Nowadays, political correctness is sometimes hard to define and
writers can get themselves in a heap of trouble without even knowing
Jason started a
discussion recently when he asked the Southern Humorists to comment
on the use of the word "girl", when referring to an adult
person of the female gender. Being a sensitive guy, he didn’t want
to write anything that would be offensive. The part of the story
that was in question was about two guys sharing useful household
Jason said: "My question is my use of the word
"girl." It didn't offend my wife's sensibilities, so I
think I'm OK."
Here’s what he wrote:
The only thing guys share are tools, stories about days when we
had hair, and knowing nods when a cute girl walks by. We don’t
share handy tips.
Was he expecting a tip from me? Did I need to give a tip? Did I
have tip? Why did I suddenly feel like a girl?
"Because," a voice in my head said, a voice that
sounded strangely like my wife’s, "you’re acting like a
George then shared his experience with the word
"girl" from when he was a newspaper editor way back in
The first problem
I encountered was that I had seven or eight women working in the
offices upstairs. So I called a quick meeting, and told them that at
the end of the day, I would give each of them a ballot! On it would
be 'GIRLS!', "LADIES!', and 'WOMEN!" NOW was a powerful
force back then and I was trying to be politically correct, as I
always am, and so I needed to know how to properly address the
The group, with one dissenter, said that the use of "LADIES'
and 'WOMEN' made it seem that we may be running more than a
newspaper, and so they voted for GIRLS! as the proper way to address
Mark chipped in with his opinion:
I'd leave it the
way it was, but then again, I'm the guy who was threatened by a
horde of angry women (OK, so it was 2). They said they were going to
start a NOW chapter in the county and their first order of business
would be to burn me in effigy on the Newspaper lawn. Of course, I
didn't use the word "girl" to ignite their combustion
chambers. I used the term "behind-the-scenes power-hungry
women". Seemed harmless enough at the time.
Cathy added her outlook on the subject:
"Girl" only annoys me when used in a sentence like
"that girl is a freaking slut" or "that girl is one
who met her husband at her family reunion"!
Ben found it perfectible acceptable, unlike some other words
he has inadvertently
Use of the word "girl" didn't bother me, nor did I find
it's use particularly funny. At least you didn't use the word "poot.
The term "girl" is fine, it covers all the female
populace. I am annoyed by the word "gal". It was great as
usual Jason. And thanks for not using Ben's least favorite word P@@T
Sheila offered an alternative:
I think you
should changed it to "gal or chick" for the first one,
feminine for the second and female for the last one. I prefer female
because I think of girl as being a child of the female gender. Gal
or chick because nodding when girls walk by implies thinking of them
as sex objects...
Rosie felt that whether it was appropriate depended on the
I found your usage to be fairly neutral. In the south,
"girl" can be a bit trickier than it used to be, depending
on what circles you are running in and how you are using it. Women
can use "girl" with each other fairly safely in casual
settings. Young, serious professional women can take umbrage with
good reason. It can seem condescending when used by unfamiliar men.
As I have now
reached a "certain" age...I actually enjoy being referred
to as "girl" by people I am acquainted with in social
settings. I do tend to raise an eyebrow if it is used during a
business transaction or in an obviously condescending tone or
situation. And I'm not afraid to have an appropriate comeback when
it is used that way.
"Little Fella" is one of my favorites.
Aunt Bee felt it’s not what you say but the way you say it:
Several years ago
I asked a Native American friend if it was okay to say
"Indian". She replied, "As long as you say it with
love and respect". I feel the same way about girl or lady.
Woman is just like saying female. I am born that way. Lady is a
title of respect. It has to be deserved. Girl is just a good
catchall. Just my thoughts.
Sheila then had a brainstorm:
I have an idea. Let's look in up in the dictionary. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/girl
The usage note at the end is especially interesting. Apparently it
is word that means different things to different people.
I don't find it offensive. I just think it is not the word that most
clearly conveys the meaning or intent of what is being said.
Bill offered his sage advice:
Now that you've had the good advice, here's mine.
I'm not wild about "girl" due to the age ambiguity.
Instead, here's one possibility from an old Sat. Night Live sketch
about macho foreign bodybuilders, "girly-girl."
Ben recalled a negative experience with not being viewed as
Many years agone
I used the word "Wench" to refer to my wife in my
newspaper columns. The vast majority of the people who knew me,
understood what I mean and were fine with it. I used the term in the
We have one major women's libber here in town (why she wants
women to be equal to men I have no idea. Why would anyone take a
step down?) who was vehement in her objections to my use of the
Jason responded to those who responded:
I asked about my use of the word "girl" (and thanks to
all who responded) because some people are offended by it. My take
on the word "girl" is that it has nothing to do with age.
It is an attitude. I've known teens who act like old women and 60
year olds who act like girls (heck, my mom got a tattoo for her 70th
birthday. She's a girl). I'm a big fan of the word
"chick." I think it's funny, but I only used it once in my
column because it seems people are offended by that word, too.
Mark couldn’t resist a bit of jest:
OK... Two more things on this one. I have changed my mind. Ditch
"girl" and go with "jar-opening challenged".
Second, I live by the code, which I didn't make up, "It is
easier to get forgiveness than permission.
Cappy wanted to comment too before it was too late:
I'm a late
responder to your use of "girl," but before you start
typing in "girly-girl" on a regular basis, I need to put
in my two cents.
I'm not personally offended by the use of "girl," but
using girly-girl would make me want to put out a contract on you. It
feels negative, like a bad blonde joke.
"Girl" was used several times when maybe once was
enough. The second time why not use gal or sissy? I thought sissy
was what you might have really felt like, but I could be wrong.
Watching girls go by is something men and boys have always done.
Most of us like it. I'm old enough to flat-out adopt the person who
calls me a girl!
George was reminded of a story. (George is always reminded of
a story. )
I am blessed
with a daughter who is a girl! Well, now you my say that all
daughters are girls, but mine is my ‘kind of a girl!’ Whenever
we had to operate on an animal out on the farm, the Vet would
practically have to push her away as she had to see what he was
doing, and in the end, she would help, hold instruments and such.
But one time, my daughter actually said, "Icky!’ during
some medical procedure, and I snapped at her, saying, "Quit
acting like a girl!" to which she replied, "But Dad, I am
a girl!" My reply to this was, "That’s no excuse!"
Leeuna thought that Cappy’s answer made the most sense of
Cappy, I nominate your answer for #one. All in favor say
"Aye." I know what you mean about liking the term. (Call
me a girl and I'll follow you anywhere.)
But Cappy pretty much summed it up when she said:.
I don't mean to beat a dead mare, I mean horse, but I re-read my
message on the use of "girl" where I indicated that
girly-girl has a negative connotation. For me, it does. You can all
thank Arnold for that. He introduced it as a kind of slur and that's
why I don't care for it. That said, as responsible columnists, it's
important to be aware, as Jason was, that certain terminology might
offend someone. THAT said, if you write a column, you WILL offend
someone ... so there you go.
The final word.
we’ve offended everyone by now and we can safely call this little
discussion closed. If we failed to offend anyone, please accept our
apology and we will try harder to be offensive next time.