Sire, My Dame, I present the history of two honourable honorifics

Wednesday, 19 January, 2011

“Sire” and “My Dame” – terms that if used today as honorifics might not see you accorded much respect – were forms of address in use from around about the thirteenth century, that have now been supplanted by the words sir and madam respectively.

The word “sire” is now considered archaic. But it was once used to refer to an authority or a person of general importance. The history of the word “madam” is similar to “sir.” The word derives from “my dame.” While the word “dame” is now usually considered offensive slang, it was once used to address a married woman or one in a position of authority.

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Ms saving space, and the origins of a not so new honorific

Wednesday, 15 September, 2010

The use of what is now the latter day female marriage-neutral honorific “ms”, has been traced as far back as the mid-eighteenth century, when it was used as an abbreviation for “miss” or “mistress”.

Ever since “Ms.” emerged as a marriage-neutral alternative to “Miss” and “Mrs.” in the 1970s, linguists have been trying to trace the origins of this new honorific. It turns out that “Ms.” is not so new after all. The form goes back at least to the 1760s, when it served as an abbreviation for “Mistress” (remember Shakespeare’s Mistress Quickly?) and for “Miss,” already a shortened form of “Mistress,” which was also sometimes spelled “Mis.”

Via Bobulate.

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