this little blip on the etiquette radar. Actually she corrected me when I told my kid’s to refer to her as Mrs. Johnson (name changed to protect the innocent) and said "No it would be Ms. Johnson."
Me: “BUT you are married therefor you are a Mrs. yes?”

She says: “Yes, but I am not married to my dad. So therefor I am Ms. Johnson.”

I say: “OK, but my kid’s know to refer to married women as Mrs.”

So what say you: how do we refer to married women who retained their maiden name? Mrs. or Ms.?


Good question. I am going to have to watch this threat to see what the answer is. Thank goodness I am not one of those liberal-minded folk.

Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer. Only questions which would derail your thread. So, I shall refrain from asking them.

Well, two etiquette sites (Crane’s and Emily Post) I checked stated that a married woman who retains her maiden name be addressed as:

Ms. Carol Johnson or Ms. Johnson

In general, I would use the one etiquette suggests.

But, regarding young children I would teach them to use “Mrs.” because small children don’t get the distinction nor should they have to. Your friend can get over it.

Ditto! :smiley:

I have always heard and been taught that if ever in doubt, to always use “Ms.” for a lady. I was taught that this can refer to either a “Miss” or a “Mrs.”

That’s pretty much how I ended the conversation. :tiphat:

Well I think we answered the original question – so go ahead – derail away!

Thanks – I like the advice, so I am going to use it. For now – the people whom they know are married – will be going by Mrs. :thumbsup:

Congratulations that they are using the honorific at all.

I say, call her by whatever she prefers – Ms or Mrs. **JOHNSON. **If she says she prefers being called “Miss Julie” ask her if would mind if your children called her “Ms. Johnson” since everywhere else they go, they refer to adults as “Mr. Jones” and “Mrs/Ms Smith”.

I’m staying tuned. A lot of “younger” people are excruciatingly uncomfortable with anything that smacks of formality.

So do your kids call their priest, “Father Billy?” LOL

I always taught that Mrs. referred to married and widowed women.

Miss referred to girls and unmarried woman.

Ms. generally referred to unknowns.

Since you KNOW your friend and that she IS married I would say she is a Mrs. If she doesn’t want to be a Mrs. than why did she get married in the first place?

I agree completely.

But, regarding young children I would teach them to use “Mrs.” because small children don’t get the distinction nor should they have to. Your friend can get over it.

However, this would not be correct.

If she is married to Mr. Jones, but kept her name of Smith, to call her Mrs. Jones would not be correct, nor would Mrs. Smith.

Her name is NOT Mrs. Jones because she does not call herself this, legally or otherwise.

Her name is NOT Mrs. Smith because that would indicate she is married to a man with the last name of Smith, which is not correct.

Sadly - in this situation, she must be addressed as Ms. Like it or not. The other options are not accurate, no matter how much we might like to refer to her as Mrs. Lastname, it is not possible given the choice she has made.


I would have the kids call her “Mrs. [husband’s last name]” or else “Miss [her first name]” but never “Mrs. [Dad’s last name]” or “Ms.” anything at all.

I guess, technically, Ms. makes more sense.

In the end, though, I think that we should call people what they want to be called. I’m assuming that if she told her child to call you Ms. Lastname, because that’s what they prefer to use for adult women, you wouldn’t be pleased.

Too, I don’t think it’s that confusing for a kid. You just say, this lady wants to be called Ms. Johnson. And the kiddo says, “Oh, okay.” :shrug: I think that is perfectly in keeping with teaching a child to be respectful of adults.


So you position is that you can call people whatever you like, **against their specified wishes **simply because it’s easier to explain to your child?

What kind of lesson does that teach your child?

But that is NOT her name!!! How can you call anyone by something that is not their name? Where is the etiquette in that?

Exactly!!! :thumbsup:


Actually, she can also be correctly addressed as Mrs. John Jones. Emiliy Post and Crane’s say so.

Well, now that the question has been officially answered we can throw in our personal anecdotes and opinions…

When my older kids were little we lived in Maryland, where it was the custom to call women by “Miss” and their first names. I liked being Miss Mary.

Somehow, at the high school I worked at last year I ended up being Ms. G. I didn’t mind that at all. If I run into any of those kids, that’s still what they call me.

I would agree though with the above advice, if one of your friends wants your children to address her in a certain way, I would just let your kids know that is the way that she
wants to be addressed. In all other situations, the rules that you have laid out sound best, KC.

KC… I had the same problem when mine were young. We ended up with the little ones calling Miss Firstname and when they were old enough we went to Mrs Lastname scenario but we only had one person that used Ms. and I told her I found that offensive because either you are married or you are not there is no third option (it was a Catholic School teacher) the next year she went by Mrs. …:shrug:

It wasn’t a specific wish, it was a conversation on what the etiquette is. I ended it saying my kids have learned to call married women by Mrs. so for now we’ll go that way. If that was just the end of it, I mean the total end of it:


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