DEAR MISS MANNERS: I understand the proper usage of “Ms.,” “Miss” and “Mrs.” as you have written about it, but what about “Mizz”?
I have heard this title used fairly often at my old elementary school, by a mix of teachers and students. It was a verbal title, never a written one.
I would have passed it off as a mispronunciation, had I not heard a fellow student explain it thus: “‘Miss’ means unmarried, ‘missus’ means married, and ‘mizz’ means it’s none of your business.”
While I would never want to snoop into a lady’s personal life, I also see no reason for anybody to be ashamed or embarrassed of their relationship status. Could you please inform me what the proper usage of this title would be?
GENTLE READER: “Mizz” is not a separate title, but a perhaps slightly southern pronunciation of “Ms.”
But Miss Manners wonders: Do you folks go around making snarky interpretations of “Mr.”?
Oh, that’s right -- you can’t, because it is an all-purpose honorific for all gentlemen, regardless of whether or not they are married. So you can’t accuse them of being ashamed or embarrassed.
“Ms.” accomplishes the same thing. Like “Miss” and “Mrs.”, it derives from the once-respectable title of “Mistress,” which applied to all ladies -- and was driven into disuse by just the sort of snarkiness you repeat.