For reasons clear perhaps only to the French establishment and French feminist groups, the government is phasing out the lovely and elegant word “mademoiselle.” As of now, it is to be stricken from all official documents.

A married woman is “madame,” an unmarried woman is “mademoiselle.” Men are simply “monsieur.” The argument is that women should not be needlessly forced to reveal their marital status.

The government arrived perhaps rather late to this controversy, and, as the Associated Press points out, “It’s all the more strange given that French young people widely shun matrimony, and more than half of French children are born to unmarried parents.”

Americans finessed the difference between “Mrs.” and “Miss” with the handy construct “Ms.,” pronounced “miz” and not really short for anything. The French are welcome to the usage, but they feel that far too many Americanisms have infiltrated their language already. Still, “Ms.” is there if they need it.

Actually, the handwriting on the wall for “mademoiselle” might have been apparent here even earlier, when a popular women’s magazine of that name went out of business in 2001.

Since the term will one day be archaic and perhaps drop out of use, the government’s dictum rather makes an orphan out of the World War I marching song “Mademoiselle from Armentieres,” whose lyrics ranged from the ribald to the frankly obscene.

The song does have the immortal chorus, “Hinky, dinky, parlay voo.” On further reflection, maybe it is time to retire “mademoiselle.”

Editorial by Dale McFeatters, Scripps Howard News Service

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