Copyright © 2005 by the American Dialect Society
Published in American Speech, Vol. 80, No.2 (Summer 2005) at DOI: 10.1215/00031283-80-2-180


This article examines the use of the female title Ms. by students, faculty, and staff at a Midwestern university in the United States using data generated with the written survey used by Donna Lillian (1993) in a similar study in Canada. Findings show that faculty are fairly consistent in their understanding of Ms. as a neutral title to be used for all women and are more likely to choose this title than students and staff. Student responses show a wide range of meanings for Ms., with the meanings ‘young’ and ‘single’ being the most common. Female students were far less likely to select Ms. than male students, showing a gender gap in the student data that is not seen in the staff and faculty reponses. These data show multiple meanings and patterns of female title use in the United States today, with little evidence pointing toward a decrease in this variation.