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Lady, Mrs., Miss & Ms. - describing women

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by TheCatholicCrow, Mar 17, 2015.

  1. TheCatholicCrow

    TheCatholicCrow Inkling

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    In my WIP I don't shy away from using (for example) Lady Clara or Lady Thaygrin and for the commoners I just jump straight to the first name ...

    But I have a (secondary) character and I can't figure out what to do with her. She is neither a Lady nor a common (Easterner), I suppose you could say she is "middle class" (her ex husband was a prosperous merchant). I don't want to use "mrs." which feels odd and contemporary but I want to both use a more formal/respectful form of address AND stress her connection to the (Kozlov) family. I am hoping to emphasize that she is not in the same generation as the rest of the characters (her daughter + others) and I feel like not using a first name for her (probably not even giving her a first name at all) is something I want to do but I'm tripping over the mechanics of it. [I would like to note that her character defines her identity based on her marital status & former husband- I'm not just being lazy.]

    I suppose I could use something like the Spanish Don / Dona but the culture of this character is loosely based on a conglomeration of the Russian, Ukrainian, & Romanian cultures. So if you can think of any Eastern European term to replace "mrs." I'd love to hear it.

    I considered using Madam but (maybe I'm over thinking it) it sounds a bit like a reference to her being a Madam (which I want to avoid). Since I'm planning to so it as a series, I want to leave the possibility open for her daughter to run a brothel in the next book [she's already a slaver]. If I later choose to make her daughter a "Madam" this will definitely cause confusion.

    Am I the only one that thinks this concerning the term "Madam"? (I'll consider using it if doesn't commonly invoke the idea of prostitution.)

    Is there another term or phrase that I can use which I have perhaps overlooked?
     
  2. TheCatholicCrow

    TheCatholicCrow Inkling

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    I suppose "Katya's mother" might work but I doubt I could get away with using that every time.
     
  3. Reilith

    Reilith Sage

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    Madam can have that sort of feel but not necessarily. If you are sure you don't want to use it because of the conotation and future confusion mrs. sounds as an option. In the eastern languages there the translated word for mrs. is somewhere along the lines of gospodja (gospođa in Serbian, as I can't voich for other Slavic languages). It is pronounced with a hard g (like in garden) and the dj combination like in Jay. But I am not sure how a mass of readers would react to use of that type of word as it is a foreign language.
    Also, a thpught comes to mind, if the woman in question lives mostly around lowborns/peasants they can use Ma'am as they are commoners.
    In my wip I use Lady/Lord for the highborns, and Master/Mistress for high positioned people as Mages etc. You can also check a medeval list of titles and use something from there.
    Sorry if this wasn't exactly helpful.
     
    TheCatholicCrow likes this.
  4. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    I think Madam only has the context of Brothel owner if you use the term rarely... if you use it as the form of name, by the third time a character is named/introduced as Madam Abcdef, then your reader should understand that no prostitutes are involved.
    Also making sure not to call them a Madam but Madam Abcdef...
    Then there are Mi'lady, Ma'am as alternatives... it would depend on the setting of your world - I don't know enough about Russian, Ukrainian, & Romanian cultures...
    And don't forget Mrs is a contraction of Mistress - which was the general [ubiquitous?] term in late medieval England for a woman of property or standing... but could also lead to hilarious confusions...
     
    Feo Takahari likes this.
  5. Reilith

    Reilith Sage

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    The Mistress confusion can be avoided if yoj use the word concubine for a lover.
     
  6. Graylorne

    Graylorne Archmage

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    I use the word 'dame' for non-noble women of the higher (professional) classes, like the midwife of the queen, who is learned – and 'mistress' for women of the lower (professional) classes.
    There is a big difference between Mistress Truegood the carpenter's wife or Lady Mabelle the earl's mistress (but you don't call her such, if you value your health).

    And of course you can say the Widow Truegood, should the carpenter pass away.
     
  7. Velka

    Velka Sage

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    The word Matron might fit with your requirements:

    1.a married woman, especially one who is mature and staid or dignified and has an established social position.

    I can only speak for the naming conventions in the Russian culture:

    Most Russians have three names:

    1. A first name, which formally, is only used by relatives and close friends.
    2. A middle name, which is a patronymic of the father's first name. This means it is the father's first name with an 'evna' or 'ovna' added to it (for the feminine) or 'ovich' or 'evich' (for the masculine). For example, if your character's father's name is Mikhail, her middle name would be 'Mikhailovna'. Many Russians use the first name and patronymic when meeting/addressing a stranger.
    3. A surname, which does have a masculine and feminine version. In your story, the surname is Kozlov, so for your female character, her last name would technically (if you want to delve into this level of detail) would be Kozlova.

    Russian surnames use masculine/feminine suffixes:
    ov/ova
    in/ina
    ev/eva
    (and a few more I can't recall off the top of my head)

    Russian honorifics are as follows:
    Gaspodin/Gospodin for Mr.
    Gaspazhah/Gospozha for Mrs. and Ms.

    Hope this helps with some ideas!
     
    Feo Takahari and TheCatholicCrow like this.
  8. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    Any societal title can work as long as you're consistent.

    In one of my novel-length works I use Master & Mistress to denote commoners who are respected above their peers. For example, an expert blacksmith, or a steward in service for a lifetime.

    They aren't elevated to some nobility, yet they do receive a "title" which garners respect and sets them apart from the populace.

    I had the same reservation with "Mistress" as you have with "Madame". But, written in the proper context, in situation where respect and dignity is at the forefront, those fears diminish. You just need to make I clear to the reader.
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2015
  9. TheCatholicCrow

    TheCatholicCrow Inkling

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    Thank you

    as always, these are wonderful suggestions.

    I'll try rewriting a few scenes and see which one feels the best in the text.
     
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