Latino Voices

The Implications Of Using 'Señora' Versus 'Señorita'

Thinking twice about using "señora" or "señorita"? That's probably a good thing, because the implications behind the two can be quite suggestive.

Sasha Cagen is the author of a recent article that addresses using Spanish courtesy titles. She told HuffPost Live's Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani a story about when she was in a business situation with a man who asked her, “Señora or señorita?”

“Señorita could mean I’m not a virgin anymore, so are you asking me about my sexual experience or are you asking me if I’m married?" Cagen said of her reaction to the question. "What is this about, and why am I being asked this in a business transaction?"

She said there are gender issues that come into play when using courtesy titles.

"There’s actually really deep issues that go below this where we could say, 'Oh, why are you getting so worked up about this?' But it actually says something really profound about the way we see women and men. Women just want to be women, we don’t want to be categorized,” she said.

Watch the full conversation about how to speak with women:

Because lots of Americans speak Spanish
As of 2012, approximately 38.3 million people in the U.S. spoke Spanish at home, according to the U.S. Census. That's 13 percent of U.S. residents ages 5 and older.
Because a bunch of our states, cities and streets have Spanish names
Nevada, Colorado, Los Angeles, Florida, Montana, San Antonio, California and Sacramento are all Spanish words or names. The list goes on and on.
Because Spanish was spoken in what is today the United States before English
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Spanish colonizers first set foot in the area that would become the United States in the 16th century, founding a permanent colony in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1565 -- well before the English set up Jamestown. All European languages, on the other hand, are more foreign to North America than Karuk, Cherokee, Natchez or the scores of other languages of the indigenous peoples of the continent.
Because the U.S. has more Spanish speakers than Spain
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In 2013, the U.S. had the 5th largest Spanish-speaking population in the world. However, in 2015 it moved up to the number two spot behind Mexico.
Because it’s the most-spoken language on the island of Puerto Rico
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And Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory whose inhabitants are U.S. citizens.
Because the U.S. does not have an official language
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English is not the official language of the United States. Though several states across the nation have adopted legislation establishing English as their official language, no such legislation has been adopted on a federal level.
Because even English-speaking people use Spanish words on a daily basis
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Words like "cafeteria," "vanilla," and even "ranch" are derived from Spanish.
Because this Spanish-language network is a ratings beast
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Spanish broadcast network Univision regularly outperforms English-language networks, especially on a local level. Univision stations in Los Angeles, New York, Houston and Sacramento closed out the May 2016 sweeps period as the most-watched early and late local newscasts among Adults ages 18-49, regardless of language.
Because Spanish is becoming the second-most important language in politics
Even candidates vying for political office recognize the fact that many of the nation's citizens speak Spanish, many releasing Spanish-language ads in an effort to connect with voters.