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PC term for "maid"

English translation: housekeeper (US) / domestic cleaner

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GLOSSARY ENTRY (DERIVED FROM QUESTION BELOW)
English term or phrase:maid
English translation:housekeeper (US) / domestic cleaner
Entered by: CNF
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14:51 Mar 28, 2002
English to English translations [Non-PRO]
English term or phrase: PC term for "maid"
I need to know what the "politically correct" term for "maid" is.

The thing is I'm teaching adult ESL students at a night school, and some of them are cleaning women, and I want them to tell me what their occupation is, but without being pejorative with themselves.

So, is "maid" the correct word to refer to a person who cleans in someone's home?

Thanks again,
Nat
Nat
housekeeper
Explanation:
The American Heritage Dictionary defines "housekeeper" (one word) as follows:

1. One who is employed to perform or direct the domestic tasks in a household.

2. A housewife.

3. An employee of an establishment, such as a hospital, inn, or hotel, who performs or coordinates housekeeping tasks.

Based on how I have heard "housekeeper" used around these parts, I disagree with definition 2. Based on the way I hear the term used, It appears to me that "housekeeper" is becoming more than just politically correct. It is becoming pretty much the standard term. Where I work, even the department where "maids" or "janitors" work is called "Housekeeping." In this case, "house" does not mean "residential unit," but rather "building interior."

One virtue of "housekeeper" is that it is gender-neutral.

Fuad
Selected response from:

Fuad Yahya
Grading comment
Thank you very much, Fuad!
And thanks everyone for taking the time.
Happy Easter to you all!
Regards, Nat.
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer

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Summary of answers provided
4 +7cleaning ladyxxxdepgrl
4 +5domestic assistant / engineer (!)
Mary Worby
5 +4cleanerJohn Kinory
4 +3domestic workers
MJ Barber
4 +1housekeeperFuad Yahya
4..Tatiana Neroni
4custodial engineerMichael Sebold
4You can use "maid, maidservant, chambermaid"Arancha Otero
4 -2janitorial crew/staffRHELLER


Discussion entries: 3





  

Answers


7 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +7
cleaning lady


Explanation:
or: housekeeper

xxxdepgrl
PRO pts in pair: 4

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Karin Walker: also: cleaner
4 mins

agree  edlih_be
11 mins

agree  Tatiana Neroni: I apologize - didn't see that the same answer was posted while I was typing mine.
13 mins

agree  Bill Greendyk: housekeeper
25 mins

agree  AhmedAMS
25 mins

agree  Michael Sebold
30 mins

agree  Maria Knorr
30 mins

agree  Theodore Fink: HOUSEKEEPER in US, not Cleaning lady.
38 mins

disagree  athena22: Theodore is right: in the US cleaning lady is not PC. HOUSEKEEPER is the PC-est it gets over here...
59 mins

neutral  Kim Metzger: To be truly PC it's wrong to assume the person is a lady. Could be a gent too.
1 hr

disagree  John Kinory: How can cleaning lady be PC when it specifies a gender? And housekeeper is something different entirely - a live-in, managerial posisition.
3 hrs

agree  CNF: from Cambridge International Dictionary of English: housekeeper: a person, esp. a woman, whose job is to organize another person's house and deal with cooking, cleaning, etc.
4 hrs
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9 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
..


Explanation:
I don't know about a "maid", in the US it's (probably) still used only for a stationary live-in maid in a very rich house.

For a person who cleans other people's houses for a living (not necessarily a permanent or a live-in position, just a service) it's a "cleaning lady".

There might be some other versions, I'm sure there will be more answers.

Tatiana Neroni
PRO pts in pair: 20

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Jack Doughty: In UK too, maid only for a permanent living-in post. If not, cleaning lady, cleaning woman or more often simply "cleaner".
8 mins
  -> Thank you, Jack. I just wanted to be "very politically correct" and used only "lady" :).

disagree  John Kinory: How can cleaning lady be PC when it specifies a gender?
3 hrs
  -> I can see your point, John, but usually this is the way they're called. Didn't see cleaning men around, so obviously there is no need to exert oneself in PC. It's an acceptable PC term where I live (USA).
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11 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +5
domestic assistant / engineer (!)


Explanation:
This is the 'ultra-PC' version.

'Cleaning lady' isn't really pejorative.

Maid would be someone in a big house, and sounds rather old-fashioned.

HTH

Mary

Mary Worby
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:21
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in pair: 164

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  MJ Barber: assistant yes, but engineer is taking it too far. Like the guys who sweep up horse pooh after the St Patrick's day parade in NY are "Public Sanitation Engineers", or something.
14 mins
  -> You're right, assistant is better. Just depends how PC you want to go!

neutral  Michael Sebold: As I know it, "domestic engineer" was to replace "housewife."
23 mins
  -> Although it never really stood a chance! Domestic assistant is probably a better choice, if you want to lay the PC on thick! (-:

neutral  athena22: Michael's right:)
53 mins
  -> He certainly is! (-:

agree  Kim Metzger: I vote for domestic assistant as a good PC term
59 mins

agree  Margaret Lagoyianni: domestic assistant or domestic support assistant
1 hr

neutral  John Kinory: Cleaning operative? Cleaning lady isn#t pejorative, but also not PC (which is a different classification entirely) - see above and below.
3 hrs

agree  Gabriela Tenenbaum: I would say "domestic assistant" is nice, PC and gives scope for including ANY helping activity at home, such as cleaning, cooking, taking care of the kids, and so on. I like it! #:)
4 hrs

agree  Sheila Hardie: domestic assistant is a good term too:)
8 hrs
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24 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +3
domestic workers


Explanation:
often shortened to domestics.

MJ Barber
Spain
Local time: 15:21
Native speaker of: English
PRO pts in pair: 75

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  xxxdepgrl
29 mins

agree  athena22: Actually, I've not heard this but it is VERY PC
48 mins
  -> thanks, I think worker is less than 'assistant'. For me assistant implies 'helper' as opposed to a real job

agree  CNF: from Cambridge International Dictionary of English: A domestic (help) is someone paid to help with work that needs to be done in a house, such as cleaning and washing.
3 hrs
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33 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): -2
janitorial crew/staff


Explanation:
They may be part of a janitorial crew/staff. In any case,they should be familiar with all of these terms as they are certain to encounter them in society.

RHELLER
United States
Local time: 07:21
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in pair: 1252

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  athena22: If they're working for a company, yes. If in a home, I'd still say housekeeper
38 mins

disagree  Kim Metzger: A maid works in a home, not a business establishment.
41 mins

disagree  MJ Barber: janitor is in a public building or condominium
45 mins

disagree  John Kinory: As stated by KM and MB.
2 hrs
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33 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
custodial engineer


Explanation:
. . . is used rather tongue-in-cheek - similar to sanitary engineer for trash collector. Janitor is still acceptable for people who clean commercial/public buildings.



Michael Sebold
Canada
Local time: 09:21
PRO pts in pair: 10

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
neutral  John Kinory: Yes, but this is in a home, Michael :-)
2 hrs
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1 hr   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +1
housekeeper


Explanation:
The American Heritage Dictionary defines "housekeeper" (one word) as follows:

1. One who is employed to perform or direct the domestic tasks in a household.

2. A housewife.

3. An employee of an establishment, such as a hospital, inn, or hotel, who performs or coordinates housekeeping tasks.

Based on how I have heard "housekeeper" used around these parts, I disagree with definition 2. Based on the way I hear the term used, It appears to me that "housekeeper" is becoming more than just politically correct. It is becoming pretty much the standard term. Where I work, even the department where "maids" or "janitors" work is called "Housekeeping." In this case, "house" does not mean "residential unit," but rather "building interior."

One virtue of "housekeeper" is that it is gender-neutral.

Fuad



    American Heritage Dictionary
Fuad Yahya
Native speaker of: Native in ArabicArabic, Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in pair: 893
Grading comment
Thank you very much, Fuad!
And thanks everyone for taking the time.
Happy Easter to you all!
Regards, Nat.

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  athena22
8 mins

agree  MJ Barber
15 mins

neutral  Mary Worby: Wouldn't work in the UK! (-:
52 mins

disagree  John Kinory: Housekeeper has managerial duties; cleaners do not.
2 hrs
  -> At homes, housekeepers do vacuuming, laundry, dishes, dusting, windows, and sometimes grocery shopping, cooking, babysitting, and/or gardening. In offices, they vacuum, empty trashbins, do bathrooms, and handle spills.

neutral  Sheila Hardie: I agree with Mary's comment, this may be OK in the USA though:)
2 hrs
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3 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): +4
cleaner


Explanation:
This is gender-free.
In the UK, as already mentioned I believe, a maid (of either gender [s]) HAS to be live-in. A cleaner comes in on some regular or other basis. This can be a domestic or commercial environment.

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Note added at 2002-03-28 19:40:31 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Nat (the asker) comments that s/he specified cleaning WOMEN.
True; but all the same, I don\'t see how it can be PC if you associate the job with a specific gender. I mean, the whole point OF being PC (in this case, at least!) is to dissociate the job from any particular gender.

As to the housekeeper issue mentioned above (e.g. by Natalia, Fuad): I am not disputing the fact that housekeepers do cleaning; I am disputing that logically it follows that cleaners do housekeeping duties: they may, or they may not; but their job-title doesn\'t say so, nor should it. And the job-title \'maid\' certainly doesn\'t suggest to me management duties.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2002-03-28 19:41:28 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Forgot to say:
We are told these are cleaning women: that does not suggest duties beyond cleaning, such as a housekeeper may have.

John Kinory
Local time: 14:21
PRO pts in pair: 48

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Sheila Hardie: Yes, in the UK I would say this would be the best PC option:)
34 mins
  -> Thanks!

agree  Sue Goldian
1 hr
  -> Thanks!

agree  Herolles: a cleaner can be either gender, and canwork in any other establishment, so is the simplest and best term.
2 hrs
  -> Thanks!

agree  Karin Usher: I agree also agree with this one for the UK; I also hear the expression "domestic cleaner" as cleaners can be working in offices as well.
4 hrs
  -> Thanks!
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12 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
You can use "maid, maidservant, chambermaid"


Explanation:
.

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Note added at 2002-03-29 03:12:09 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

it is also correct \"cleaning woman\" & \"house cleaning\"

Arancha Otero
Spain
Local time: 15:21
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