The Fundamentals of Southern Manners: Yes Sir’s and Yes Ma’am’s

“Yes?” “Yes what?” “Yes Ma’am.”

I live in the South–Texas to be exact–it’s not a secret even though i don’t often broadcast it. I don’t particularly like the South, but growing up here was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.

You’ve all heart of Southern Hospitality right? Well we take that VERY seriously here in the South. I have so many family who aren’t blood related but they are family and you will never, ever convince me otherwise.

Another thing that you’ve probably heard of that is a REALLY BIG DEAL here in the South is manners. I’m not talking debutante, salad fork, no elbows on the table sort of manners (I have that sort of family too on my dad’s side). I’m talking about the notorious and oh-so-important “Yes Ma’am” and “Yes Sir’s.” I know loads of people, especially in the north find it offensive because that makes them think that you think that they’re old. But I was raised in the South, it is a habit, get over it already. My manners are what have gotten me so far in life. Do you want to know how i was able to travel so much? How I was able to see all the amazing things I’ve seen? I talked to people and made an impression–a damn good one too. People eat my manners up, they love it. Most can’t believe how well-mannered I am and this is what makes me stand out. I can’t tell you how many compliment by boss[s] get because I simply smile and say “yes ma’am” or “yes sir”. Good customer service is as simple as that in my book. Great customer service however goes much, much deeper than that, however.

Growing up I was not allowed to say “what?” “huh?” or “yeah.” If I said such things I would be rewarded with an arm fat pinch from my mother and she would stare me down until I said what she had taught mt to say. As much trouble as I got into as a child for not saying ma’am and sir, I don’t think back on it negatively. I am very grateful for my raising and though I have no plans to stay in the south, I will teach my children to say their “ma’am’s” and “sir’s”. It’s a sign of respect and kids that are well mannered get to do SO much more than those naughty kids that are always grounded for being disrespectful.

I know, some of you northerners just don’t get what the big deal is. Well the big deal is this: You are in the south honey, this is just how we are. Everyone is a “honey,” or a “sweetheart,” we drink sweet tea and we say “yes ma’am.”

If you’re moving here you would think that we southerners would be forgiving of your ‘lack of manners’ and sadly not many are. I don’t care either way, my dad was raised in California and Colorado so never enforced the ‘sir’ rule unless we were around my mom’s family. If you want my advice and you have no desire to learn ‘southern manners’ then just ignore the rude old people who get mad at your for being ill-mannered. It’s a really big deal in small towns and a not so big deal in bigger cities.

Now, if you do was to learn Southern manners, how would you use “ma’am” and “sir” in normal everyday conversation? I literally replace “huh” “what” “yeah” and the optional “okay” with either “yes ma’am” or “yes sir.” Sometimes I just say Ma’am or Sir depending on the conversation. I’ll add some examples down below to kinda get you started but it just takes practice. I say ma’am and sir in texting, emails, on the phone, and in person. The South has a language all it’s own and it will take you submersing yourself in our culture to really understand it.

Here we go.

Example 1:

Mom: Kat?

Me: Ma’am? (Instead of ‘what’ or ‘yea’)

Mom: Can you come unload the dishwasher?

Me: Yes ma’am.

Example 2: Phone Conversation (Let’s assume I’m calling my campus advisor.)

Secretary: Hello?

Me: Yes Ma’am, may I speak to Dr. Smith please?

Secretary: One moment please

Dr. Smith: Dr. Smith speaking

Me: Yes sir, this is Kat Wilde, I was hoping you would have time to meet with me today to discuss my schedule for next semester?

Example 3:

Dad: mumbles something intelligible at me.

Me: Sir? (to prompt him to repeat himself)

Dad: Your socks don’t match. (He hates it when my socks don’t match, which is EVERY day. He’ll get over it.)

Example 4: This one seriously happened to me at work this week

Angry Customer: Will this machine charge me for an inquiry?

Me: yes ma’am, it’s a two dollar charge to use the machine.

Customer: That is ridiculous! Your superiors need a whooping, charging people to use a machine!

Me:*laughs nervously* yes ma’am, I understand.

These are extremely rudimentary conversations, but I think you get the picture. I’ll admit I say it all the time and it gets repetitious but that’s just how it is. Even if it’s a friend just saying, “be careful driving home” I always reply with “yes sir/ma’am, I will!” Even in texts, it’s part of my lifestyle and I use it everywhere I go, even in the UK and Italy. I don’t care how old you are, who you are, or what you look like, you are a ma’am or a sir to me–end of story. I am 23 years old and I still get scalded by my mother and her family for not saying it. I even make my sisters say it to me so that when they’re around our family they will say it and stay out of trouble.

As much as I hate the South, I love what it taught me and it’s something I would recommend starting to everyone just because it’s such a shocker to a lot of people. It makes’ you stand out, seem more professional and makes people remember you. It’s also very polite. I will never, ever get mad at someone else that doesn’t belong to my family for not saying “sir” or “ma’am”. If you weren’t brought up that way, you weren’t brought up that way–no big deal. Sadly, not everyone in the South is as understanding as I, so prepare yourself.

If you’re still not getting it, which is normal, I have some creative writing that I will post that have better examples. Just no judging, okay?

Love always,





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