I was listening to Talk of the Nation on NPR the other day and a piece they did was about the usage of ma’am. The guest that was brought on thought that this form of address was anachronistic. Women these days tend to be insulted by the word and Sen. Boxer was brought up as an example.
Personally, I use sir and ma’am when I speak to strangers and in a formal setting. I have never been comfortable calling my bosses by their first names. I think though I may be one of the last that still holds to the old forms of address.
My friend Sara has a son and he calls me David. When I was his age, I would never have been allowed to address one of my parent’s friends in that fashion. Actually, I remember getting bonked on the head when I dared to call one of them Sherri. But Sara’s son? Didn’t even notice until a bit later. As I thought about it and as I think about it now, it doesn’t really bother me that he calls me by my name. So I wonder why the expectations that I hold for my own conduct, is not the same that I expect from him.