In case you missed it, there was big news in France a few months ago: the government officially ordered the honorific “Mademoiselle” to be removed as an option from official forms. The origin of the term was effectively “damsel,” which indicated a woman’s status as unmarried, as “Miss” does in comparison to “Mrs.” here. Madame, it appears, will function as “Ms.” does here, to identify adult women regardless of age or marital status. Some in France may balk at the change; I sent an email to a hotel clerk last summer and addressed the woman as Madame Untel (untel being French for “so-and-so”) – but her reply was signed Mademoiselle Untel. Old habits die hard, I guess.
And it seems that old habits die hard in Italy as well, as this new fragrance from Salvatore Ferragamo suggests:
Random internet evidence leads me to conclude that “Signora” is now appropriate in Italian for use with women over the age of 18, regardless of marital status, so I am not sure if this fragrance is designed for a younger market, or if it’s trying to evoke memories of the purity of youth. (I feel icky even typing that.) I’m just not sure it’s either modern or appropriately retro. Ferragamo’s own copy only confuses things further:
Signorina, the new fragrance from Salvatore Ferragamo is the celebration of chic girls with a sophisticated, subtly cheeky and fresh scent signature.
An Italian description I found was pretty much in the same spirit:
Signorina è il profumo giusto per le giovani donne contemporanee, creative e anche un po’ audaci.
Loosely, that’s “Signorina is the right perfume for young women who are contemporary, creative and a bit daring.” Wow … or not.
I’m studying Italian right now in advance of a summer excursion, so while I will happily pronounce “Signorina” with my best Sophia Loren accent, I nonetheless register my disapproval of the name as anything but contemporary.