There are still many old-fashioned types who cringe at the use of the honorific “Ms.,” instead of “Miss” or “Mrs.,” in front of a woman’s name.
Dr. Boli has much sympathy for that reaction. A century and a half or so ago, you would have found him fighting a losing battle against the use of “Missus” as an honorific for a respectable woman. “Missus,” as the abbreviation “Mrs.” shows us, is a servant’s careless mispronunciation of “Mistress.” It is not, Dr. Boli said, a word to be spoken by gentlemen. (“Miss” is scarcely better.)
But Dr. Boli lost that battle. Furthermore, he has come to accept “Missus” as a form of address appropriate to women who wish to be addressed as “Missus.” In etiquette, it is a useful principle always to address people the way they wish to be addressed. Obviously the rule admits of some exceptions: if a woman of your acquaintance tells you, “From now on, you shall address me as ‘Your High Exalted Mightiness Princess Whizbang, Empress of the Milky Way, Dominator of the Universe, and High Exalted Grand Master of the Order of the Red Kettle,’” you are probably justified in telling her, “I think I shall probably continue to call you Ms. Miller in casual conversation.” But as a general rule, it works well; and therefore it behooves us to address women as “Ms.” who prefer to be addressed that way.
If it makes you feel better somehow to think this title is not some modern invention or ghastly corruption (like “Missus,” which still frankly sticks in Dr. Boli’s throat sometimes), then Dr. Boli offers this photograph, which his friend Father Pitt, straying a bit from his beloved Pittsburgh, took in a graveyard in Concord, Massachusetts. Click on it to enlarge it. You will note the date, and you will feel better.