Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"Ma'am" is the new woman

Going over John's account of the resurrection, I think if I were to have my druthers, I would translate "woman" as in "Woman, why are you weeping" or at Cana "Woman, what does this have to do with Me" as the word "ma'am".

"Woman" just sounds harsh and abrasive in the English language today - we don't address. But there is absolutely no reproach, no harshness in this word. It is kind, it is compassion, it is polite. "Ma'am, why are you weeping?" We get that, shoot, some of us have probably said that. "Ma'am, what does this have to do with Me?"

Just a thought - they fly fast and furious on Holy Week (and must be vented lest sermons go kerblewie!!!).


Christopher D. Hall said...

That's good! Or perhaps "My Lady"?

Kathy said...

I've heard that Jesus refers to his mother as "woman" here at the cross and at the wedding feast at Cana to emphasize her role as the new Eve. There are several instances I could reference, but don't have the time right now.

"Ma'am" is a little too simple for my tastes.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

It is -- simple -- but part of the thing is this is a colloquial form of speach. We don't commonly call one "Woman" or "Man" -- "My lady" might work well. . . I was thinking more along the lines of "Sir and Ma'am". Respectful words.

"Dear woman" might work -- it's still awkward sounding in English.

As for trying to put an emphasis on Mary as the New Eve. . . well, you get Mary, the Mother of God called "woman" in John 2, but in John 20 it's Mary Magdalene who is called "woman". I think trying to treat the phrase like that pushes things a bit too far.