Using “mademoiselle" on official documents in France is now banned and will be replaced by “madame,” learns Grumpy Editor.
Mademoiselle, since around 1635, was regarded as a title of respect, equivalent to “miss” and used in speaking to or of a girl or unmarried woman.
This week, the French prime minister’s office --- after a campaign by feminist groups calling the word sexist --- announced mademoiselle will be gone from official documents and advised that all women should be referred to as madame, whether they are married or not.
Now, while madame (or madam in the U.S.) is a polite term in addressing a woman, it also is defined as “the woman in charge of a house of prostitution.”
French feminist groups, including Osez le féminisme and Les Chiennes de Garde in their campaign to ban mademoiselle, probably didn’t think of that.
The alternative could have been the English word going back to the 1150-1200 era: damsel.
Damsel is defined as “a young woman or girl; a maiden, originally one of gentler or noble birth.”
In the U.S., Mademoiselle was widely seen on newsstands since 1935. But the popular Condé Nast magazine, socked by the economy, rolled out its final issue in November, 2001.