I was greeted in church during the service with "Hello Sir" by a young woman. Was it because my grey hair has made me into a Sir? Or was it just the respectful title from someone younger to someone older? Or was it a person from the South steeped in the tradition of saying Sir and Ma'am?
Growing up in Louisiana, I remember addressing my parents with "Yes Sir, Yes Ma'am, No Sir and No Ma'am". When you did not hear or understand the person the response was "Sir? or Ma'am?". This was drilled into me by my 5th grade teacher in school when she informed me that if I said HUH one more time that I would be subject to writing "Yes Ma'am" 1000 times.
Sure enough, the next time I was called in class for participation, I said "HUH" or "What" - and bingo - that weekend I filled 20 sheets of notebook paper with line by line cursive "Yes Ma'am" now permanently etched into my respectful memory.
Thank you, Ma'am - to my 5th grade teacher.