19 DECEMBER 1981, Page 26

. . . and milestones . . .

Sir: We must be grateful to Mr Collis (28 November) for raising the issue of the absurd, literally unspeakable `Ms' as a form of address. The letters, incidentally, can stand for 'Milestone' and 'Multiple Sclerosis' as well as for 'Manuscript'. A purely phonetic solution would be to pronounce those letters as if they actually stood for something. Just as we say 'Pee-aitchdee' and 'Effarress', we could address women as 'Emmes', quite a good name; it means 'truth' in Yiddish, I understand. Should this constructive suggestion not meet with universal approval, we would have to think of a real word. Several possibilities spring to mind: What about Mm (Madam), supplemented by Ma (Madamina) for those under the age of consent?

Alternatively, we could be guided by recent usage, which has upgraded all females to 'ladies', and address them so. This seems a very democratic step. Our media would henceforth have to cater for 'Lady Bloggs', which undoubtedly would raise standards. Women's Lib would be pleased, for a lady, as distinct from a woman, could not conceivably be a sex object. Women of nobiliary rank, finally, would glory in their new, distinctive title (Dame, Donna?). If the SDP put this in their manifesto (if and when it comes), it may win the next election for them and go down in history (`1984 and all that').

Lux Furtmuller

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