When I use a website with a large numbers of users for whom English is not their first language (specifically, fiverr.com), I often get addressed as "Sir", even though I am a woman. How come?

My hypotheses are:

  1. Learners of English in some countries are being explicitly taught that "Sir" is appropriate for individuals of any sex (kind of like default masculine pronouns).
  2. Honorifics in other languages are gender neutral, so they assume the same is true of English.
  3. They are simply incorrectly assuming I am male.

This is different from the question https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/121727/can-sir-be-used-to-address-female-officers, which refers to the military. I am a civilian.

  • I recognize this might not be the right forum. I thought it might be because it's about how English is used (by non-native speakers). Feel free to suggest a better one. – Ellen Spertus Mar 29 '15 at 19:08
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    I'd guess it's your 3rd hypothesis. – Mike Mar 29 '15 at 19:14
  • I remember only once being called Sir despite my name and avatar being distinctively feminine, so it could be No. 2 – Mari-Lou A Mar 29 '15 at 19:24
  • @Marthaª I thought of that, but I wasn't sure it would be on topic because it was a question aimed towards (rather than from) ELLs. – Ellen Spertus Mar 29 '15 at 19:42
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    I'd like to add another hypothesis: some languages address others based on oneself's gender, not theirs. Thai, my first language, is one of such languages. (A male speaker will always use ครับ, and a female speaker will always use คะ/ค่ะ. In a way, ครับ and คะ/ค่ะ are approximately equivalent to sir and ma'am. However, once they pass a certain level of English proficiency, this confusion between the two languages shouldn't be a problem.) – Damkerng T. Mar 30 '15 at 15:55

Perhaps your readers interpret your signature, espertus, as masculine because of the "-us" suffix, which is masculine in Latin.

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