https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SimoneBa

The Tricky "Fräulein" Issue

The upshot is: Do not address a German girl/woman with that word. Here is why:

https://ladyofthecakes.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/language-matters-why-its-not-geil-to-call-us-fraulein/

October 13, 2015

36 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sueefo

"Ms." only works in two instances: in written correspondence ("Dear Ms. Smith, I am writing to inform...) and introductions ("Mr. Doe, this is Ms. Smith, our Director of Human Resources...). "Miss" is still widely used in English in direct address but not really as an indication of marital status. It's used to address any young woman, married or not. (I might say to a woman in her twenties, "Excuse me Miss, do you have the time?") The very tricky part is to know when to use "Miss" or "Ma'am." The latter is a perfectly acceptable form of address but many women dislike it because it makes them feel old. And there are those older women who feel that "Miss" is patronizing. Yet in a restaurant if your female server is older you still call her "Miss": "Excuse me Miss, I dropped my spoon. Could I have another one please?" Language Landmines! This doesn't happen to men–they are always addressed as "Sir."

And in German all adult women are addressed as "Frau." Seems very reasonable to me.

October 13, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SimoneBa

Funnily enough, when trying to attract their attention, female servers in restaurants are sometimes referred to as "Fräulein" by customers - there's simply a lack of suitable alternatives. I've not heard of any waitresses being offended by this, so in this context, it still works. Kinda.

P.S. Hast du wieder mal einen leckeren Kuchen gebacken...?

October 13, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sueefo

It's pretty funny when you get a server who's old enough to be your grandmother and you're calling her "Miss." I don't know why "Miss" is the standard form of addressing a server, at least where I live.

Ich habe am Samstag einen Karottenkuchen gemacht . Mmmm! But next time I'll make it in a different pan. After 50 minutes it still wasn't completely baked in the middle.

October 13, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SimoneBa

Spindiger Karottenkuchen... keine gute Sache :( Ach, man lernt ja immer was dazu...

October 13, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sueefo

Ich habe dieses Rezept auf Facebook gesehen:

http://www.chefkoch.de/community/anleitung/Stracciatellakuchen_7346

Warum habe ich ChefKoch auf Facebook geliked? Käse und Schokolade...Ich muss das machen. Und gibt es eine Schritt für Schritt Anleitung–nützlich.

October 13, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SimoneBa

Oh oh... sieht gut aus!

October 13, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Luscinda

Only in America, as they say. What's wrong with 'Excuse me?' People would find it very odd here if you addressed someone as 'Miss' without a surname or as Ma'am' (unless you're talking to the Queen).

October 13, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rewjeo
  • 1541

For what it's worth, as another American, I never hear ma'am, miss without a surname, or sir, really. Miss just sounds old-fashioned, whereas the other two seem very official - for instance, I do Taekwon-do, and we use sir/ma'am there, but never in daily life. And, now being in college (or, well, university to you, since you aren't American :P) everyone is addressed as either Professor Surname or Doctor Surname, anyway. It's probably geography and perhaps also a generational thing.

October 13, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Carolyn250

Admittedly, I'm old-fashioned, but I really enjoy addressing men, especially young men, as "Sir." If a man holds a door open for me, for instance, I will say, "Thank you, sir", and I can just see the young man so addressed hold himself a little more upright and proudly. During my days as a school teacher, I found the best way to get respect from my students was to offer respect to them.

October 13, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sueefo

"It's probably geography and perhaps also a generational thing."

Yup. I only use "Miss/Ma'am" with strangers. I half-jokingly say it's more polite than "Hey you."

October 13, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Jordan830576

In the south it's everywhere

October 13, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AureliaUK

Yes, I'd assumed it was a southern thing. Getting on for 30 years ago I occasionally helped out in a backpacking shop owned by a friend's family. We used to get quite a lot of US servicemen in to buy kit, and a fair number of them used to address the women in the shop, most of them in their mid-20s, as "ma'am". It felt rather quaint but also "aging".

October 14, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jolynnedougherty

I'm in Pittsburgh and my father would always address a stranger as Ma'am and Sir, and I continue to do the same. It's not at all uncommon here, but we also have an older population who use old-fashioned kind of courtesies. My mom is from the west coast and she uses ma'am, too. I might use miss if I knew the girl was in high school and was really young.

October 14, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Tamuna10

Wow, I didn't even know it! Thanks! :)

October 13, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/bookrabbit

So funny!!

October 13, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Strekoza88

Good to know! Thanks for sharing. :)

October 13, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Raisinnoir

As Ethel Merman once said: "Call me Madam!"

October 13, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Luscinda

Exactly. Miss is only really OK if you are playing an Edwardian servant or Oliver Twist.

October 13, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Drachen

Danke fur die informationen!

October 13, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/territrades

Most young women I know are fine perfectly being addressed as Fräulein. They are respectable persons who have earned their respects by their deeds, knowledge and character. The usage of this traditional title does not affect their self-esteem in the slightest.

That's the same thing as with a doctor degree. Those who honestly deserve the title do not constantly demand their correspondents to call them by it.

October 14, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SimoneBa

I think it depends on context. If an elderly gentleman addresses a young woman with "Fräulein", then that's probably OK - those are the modalities of his generation, he's grown up with this, and he probably means to be respectful and courteous. If it happens in a work environment, and some 30-yr-old addresses someone as "Fräulein", then it's potentially suspect. He knows it's dated and he knows that it can come across as potentially patronising.

Also, it's very hard to know whether an individual woman objects to "Fräulein" or not - we don't tend to outrightly complain about these kinds of things, and it very much depends on the situation. I'd say that unless you are a woman and have experienced the many subtle shades of sexism that exist in this world, it's really difficult to understand on an emotional level.

As for your example re. academic title and Fräulein - I'm pushed to see the parallel there. An academic title is something you've (usually) worked very hard for (although one should refrain from showing off with it, I quite agree), while all that it requires to be regarded as a "little, not-quite-woman" is to be...erm... young and unmarried?

Note that there is no male equivalent, like "Herrlein", for young men, and employing any of the other diminutives on offer, like "Männchen" or "Männlein" to refer to a man would be regarded as somewhat degrading. In the age of equality, why should we continue to refer to women in the diminutive? The concept stems from an age when females were nothing but chattel, passed from father to husband. It's just no longer appropriate to literally belittle a woman, no matter what her age or marital status might be. And this is why the term "Fräulein" has been phased out from official documents etc. from the 1970s onwards.

Anyway, my main point is that context is everything, and the reason I wrote this post was to point out to unsuspecting German language learners that the word was antiquated and may not be welcome by all. Best to err on the side of caution and call everyone (but children) either "Frau" or "Herr".

October 15, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Raisinnoir

My Berlin Wirtin told me that she was once arrested on a visit to see relatives in the former East Berlin. They accused her, quite wrongly, of being a Strassenmaedchen". I don't think she would have minded "Frauelin"!

October 15, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SimoneBa

The mind boggles... maybe that was at a time when miniskirts had only just come into fashion but yet not made it across the wall...?

October 15, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Raisinnoir

Ich glaube nicht, weil es war vor Jahren. Sie hat mir gesagt "Ich habe geweint und geweint" bis endlich sagten sie mir: "Bitte, gehen Sie; weg!" Forgive my rusty German.

October 15, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/canongigue

I have not heard anyone addressing young women as Fraeulein IRL.

On the other hand, when I got formal letters from German organizations written in English, they always titled every women with Mrs.

November 5, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Adam9812

I never would have said it but now I want to just to troll people >:D

October 15, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SimoneBa

LOL!

October 15, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Susanna35

Well, some people consistently address many women as "Miss" with their first name. I think it was a Southern (US) custom at one time, but it has spread around. At least two people in my life have frequently addressed me (and other women) as Miss + first name.

I remember when I was in college we had a teacher (to me she was elderly at the time) whom we addressed either as "Miss" or "Frau." The "Miss" was considered correct when we were speaking English, but in German she was "Frau." This, of course, was before the ridiculous invention of "Ms." came along.

October 14, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/tsteele31415

Das ist interessant! Danke.

October 14, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SteffMeister

Surprisingly enough geil still means horny/randy in Dutch. Still fits the title of the piece.. somehow.

October 14, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SimoneBa

It also still means that in German. It now effectively has two meanings. Interesting re. Dutch!

October 14, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SteffMeister

To be honest I think in Dutch it's leaning more and more towards "cool". But not as much as in Germany just yet.

October 14, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Grumpycat1

i find it soo offensive to call 16 year old girl Frau.....like, you are ironically hinting that she is yet unmarried.....or just immature......on the other hand, ,,deserving" Frau by marriage is offensive, too......cannot win....... by the way: in american series, all single/divorced/widowed women are addressed as miss....it is okay with the etiquette, or too familiar?

October 14, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/canongigue

Germans would call a 16-years-old girl as 'Maedchen', sometimes this is used with girls in their 20s as well. It's like how people still use 'girls' for young women in English.

November 5, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Grumpycat1

eh, this would be addressing like: Mädchen Schmidt, Sie konnen antwotren? No, it is Fraulein Schmidt, or Frau Schmidt......we are talking about addressing to people we talk to.

November 5, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/canongigue

Sorry, I mean that ppl wont say 'Mädchen Schmidt' nor 'Fraulein Schmidt' IRL, the first one is never be used. The latter was used but won't be used anymore. All women have similar title as 'Frau' no matter how their marriage status are.

But in colloquial, You can say Mädchen in case of third party. Such as, If you are advertise your apartment, you can say that you are a 'Mädchen' looking for a new roommate.

November 6, 2015
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