Lisa's week

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Lisa's week: Title talk

Most of you know that in the Anglo-Saxon world, we generally use first names as a matter of preference. When introducing ourselves, we will always give our Christian/first name and usually also our surname, “Hello, my name is John Smith.” Often, the first name will be used after that in the relationship but sometimes, you might need to use a more formal address - maybe on first meeting someone or if the business relationship has proved so formal that first names are inappropriate.

Now, we all know that men are to be addressed as “Mr” – pronounced ˈmɪs.tər - regardless if the man is single or married.

But do you know what title we should use for women?

Many of you will be aware that “Miss” – pronounced mɪs – is a quite an old-fashioned word, rather like the German “Fräulein” and is rarely used in everyday language. Although it would appear that female school teachers are still sometimes referred to as Miss X most of the time, and I was surprised to be called Miss X in customer service situations while I was in New York last year, this title is best avoided.

When I ask my students, almost everyone will give me the word “Mrs” – pronounced ˈmɪs.ɪz – but it’s important to remember that this is only the correct form to use for a married woman, if you definitely know that the woman is married or she has specially used that title to refer to herself.

Where does that leave us then? I’ve told you that Miss is old-fashioned and Mrs is too specific. Quite a dilemma.

Well, you’ve probably seen the title “Ms” – pronounced mɪz – but not really noticed that it’s neither Miss nor Mrs. Maybe you’ve even heard it but not heard the “Z” sound at the end. This is, however, the modern, preferred, neutral form to use for all women, whether they are married or not. Call it political correctness, but in modern business life, this is the title to use for any woman you meet unless they specifically use one of the other titles for themselves. Try it out, practice saying it with the “Z” at the end and listen/look out for it in news reports or on TV – you might be surprised to realise how often it’s used when you might never have noticed it before!


What is Lisa's week?

"We’ve (hopefully) been entertaining you so far with the meaning and background of a weekly English idiom and now we’ve decided to expand that a little to give me the chance to share some details that come my way in my daily life as a Business English teacher. I hope to find weekly tidbits of information and experience to tell you about such as British traditions that I (or we) celebrate, or typical mistakes made when speaking English, or even some of the funny things I come across in my daily life. We hope that you’ll enjoy the insight into the life of a Brit in Germany!"

Episode 1: The Queen's 90th birthday

Episode 2: What did you do last Sunday?

Episode 3: What's the best way to answer?

Episode 4: The sound of London

Episode 5: Not just a last resort

Episode 6: Quick tip of the week: advice vs. advise