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Madame or Mademoiselle?


Ian

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Can someone give me guidance on which of these two words to use?

I'm thinking of a situation where I don't know the lady (someone in a shop, for example). Some are obviously young enough to be "Mam'selle", some old enough to be "Madame" - it's the ones inbetween I have a problem with. (And not just in France, but that's another story....)

Thanks

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[quote user="Ian"]Can someone give me guidance on which of these two words to use?

I'm thinking of a situation where I don't know the lady (someone in a shop, for example). Some are obviously young enough to be "Mam'selle", some old enough to be "Madame" - it's the ones inbetween I have a problem with. (And not just in France, but that's another story....)

Thanks

[/quote]

Mam'selle is a big no-no for me.

In a shop, use a simple "bonjour" with a smile.

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This always throws me too. I work in a shop and all our customers use a mish-mash so I don't think anyone is really sure and it depends on the person. I get greeted as mademoiselle and madame in equal amounts, I would say, by both men and women (I am 35 if that helps!). Normally it is the older customers who use mademoiselle and those of my age and below tend to use madame. There are a handful that come in, use mademoiselle, then as they approach the counter, ask me 'c'est mademoiselle, ou madame?'. I have no idea whether they are backtracking as, on closer inspection, I am significantly older than they thought, whether they are being polite, or whether they are asking if I am married or not...(it has only ever been middle-aged men who have asked this). Invariably I answer 'madame' (it seems the safest option!) or just smile and ignore them. I do a lot of smiling - they probably all think I'm a simpleton!

 

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If it helps, I think you can use madame to an adult woman and not offend. For me, mademoiselle is for young girls. I'm 31 and married and I find mademoiselle very belittling.  Not so bad when it is a very old person, but otherwise, I do sometimes object.  Like people in the street doing surveys, if they call out bonjour mademoiselle they get ignored, or told off.

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