I was reading one of my old English Language books when I came across this:
"Madame, Señora, Signora, etc, are foreign vocative expressions and they have no equivalent, in either British or American English, for everyday use, among equals. Madam is a vocative expression used only by people in a position of permanent or temporary service; e.g. servants, waiters, waitresses, hairdressers, shop-keepers and assistants, clerks, etc. Outside such service no vocative expression exists; that is to say, if one does not know the surname of a person, in front of which one can put the Mrs. or Miss, etc, there is absolutely nothing one can use. You may ask: "But what happens if a lady drops something in the street and I pick it up and want to attract her attention? How can I call her?" The answer is that you cannot call her - unless you know her name. If you want to give her whatever she has dropped, you must overtake her and hand it to her without any vocative expression at all. In England, the same thing applies to the use of Sir; it is used only as an expression of service or respect (e.g. subordinates to superiors, school-children to their masters, young people to very much older people); i.e. among equals, there is no word to use. In America, however, men - but not women - do often use Sir among equals.
This textbook was printed in 1961. ("British and American English" by John Millington Ward, pg 51-52, Longmans, Green and Co Ltd, 1961.) My question is: dumb as it may seem, was this what people did at that time ? (Overtake someone who dropped something without calling him) Is it still what people are expected to do in America and England in 2014 ?