When translating I sometimes come across the word ‘miss’. In Korean it’s 아가씨(agassi, more common in historical drama’s) and in Chinese it’s 小姐（xiǎojiě) .
The Dutch term ‘juffrouw’ is now old-fashioned and is only used to adress a female teacher of elementary school students. I’ve read a bit about it on the internet and many women don’t like that they would get a different title depending on whether they are married or not and it seems like women in other countries also don’t like this. The word for a married woman is ‘mevrouw’ and it sounds rather formal to me. Now that more and more women are considered a ‘mevrouw’, some of them could be around the same age of the speaker and thus he/she would not use formal ‘you’ with them. Hearing formal ‘mevrouw’ in combination with informal ‘you’, however, sounds quite strange to me. That’s why I often wonder what would be the most fitting translation for ‘miss’.
Which word do you use when there is an 아가씨 or 小姐 in de series? Do you use the title for un-married women or married women? And when you use a version of ‘miss’, would your viewers think it’s strange/old-fashioned to see that word or is it quite normal to see/hear it? I’m asking this for the cases where it is not possible to use the name of the woman.
Age and marital status
Not young: madame
Young, but married: madame
Both words are commonly used nowadays.
In some situations, both can lead to different interpretations:
gallantry to use one or the other from another woman or gentleman.
That could be flattering to be called “mademoiselle” (young age) and “madame” (standing, respect).
insult to use “madame” instead of “mademoiselle” ("I’m not that old to be called “Madame”!).
In 2012, feminist associations asked to remove the case “Mademoiselle” from administrative papers and forms.
The reason was discrimination, gender inequality: men didn’t have to tell their marital status and got the title “Monsieur” to tick in official forms, independently of their marital status, whereas women have to tell their marital status to official organisms.
The same year, it was removed.
At the same time were removed from administrative formalities: “husband name”, “maiden name”… all the titles about marital status.
But it is just in administrative papers.
When we speak, we still use these titles.
The Dutch “mejuffrouw” was officially abolished in the 1980’s or 1990’s if I remember well, because of its discriminating character (“How is a married woman worth more than an unmarried one?”). And ever since “mevrouw” is used for both married and unmarried women.
I think the problem here is not so much weather she’s married or not (she could be 20 and married or 60 and unmarried), but more the fact that the whole system of politeness levels is so different and more complex in Asian languages than in Indo-European (and Fenno-Ugric) languages.
For Japanese shows I nowadays choose to leave the -san partical in, while “mevrouw” or “meneer” would sound pretty weird in a lot of situations.
If there is a not yet known woman adressed on the street, I translate with “mevrouw”, regardless of her age.
A recent situation where it’s difficult to decide a translation is this one:
A man thinks he was deceived by a woman because of a misunderstanding. He is very angry and gives her a hard time. Later he realizes it was all a misunderstanding and he wants to apologize. He says to himself: ‘I should call her miss Yang, then my apology will be more sincere to her’, and then he repeats the ‘miss Yang’ a couple of times as if to convince himself.
They are the same age, so ‘mrs. Yang’ would sound very strange, but ‘miss Yang’ would sound strange too translated to Dutch.
Ah, I see. In the Netherlands you are a ‘mevrouw’ starting from age 18/20. Using mademoiselle/madame is only when you don’t know the name right? Would you use it even if you already know the name of woman you address? I know if you don’t know each other in France, you wouldn’t tutoyer, but in the Netherlands it’s possible for people who don’t know each other yet but are the same age. Still it would be a little strange to say ‘mevrouw’ and tutoyer her. It’s two levels of politeness mixed.
Agassi is definitely unmarried, and from what I’ve heard, you use the semi-formal style (-yo, not -mnida). Old people say that to girls sometimes so I also got the impression it’s a bit old-fashioned. Wikipedia says:
The term 아가씨 ( agassi , “young lady”) is preferable when addressing a young girl of unknown age. It is seen mostly used in public places like restaurants, but it will also sometimes be used by men in pick-up lines. By definition, the actual difference between 아가씨 and 아줌마 reside in marriage status and not age.
And, by a Quora user:
If you’re just walking on the road and if a stranger (usually middle aged) wants to call a young woman, they’ll call 아가씨. It makes it a biit friendly I could say? and since it’s used to call young women you could intentionally use it to girls to emplasize how you feel the girl has grown up or looks like a noble/rich girl.
I actually meant what word do you use in your own language when translating. Sorry if that wasn’t clear. I would like to know how other languages that make a difference between married /un-married women deal with this. It seems in most of Europe, it’s not common anymore to use ‘miss’. And would a young but un-married woman feel old if you called her ‘mrs’ in Italian or Greek?
Of course we use “signorina” for “miss” in Italian, but there has been a movement to use “signora” (Mrs) for everybody over 15, to eliminate the difference between single and married women. I don’t think this movement has taken root yet, though. I still remember the odd feeling when some little kids in a park addressed me as “madam” for the first time. Yeah, it did feel a bit funny.
Of course then I really got older, I became a mother and now am at grandma age, so I don’t really know what they call young women anymore. I will let someone younger reply to this, who surely has more recent first-hand experience.
In Germany Miss/Fräulein was officially “taken out” as a salutation on documents etc. in the early 1970’s.
It took until the late 80’s to get rid of it on billings, payrolls, account statements. It is rarely used nowadays, because it is simply outdated and only the older generation might still use it, for example calling a waitress, in that case it doesn’t have anything to do if the woman is married or not, because it was common to call them over with “Fräulein!” to order or to pay. In rare cases a girl at home gets scolded with Fräulein.
When you think back the early 70’s in my country brought laws, so that married women for example no longer needed the approval of their husbands in order to take on a job or to get the driver’s license … Just to name a few.
Anyway, for Asian dramas I usually use Fräulein for Miss, because of the society in those countries the “Miss” is still in use, only if it is a really modern drama I would use Frau/Madam.
If we use titles (“mademoiselle”, “madame”, “monsieur”) instead of first names, it means we are not familiar with the person so we’ll be polite. It’s like “Sir”.
The polite pronoun is “vous” (= “you” in English or “usted” in Spanish).
If you don’t know the name, “Madame”.
You can add the name of the person after the title: “Madame Holmes”.
It stays formal, you add a precision about who exactly you’re talking about.
“Which Madame?” “Madame Holmes”.
Your relationship with her is still polite.
Other interpretation of “Madame Holmes” is:
You want to be very polite and add the name to the title.
It’s a sign of deference.
For ex, she’s a senior grandmother whom you respect.
Most of the time when we speak, we use “Madame” that’s all.
Or we just say the title+name once at the beginning “Madame Holmes”, then we will use “Madame” for the rest of the conversation so we don’t stand on ceremony for a long time.
Next time we see that person, repeat the same or just use “Madame”.
for writing: “Madame” will be enough. Madame + name for deference.
official letters from organisms or your bank or insurance…: they will use Madame + First name + name to address you.
If it’s your friend, your family, your pets and you can call them by their first names, the casual pronoun is “tu” (= also “you” in English or “tù” in Spanish, French and Spanish casual pronouns look alike).
If you say “Monsieur” or “Monsieur Paul” to your son: you’re joking with him. It could be because your son acts like an adult or either childish (he doesn’t want to sleep) or you just want to tease him.
Same if you say “Mademoiselle” or “Mademoiselle Marta” to your young daughter.
Yes, it was also around the 70’s/80’s that these changes happened in the Netherlands.
In regards to Asian drama’s, I think using ‘juffrouw’ for ‘miss’ would still be the best option I have, even if it sounds a bit out-dated. If there were an option to avoid the word altogether, it would be even better.
So in French, mademoiselle or madame is a title on its own. In Chinese (maybe also Korean) it’s common to use the title in combination with the name, but I wouldn’t call you ‘Mademoiselle Piranna’, right?
If you really want to avoid the word “mevrouw” here, you might move the politeness to another part of the sentence. Instead of giving the woman a fancy title, use a fancy word for “sorry”, for example.
It’s really weird, because you sound too polite.
It’s like I call you “Miss Oriya” or I say “Madam …” to speak to another volunteer.
On social media or forums, we don’t say “Dear Miss” or “Hello Miss” or “Madam”.
We just say hello or hi or you.
It is the same for French and UK or US situations when you doubt about using titles or not.
When we speak or write, we can also skip all titles and just say “Bonjour” like “Hi”, but that could be interpreted as a lack of politeness, so add the title when you don’t know the person enough or at all after you say hi, please, thank you or goodbye, be it a cashier or your boss.
Agassi is an unmarried female. Its use is not limited to historical dramas. In more formal families, someone who married into the family would refer to an unmarried sister-in-law, regardless of age as Agassi rather than by her given name. I think in a more informal family, a female could refer to an older sister in law who is not married as 온니 , eonni.
I’m not sure about Germany but in Switzerland you have the option to use the name of a young person with formal speech, if you are not sure about her/his age, or to show respect to a very young person who is no schoolkid anymore. It doesn’t depend on gender or marital status which you would hardly know if you met them for the first time and which is completely outdated if you considered that nowadays in Switzerland there would be aghassis at 50 and ajummas in their 20es.
An example could be the daughter of your boss who finished school recently. Until now you talked infomal to her but you are not so close to your boss to talk to him in informal and his daughter always adressed you formally so it is only right that, now that she is a young woman, you adressed her formally too.
But that is changing now and often people offer the younger to use informal speech instead.
In my teams we always use the Chinese term when it is a fantasy/historical story and ‘Frau’ when it is a modern drama. In Germany no one calls a young unmarried woman ‘Fräulein’ anymore, it is very rude because it degrades the woman just of being unmarried.
If a Chinese drama’s story plays during a time when it was common to use ‘Fräulein’ in Germany we will use this term for ‘Miss’.
Besides ‘Fräulein’ doesn’t fit to fantasy/historical anyway; it’d be much better to use ‘Maid’ then (can’t remember any tale using Fräulein so well Fräulein only fits to a certain European era in 18xx, 197x’s).
In fantasy/historical the other Chinese term is Guniang; it is also used in some dramas that play in the 1930’s-1945’s in China.
I know it is also used for a sister-in-law. I just don’t often hear someone call a girl 아가씨 who is not related in any way in modern drama’s. That’s why I thought it was more common to hear in historical drama’s.