I’m sure that Mademoiselle will be missed (geddit?), but the equivalent of Miss has been deemed sexist by our Gallic neighbours and from now on, all French women will be known as Madame.
The phrase ‘nom de jeune fille‘ – literally ‘name of young daughter‘, or ‘maiden name‘ as we might know it – has also been despatched to history by the prime minister, Francois Fitton, on the grounds that it is archaic and ‘has connotations of virginity’.
The campaign group, Dare Feminism, says that ‘Mademoiselle harks back to the term oiselle which means virgin or simpleton.’ This was news to me as I thought the word originated from the Old French ma damoisele, meaning my noble young woman, but I suppose the French know their own womenfolk best.
According to the group, damoiseau, meaning squire, was the equivalent for men before it fell out of use. Again this was news to me as oiseau is one of the few French words I recall from school. I haven’t looked it up, but logically this must have meant that young lads must have had the title Mondamoiseau, or my ladybird, which probably explains why it was dropped.
Or perhaps the oiseau bit referred to the men hawking. (As in the hunting bird, not spitting on the pavement or peddling clothes pegs from door to door)
Returning to the distaff side (can I still use the word distaff?), it is interesting that the French haven’t come up with a title that is more neutral as we have with Ms. Perhaps they couldn’t think of one. That’s usually the case with the French.
Isn’t it odd how abbreviations can take on such a political connotation? Mrs, Miss and Ms are all abbreviations of mistress, the first two from the early 1600s when they were used interchangeably, rather than denoting marital status. So they mean the same thing etymologically, but not socially.
But the big question is, where will all this leave the song Mademoiselle from Armentières? It just won’t scan if we have use Madame instead.
One last grammatical point, why is it okay not to use a full stop after Mrs, Miss, Ms or Mr for that matter? The answer is that a stop is not needed for any abbreviation that ends with the same letter that the word uses in its uncontracted form.
Is Shooting Parrots educational, or what?