This post relates to How do hotel housekeepers know if a room is in use?, which underwent an “edit war” regarding the term “maid” before being locked. I noticed that a “historical answer” to that question also used the term “maid” (and the term “mistress”) and questioned whether such language was appropriate.

The answer author’s response clearly indicated that they had no interest in removing this language, so I flagged the answer for moderator attention, and left a comment to that effect. The answer author then suggested I mention this issue at Meta.

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    Your question should include information in how to deal with terms that reflect a trained profession in the 1970's in another society (and today often changed to a more sex neutral term) and should be exchanged by 3rd persons from another society where such trained professions often don't exist. Feb 5, 2022 at 9:37
  • @MarkJohnson I think it is clear what your answer to this question is. Why not write it as an answer, and take the opportunity to educate us with relevant details? Feb 5, 2022 at 9:48
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    It's not my task to 'educate' others on how apprenticeships in the hotel business in Europe work. Feb 5, 2022 at 9:56
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    As the writer of the answer, that also went through the same training process, I wrote those terms as I experienced them as professionals. A 3rd person, lacking this knowlage, should not assume the role of 'Grand Censor'. This is especially true for someone who hasn't posted a single question or answer on this site. That I find offensive. Feb 5, 2022 at 10:17
  • @MarkJohnson, you wrote your answer in your comments, please post them as an answer.
    – Willeke Mod
    Feb 5, 2022 at 10:42
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    @Willeke Until my first comment is reflected in the question on how to deal with terms then used in a 3 year apprenticeship (which probably differs in different countries), I see no reason why this should be answered. In Germany at least, a Housekeeper is a different occupation than what was then called a Zimmermädchen (Hotel Room maid), which is again different from a Cleaner that is mostly associated outside id a Hotel. Feb 5, 2022 at 11:20

2 Answers 2


Two moderators have had a look and came to the conclusion that in this case the wording was acceptable. This is not a blanket permission, each case will have to be taken by itself.

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    I think that makes sense. I objected to "maids" in the title of a question included in HNQ because it's an unnecessarily gendered term loaded with baggage and not generally used by the industry or housekeepers themselves today in 2022. For a historical answer, using the terminology that was used at the time is logical and clarifying, even more so in this case, when it's outdated but not patently offensive. Feb 5, 2022 at 18:54
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    If maid was very offensive I do not think many women would be willing to be bridesmaids at their friend's wedding.
    – mdewey
    Feb 7, 2022 at 15:53
  • @mdewey, it is the situation and the combination with other words as well as who uses the word which may make is positive or negative. The Dutch version of the word maid, meid, is seen as positive when used by the girls themselves, but as negative when others call a girl that.
    – Willeke Mod
    Feb 7, 2022 at 17:04
  • @ZachLipton I don't think that "maid" is really offensive outside of Twitter circles. Same goes for whitelist/blacklist or master/slave in computer science.
    – JonathanReez Mod
    Feb 8, 2022 at 6:37
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    @JonathanReez, it is offensive, also outside twitter. But not to the same extend in different parts of the world.
    – Willeke Mod
    Feb 8, 2022 at 9:06

There are various degrees of "offensive".

The N-word is probably not acceptable today, even in a historic context, unless the text is specifically about the word and its historic use.

On the other end of the spectrum, a term that was in general use at that time, and whose only conflict with modern usage is a lack of gender-neutrality? That's not in the same class of "offensive".

Zach used the word "outdated" and that fits well. The other important difference is that some words were intended to be degrading, even in the historic context, and some were considered entirely innocent at their time.

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    Outdated may only be true for US based Hotels, which have a diffent organisational structure than french/european hotels. A Job search for Zimmermädchen or Hausdame brings many results showing that the 2 different occupation terms are still common place today. Roomboy seems to be the commonly accepted term for a male Zimmermädchen. Both are not called housekeepers. Feb 5, 2022 at 22:53
  • @MarkJohnson by law, even if the term is "Zimmermädchen" (non-english speakers: german for "maid", but "Mädchen" is the word for "girl") appears in a job advertisement, you are sure to find "(m/w)" next to it, to indicate that both men and women may apply. Yes, german language and laws are funny like that. :-)
    – Tom
    Feb 6, 2022 at 5:58
  • In most cases you will actually find something in the form of: Zimmermädchen/Roomboy (m/w/d) with both occupation titles shown. Feb 6, 2022 at 6:15
  • @Tom Actually, there must be "(m/w/d)" (or "(m/w/x)" - opinions vary) next to it. Feb 6, 2022 at 15:44
  • @HagenvonEitzen thanks for the update. I missed that they now include non-binary as well in that requirement.
    – Tom
    Feb 6, 2022 at 17:45
  • The french terms seem to be Femme de ménage and Gouvernante Générale for these occupations. Feb 6, 2022 at 19:28

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