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Southern Manners

I recently received an e-mail from a young lady moving from the mid-west to the south. She was excited about moving, but unsure as how to address adults in the south. Her question:

Miss Wendy, 

I'm 15 and we are moving to the South. I have a question on southern manners and thought you could maybe help? Do adults expect to hear yes or yes ma'am when being answered? I heard it a lot when we visited. I want to baby-sitt and  wanted to know how best to respond.


So, I really had to think about this one, actually. Having always lived here, it's not uncommon to hear or say yes yes ma'am and no ma'am, yes sir and no sir. But lately I have noticed a decrease in the use, as more and more people move to the south from other areas.

I was taught at a very young age to always say yes ma'am/sir to my mother and father, grandparents and my elders, so it's never been anything I've really ever thought twice about. We teach Walker to say the same, and Mike is actually more adament about it than me.

But when he was in preschool, it wasn't something that was expected of the children, and it isn't enforced in school now. So sometimes it's hard for children today to get into the habit of using it because it isn't expected everywhere.  I'd say that there's such a mix of people from different areas that don't use this same form of respect, it isn't enforced. But if you're talking to a person that was born and bred in the south, they will appreciate being addressed this way.

Some people take offense to the term, often during those awkward years in which we aren't sure if we're a young and exciting adult, or a more serious, boring sort of grown-up. Example: when the college intern says yes maa'm to you when it was only just five years ago when you were the college intern.  That's when you say, "oh, don't call me maa'm - that makes me feel old." And they don't, but they giggle behind your back because they do think you're old.

It may be a form of respect that is old-fashion and dated, but my mother still says yes sir to her father, and so do I. And we'll expect it from our son as well.


  1. I am a born and raised southerner! Deeeeep southeast Louisiana! I agree with you. My children are 5 and 1 and my five year old says m'am and sir and my one year old will too! Shows respect and a lack of it when it is not said!

  2. Love this post. Love being a southerner. Have a great week, Miss Wendy!

  3. I was born and raised in Texas and saying yes ma'am/yes sir was completely mandatory. My husband and I know we don't want it to be a huge deal at our house, but we do encourage our toddler to say it. When she remembers, we cheer for her! When she doesn't, it's not a big deal. We just try again next time. Mainly I want to teach her to treat people with respect in how she talks, even if she doesn't say ma'am and sir all the time.

  4. Oh my gosh, I've been away for soooo long. Just catching up with you & I want to say first & foremost I'm glad you are ok!! Scary stuff. 2. Your cat, mean or not, is adorable. Looks like a catfood magazine ad pose. 3. Walker is also totally adorable... and always has the cutest valentines in the class I'm sure. And last but not least, I am from the midwest and am SO happy to be raising my kids in the South with southern manners. So I say YES to the Yes ma'ams! Glad

  5. I was born in the south and I here those titles a lot around here. I sometimes use it if a teacher calls me or when I'm talking to a stranger as a form of respect. So far I haven't been told not to call the person by those titles and I'm glad about it. To the young lady, yes she should use those titles once she's in the south. More people need to be more respectful because that would be wonderful. I don't know why the northerners find these titles to be insulting but they're not. Thanks for the article, ma'am!! 😃

  6. The older the southern adult is, the more it's expected...or someone in authority like a policeman or teacher. But definately NOT answering with "yeah" or "nope". At least a complete yes or no.


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