I’m going to assume much of this issue is regionally based.
I was raised on ma’am and sir, not by my parents but socially. Miss might get used at times to get someone’s attention or with someone younger, but even then you could still get away with ma’am most of the time.
Ma’am is also used as a more polite, ‘huh?’. That’s where you look at the woman and with a questioning tone you say, ‘ma’am?’. That means I heard you but didn’t understand you or can you clarify or ‘are you out of your mind and that’s really what you want?’ The last one usually with the facial expression to match. Ma’am can also be an acknowledgment by responding to a question by just saying, ‘ma’am’ with a slight nod to the head. Guys have an easier time with it since we seem to have the instinctual guy head nod/chin thrust we use with each other to acknowledge or challenge. You can shorten ‘Yes ma’am’ to just ‘ma’am’ if done and said correctly.
I’ve always felt that miss is more of a subservient word than ma’am which is more deferent. “Can I help you miss?” vs “Ma’am, can I help you with something?”
Oh. Why am I even talking about this? Because it seems to have come up at least three times this year of 2017 from three different groups of people. It would have been easier if they were from the same place but these groups were from all over and makes the data harder to pinpoint why people felt they way they did. Some people grew up around the words and others have simply been exposed to them as adults.
Many of the women understandably want to be called Miss. It’s akin to being 35 years old and still wanting to be carded not because they have to but because there is a question of her age being close to 21 based on her looks.
I can’t say I’ve ever seen a guy have an issue over being called sir. Anyone older than myself, in a position others have given him power or my perception of respect, also get the sir treatment.
I think that’s a good quick overview. You’re welcome to throw in your own thoughts.