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Give mademoiselle a miss

photo of Catherine Deneuve in cheetah print

Don't call me Madame

What’s in a title? Well quite a lot, as most people connected with the study of language would agree. That’s why the recent flurry of debate sparked by French feminists about making the term mademoiselle obsolete has spread beyond France. Catherine Deneuve may choose to call herself Mlle. But to many Anglophones, the idea of say a 35-ish woman with a big job being addressed as mademoiselle just because she is  single seems inappropriate if not downright patronising. Her American sisters would probably opt for the neutral Ms, which, as with the title Mr or indeed Monsieur, gives nothing away about her age or marital status. There’s a good argument about why it matters when there are other sexual inequalities to sort out such as the pay gap, in this piece in the Guardian.  The author, Paris-based journalist Kim Willsher, is well worth reading in the Guardian and LA Times for her independent take on French current affairs.

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