Wait – that should be madame.

A town in France has banned the word “mademoiselle” (the French word for “miss”), instead saying that all women should be addressed as “madame”.

In Cesson-Sevigne, official documents no longer say “mademoiselle” as it is argued that women should not be defined by their marital status. But when women face bigger issues, why does this matter?

Professor of applied linguistics Dr Penelope Gardner-Chloros, of Birkbeck University, says that a society’s language – and how it chooses its terms of address – can reflect deeply ingrained attitudes.

“[Language] it is a sensitive indicator of the distinctions that a society makes – so if it is important to know if a woman is married or not, then it will be indicated in language,” she explains.

“‘Mademoiselle’ was a courteous title and there was even a male equivalent – ‘Mondamoiseau’, though it was very rarely used,” and later fell out of use completely. (The word “damoiseau” can be translated as “squire”.) (Source: BBC News)