Ms Sheila Michaels, activist who popularized "Ms." honorific, dead at 78


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/07/07/ms-sheila-michaels.html


#2

She will be Ms’d.


#3

The only thing I always disliked about “Ms.” is that it’s a bit hard to pronounce for us Austrians; when pronounced with too much of an Austrian accent, it will sound exactly like “Miss”.

Another detail: our English teacher (at an Austrian school in the 90s) didn’t yet know or care about it; we were only taught “Mr”, “Mrs” and “Miss”, though we probably would have used “Mrs” for all woman because at the time the German word “Fräulein” (= Miss) had already fallen out of use.
Was “Ms” late in catching on in the UK, or is it just that foreign language teachers are always behind the times?

And, can anyone think of a reason why English-language culture made up a new title, while German just stopped using a specific title for unmarried women? Is that just a random “accident”?


#4

“Ms.” — referring to women without reference to a husband or lack thereof — dates to 1901, but was only adopted by the New York Times in 1971.

Well fie on the Times for not completely renovating the English language in 1901, or even earlier. How backward of them, and everybody else.

This. I wouldn’t expect a high school language teacher to be hip to the latest lingo, daddy-o, unless they were native speakers. Our German teacher was, but that’s the nice thing about growing up in Washington, DC - there’s always a native speaker of anything within arm’s reach.


#5

Your comment is straight from the fridge, you hep cat, totally tubular.


#6

And, can anyone think of a reason why English-language culture made up a new title, while German just stopped using a specific title for unmarried women? Is that just a random “accident”?

In German’s case, as “Frau” literally means “woman”, it is easier to see how it could be extended to all women married or not. “Mrs.” never had this general meaning, so it would be harder to extend to all women.


#7

Growing up in Florida, we were already pronouncing Miss and Mrs. like Ms. The extra syllable in Mrs. was just too much bother, in all that heat.


#8

Scandinavian here and I echo your sentiment. The Z sound in Ms. doesn’t come without concentrated effort, so I end up unintentionally saying “Miss” most of the time.


#10

In German’s case, as “Frau” literally means “woman”, it is easier to see how it could be extended to all women

… and “Fräulein” is just the grammatical diminutive, i.e. literally “little woman”, which became to be considered, well: diminutive.

But until right now I didn’t realize that with the English language it worked exactly the other way! Here the honorific determined only by marital status is that for a married woman, whereas in German it is/was the one for an unmarried women. So when I’ve been trying to be respectful when using English, I’ve been doing that part wrong for 20 years or so :grimacing:


#11

Well, you are talking about a pronunciation of a language that is not your native tongue, so I’d assume that there’s going to be some issues as far as the “correct” sound not necessarily existing with your language.

I mean, have you ever seen Germans trying to pronounce “Squirrel”?

(not that we native English speakers can pronounce “Eichhornchen” properly either…)

Just imagine all of the mispronunciations that native English speakers commit when trying to pronounce pretty much any word from any scandanavian language.


#12

Pronunciation-wise I can say that in my experience where I live everyone gets “Miss” these days, regardless of marital status.


#13

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