View Poll Results: Is the word "girl" for an adult female human inherently offensive?
I'm a male human and I say yes. 25 13.37%
I'm a male human and I say no. 93 49.73%
I'm a female human and I say yes. 33 17.65%
I'm a female human and I say no. 24 12.83%
I have some other self-identification and/or opinion. 12 6.42%
Voters: 187. You may not vote on this poll

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  #51  
Old 01-07-2019, 03:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Riemann View Post
Yes, "my baby" is certainly used by women to refer to a male partner. What I'm questioning is the use of "a babe" to describe an attractive man. I've never heard that, and although I'm older I would have thought it would have come up in TV/movies.
Here's a Pinterest page called "Babes" that's all pics of hot dudes.
  #52  
Old 01-07-2019, 03:40 PM
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I recall a self-help drop-in program where one individual said something like "boy-girl-boy-girl-boy... " about a seating arrangement. An older woman (?) who was a supervisor at the time, chided her for calling grown women girls. Of course the context made it equivalent to "male-female-male-..."

I can just imagine how much louder the complaint had a male present said that...
Sure, but setting aside your subsequent anecdote about how unbalanced this particular person was... there's a linguistic phenomenon called hypercorrection, where an awareness of a frequent type of error may lead us to make a change even when it's not warranted. I think there's probably a socially-driven kind of hypercorrection at work here, and we may all struggle with it a bit as usage (along with social mores) evolves. But the fact that people may sometimes hypercorrect does not remotely invalidate the overall principle of correcting actual inappropriate usage. It's like people whining "political correctness" when someone tells them to stop being a total jerk.

Last edited by Riemann; 01-07-2019 at 03:42 PM.
  #53  
Old 01-07-2019, 03:44 PM
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So... as with most things, the explanation is that I'm getting old!
  #54  
Old 01-07-2019, 03:49 PM
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Context

Was interviewing a candidate for our group (primarily degreed professionals on a business development team). Candidate was doing extremely well throughout the day...until the end, when he asked if we could get our "girl" to call him a taxi. He was referring to one of our administrative assistants. We passed on him.
Oh dear. Not just girl, but your girl. Somebody's degree program overlooked socialization.
  #55  
Old 01-07-2019, 04:12 PM
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It’s incorrect to think that any word is inherently offensive.
  #56  
Old 01-07-2019, 04:38 PM
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I voted that yes, it's offensive. But mostly because as an adult woman, whenever it's being used towards you is usually meant in a demeaning way. Fwiw, I am a little sensitive about these things and not just this word. A coworker of mine (whom I never met nor spoke with) says "Hey sweetie" every time we pass each other in the hall and I absolutely loathe it. I don't know his name, his department or anything about him other than he has an awful mustache. So I call him 'Pornstache Guy" to my other female coworkers and they all know who I'm talking about.
  #57  
Old 01-07-2019, 04:45 PM
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It’s incorrect to think that any word is inherently offensive.
Is that Wittgenstein or Derrida?
  #58  
Old 01-07-2019, 04:57 PM
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Originally Posted by SmartAleq View Post
Unless the gender of the person working a given post is germane, why bother specifying it at all?

"I'll check with the front desk."
"I'll ask the receptionist."
"Tell HR they can go home an hour early, would you?"

Just drop the gender OUT--in a business context it's almost always unnecessary, and if you need to specify a person, use their damned name.

"Check with Bob at the front desk."
"Go see Ms. Smith in HR."
"You'll want to ask Cindy about that, she's the one who handles it."

The jobs aren't gendered, so don't bother specifying the gender of the person doing the job.
QFT and because your post was being ignored.
  #59  
Old 01-07-2019, 05:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Darren Garrison View Post
Should all these songs, for example, be modified to say "woman" to be inoffensive? Gwen Stephani needs to sing Hollaback Woman, Madonna Material Woman, Paula Abdul Forever Your Woman, Katie Perry I Kissed a Woman, Christina Aguilera What a Woman Wants, Pink Most Women, etc.?
I'm familiar with most (but not all) of those songs, and you may wish to reconsider the message of those songs if you want to view that as a convincing argument that "girl" is always/often a value-neutral term.

For example, "Hollaback Girl" is a song about a cheerleader who doesn't want to be disrespected by people talking about her. In this context, the idea of being a hollaback girl is a BAD thing, which falls in line with the use of the term "girl" to diminish the female being talked about.

Also, "What a Girl Wants" is about someone who wants a man who will be the boss in a relationship. Again, this falls in line with the idea that the singer is a grown-up who makes her own choices.

Have you really not thought about this, OP?
  #60  
Old 01-07-2019, 05:40 PM
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Parallelism is definitely important here. Referring to "men" and "girls" is inappropriate, unless you are actually referring to "adult male human beings" and "non-adult female human beings". Is it appropriate to refer to a female human being as a "girl"? Well, in that particular context, would it be appropriate to refer to a human being of the opposite sex as a "boy"? If not, don't call a female human being a "girl". And "boy" can also be very fraught, especially in the singular, and most especially when mixed with race. (But even between two adult white males, "Don't mess with me, boy" is obviously dismissive at best.)

But sometimes, even in very traditional uses, "boy" is used for "adult male human being", in an informal, often affectionate, and non-demeaning way:

"Poker night with the boys." "C'mon boys, let's show 'em!" "Attaboy!" "Old boys club".

Throwing in "guys" instead of "boys" as a parallel to "girls" (or "gals") means there are even more situations which are symmetrical. So, as is so often the case, "it depends".
But note that most of these uses are including the speaker, with the one exception - "Attaboy" - being the word specifically praising the person being referenced.

OTOH, (men) how would you feel if an authority figure called you "boy"? That's almost invariably used to tell you that you are a child to them.
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  #61  
Old 01-07-2019, 05:59 PM
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Have you really not thought about this, OP?

Of course I've thought of this--and think that in context it ranks from "you have a point" to "Girl Woman You Wish You Hadn't Started a Conversation With at a Party." I just think that, in the instance that lead to this thread, it is much closer to the second end of the range than to the first.
  #62  
Old 01-07-2019, 06:07 PM
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Is that Wittgenstein or Derrida?
Not sure.
  #63  
Old 01-07-2019, 06:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Yllaria View Post
In California, "guys" can refer to either sex/gender, which can confuse folks from other states.
I don't think that's unique to California. For example, Rita Moreno used to open the PBS kids show Electric Company by yelling, "Hey, you guys!".
  #64  
Old 01-07-2019, 06:18 PM
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I don't think that's unique to California. For example, Rita Moreno used to open the PBS kids show Electric Company by yelling, "Hey, you guys!".

Also used in the reboot.
  #65  
Old 01-07-2019, 06:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Zyada View Post
That's almost invariably used to tell you that you are a child to them.
Data point of 1, but: diminutives amongst dudes is more often than not a positive thing hinting at an avuncular bond. I've never taken exception to it. I've only been in the presence of a handful of women with authority over me (2 army officers, 1 bank manager), curiously they all dropped a "boy" on me at one time or another. How it felt is difficult to describe because I don't know the womany version of avuncular.
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  #66  
Old 01-07-2019, 06:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Dewey Finn View Post
I don't think that's unique to California. For example, Rita Moreno used to open the PBS kids show Electric Company by yelling, "Hey, you guys!".
Also used in the reboot.
I had no idea they had rebooted Electric Company. But then again, I'm decades away from the target audience.

Last edited by Dewey Finn; 01-07-2019 at 06:22 PM.
  #67  
Old 01-07-2019, 06:24 PM
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I'm a male human and I voted "no", but I also realize I have no right to make that determination myself.
  #68  
Old 01-07-2019, 06:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Inigo Montoya View Post
How it felt is difficult to describe because I don't know the womany version of avuncular.

Avauntcular.
  #69  
Old 01-07-2019, 07:08 PM
Malleus, Incus, Stapes! Malleus, Incus, Stapes! is offline
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I don't think that's unique to California. For example, Rita Moreno used to open the PBS kids show Electric Company by yelling, "Hey, you guys!".
"Guys", to me, is always gender-neutral. "Guy", singular, is usually male but can mean both depending on the context.

As for the OP, I do feel somewhat uncomfortable with "girls". Lately I've been replacing it with "gals", which probably makes no sense from a linguistic perspective; I'm pretty sure gal is just a variant pronunciation of girl. But it feels slightly different to me, more adult, and some sentences it doesn't feel natural to use "women" as a replacement.

On a more logically defensible note, I sometimes try to ask myself, "Would I use 'boy' if the genders were reversed?", but that's proven less than helpful. I mean, sure, much of the time you can use "boy" interchangeably for "man" or "guy". But would you, if you weren't thinking about it? How would you know? How likely does the use of "boy" have to be before "girl" wouldn't be sexist? It's just easier to use "woman" or "gal" or "lady" or whatever as a default.

-Malleus, Incus, Stapes!, who is an adult woman, albeit a childish one
  #70  
Old 01-07-2019, 07:35 PM
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Yes. And the "women do it too so it's all right" argument is, and will always be, ridiculous. Women believe and regurgitate without thinking the patriarchal BS they've been utterly steeped in their entire lives (and raised by women who'd also been)? How shocking! I loathe the term "woke," but it applies here. You don't know better until you learn better. You don't push back until you realize you have the right to push back.

So yeah, calling adult women "girls" is wrong and infantilizing and men and women need to stop using it.
This is along the lines of why "guys" is NOT gender neutral. Yes, it's used to describe/address groups of any gender, but that's a symptom of our patriarchal society. Why else do you think "guys" is used in this way? How would men feel if a group of them were addressed as "gals"?
  #71  
Old 01-07-2019, 07:42 PM
Malleus, Incus, Stapes! Malleus, Incus, Stapes! is offline
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I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on the "guys" thing. To me, if someone says, "Hey guys!", a masculine connotation doesn't even occur.
  #72  
Old 01-07-2019, 07:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Darren Garrison View Post
Of course I've thought of this--and think that in context it ranks from "you have a point" to "Girl Woman You Wish You Hadn't Started a Conversation With at a Party." I just think that, in the instance that lead to this thread, it is much closer to the second end of the range than to the first.
So you intentionally chose the worst examples of songs to undermine your point?

And they aren’t even funny. “Woman, You’ll Be a Girl Soon” by Neil Diamond is about ten times funnier than any example you came up with.
  #73  
Old 01-07-2019, 07:54 PM
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Women believe and regurgitate without thinking the patriarchal BS they've been utterly steeped in their entire lives (and raised by women who'd also been)? How shocking!
Yeah, see? That's the problem right there, in a nutshell. Women just don't think.
  #74  
Old 01-07-2019, 07:57 PM
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Quoth WOOKINPANUB:

The only time I've ever heard it used in an inappropriate way is the example that's already been given;in the Mad Men,1960s sense. And even then, I'm not sure if it was IRL or on some tv show.
The case that prompted this thread was about "Fiji Water girl", a grown-up model (I was about to say "adult model", but that has other connotations) who was handing out bottled water at an awards ceremony and photobombing celebrities.

And in certain parts of town, you're likely to see signs advertising "dancing girls". I emphatically do not want to see girls dancing (at least, not that sort of dancing); I would want to see women.

EDIT:
Quote:
Quoth Chessic Sense:

Yeah, see? That's the problem right there, in a nutshell. Women just don't think.
Neither, for the most part, do men.

Last edited by Chronos; 01-07-2019 at 07:59 PM.
  #75  
Old 01-07-2019, 08:09 PM
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"Girl" is almost always acceptable in informal situations, especially when the speaker is a woman. I have a coworker friend in her 50s, and we both call each other "girl" whenever it is just the two of us.

"Girl" is problematic in professional settings. Youthfulness is a typically considered a virtue, but no one wants to be perceived as a child. It is hard to take a "girl" seriously.
  #76  
Old 01-07-2019, 08:13 PM
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So you intentionally chose the worst examples of songs to undermine your point?

And they aren’t even funny. “Woman, You’ll Be a Girl Soon” by Neil Diamond is about ten times funnier than any example you came up with.
No, I found a list and picked examples of songs by women. Women who don't have a problem using the word "girl."
  #77  
Old 01-07-2019, 11:25 PM
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As the guy who wrote the OP for the “Fiji Water Girl” thread, allow me to point out that I was copying the original headline, and that I do not go about calling mature women “girls.” Even though I enjoy using period slang, I also refrain from saying broads, dolls, dames, or skirts.
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  #78  
Old 01-07-2019, 11:58 PM
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There's a trend online with fans, especially when the fandom would be comprised at least 50% of women, and it's that "boy" is completely commonplace now. There's a specific context in which it's being used, and it's interesting to consider. Basically, it's only used when talking indirectly about male people of any age, and even moreso when it's in reference to a character, i.e. a person that isn't real (Batman, for example.). It's become a way to subtly exert a claim or ownership over that character. For example, there might be a tweet like "I watched the new Spider-Man movie and I love this boy." with an attached picture of Miles. Or, for example, "best boy", as in your favorite, i.e. "Nightwing is clearly best boy and Batman can go jump off a ledge." or "Hanzo is best boy and I won't hear otherwise." They all have a protective context to them where the people are choosing to love a specific "boy", but it's detached from the age of the character. This used to be common only with the word "girl", but now it's equal with both genders, or maybe even MORE skewed towards using "boy" now. Now that this context has become commonplace, I no longer rankle at women being called girls in the same context. When it comes to real-life interactions, though, I think it's important to try and stick to men and women so as to keep from being insulting. Guys and ladies is also fine. I wouldn't want to see "boy" sneaking into the office to level the playing field there; instead we can raise women up. But when we're just talking about people indirectly (like movie actors), or people that don't exist, hey just call 'em all girls and boys, it's fine. It's cute.

Last edited by Macca26; 01-08-2019 at 12:02 AM.
  #79  
Old 01-08-2019, 12:24 AM
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Depends on the situation. It's offensive when referring to an actual person or in a professional setting, but changing songs would be stupid, especially songs written by women.

If in an office situation a guy tells a group of women: "Hey girls, let's do this!" That's offensive.
If a woman is talking to a group of friends says: "Hey girls, let's do this!" That's not offensive.
  #80  
Old 01-08-2019, 05:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Darren Garrison View Post
No, I found a list and picked examples of songs by women. Women who don't have a problem using the word "girl."
And they are using it in a particular way, that directly contradicts the point you are trying to make. The females who performed the songs were using the term “girl” in the value-laden way that you are denying exists. Replacing it with “woman” doesn’t correct an error; it makes the song nonsensical because the female subject of the song is no longer a person capable of acting like a grown up.

There are clearly other cases where “girl” can be used for adults without such connotations. You just chose examples that intentionally use the word girl to embrace those connotations, apparently without much thought other than”if a girl says it, it’s ok.” Maybe the thought that the woman was using the term to manipulate the listener didn’t occur to you?
  #81  
Old 01-08-2019, 09:10 AM
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Words that are generally offensive can be not in the right context; any word can be offensive in the wrong context or tone of voice. There are a few people from whom I don't find "girl" offensive when it's used to refer to an adult woman, but it's people who also refer to any male as "boy". Usually, when someone refers to a woman as a girl it's to indicate that she doesn't deserve adult treatment: that is definitely offensive. And women who prefer to be called girls are usually expecting to not be required to think or work for themselves: that I find slap-worthy.

A few years ago, I was talking to my mother about a guy at work:
Me: "... and he's one of those [mocking voice]'the girls'[/mv] kind of guys."
Littlebro, 8 years younger: "OK, I need translation. I've heard my gf and her friends talk about that as well and I know I'm missing some key data. Explain?"
Me: "I'm not talking about those guys who call anybody 'lad' and 'lass', who if the Popemobile rolled in front of their house would climb it, envelop the Pope in a bearhug and say 'MA BOOOOOY! YOU GOTTA COM'IN, I GOTTA CHORIZO AN' SOME RED YOU JUST HAFTA TRY!'. I'm talking about those guys who refer to me or to my 6-years-older boss as [drag queen tones]'girls'[/dqt] but who would refer to you as [bowing and scraping]Mr. Lastname[/bas]."
Littlebro: " Oh! Oh God yes, I know quite a few of those! Ugh!"

Last edited by Nava; 01-08-2019 at 09:13 AM.
  #82  
Old 01-08-2019, 09:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Malleus, Incus, Stapes! View Post
"Guys", to me, is always gender-neutral. "Guy", singular, is usually male but can mean both depending on the context.
Referring to a mixed group as 'guys' can also be used by a woman or women in the group as leverage via the claim it ignores or 'diminishes' them. Once you're playing that game full bore, there's almost no limit to what can be considered 'offensive'.

So 'depends on context' is a weasel answer IMO. Almost any word can be offensive in *some* context, and the more so under the continual expansion of the concept of giving 'offense'.

That said, there is always some standard of what's an appropriate way to address somebody. For example by using honorifics like mr, miss, mrs, ms (though latter three also subject to modern PC complaining about one or another being 'offensive') rather than addressing somebody by just their surname. Or cases where it's not appropriate to use their first name, or their name (less US/English speaking-centrically, in some Asian cultures by tradition you only address very close relatives or friends by their names).

'So who gets to decide?' Not any single person, I certainly don't pretend to be the arbiter. The problem though is where conflicting standards are used as a weapon, which is where US society is now.
  #83  
Old 01-08-2019, 10:06 AM
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William Safire once wrote an On Language column on this very subject, after a woman called him out for introducing her as a "girl photographer." He wrote "While calling a woman a girl is not as offensive as calling a black man a boy...."

He got letters pointing out it is exactly the same as calling a man of any color a "boy." You are implying that the person in question is not fully capable of being an adult, and that is extremely offensive.

Next you'll be telling me that if a pregnant girl in a group of one million such people goes into labor and ives birth to a baby boy, it is okay to call that "a group of men."
  #84  
Old 01-08-2019, 12:06 PM
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The poll results are interesting.
  #85  
Old 01-08-2019, 12:26 PM
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Since it was my comment that prompted this, I'll weigh in: There are contexts where it's not offensive, which are basically the same contexts where it'd be inoffensive to refer to an adult male as a "boy".
But wouldn't this be a case where the context is the same. A water boy is no more offensive to call an adult male than a water girl is for an adult female.
  #86  
Old 01-08-2019, 12:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Yllaria View Post
In California, "guys" can refer to either sex/gender, which can confuse folks from other states.
In PA you have some of that but again tied to context; "guys" is sometimes used as a synonym for team or for any group of people even if all happen to be female. At work the one lane is often all female and it threw a visiting boss to hear them constantly yelling "C'mon guys" and "Hey guys" at each other.
  #87  
Old 01-08-2019, 01:42 PM
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And they are using it in a particular way, that directly contradicts the point you are trying to make. The females who performed the songs were using the term “girl” in the value-laden way that you are denying exists.

The only "point" I'm trying to "make" is taking a poll to see people's positions on whether or not using the word "girl" on an adult human female was inherently offensive. The examples I gave were simply showing that not every woman thinks so. Whatever "point" you are seeing in that related to my "denying the existence" of "value-laden" meanings is absolutely nothing more than projection on your part. My real point of interest is very simple--language descriptivism verses language proscriptivism. Insisting that "girl" applies only to adolescent and younger females and not to (primarily young) adult females when both common useage and dictionary definitions recognize otherwise is strong language proscriptivism. To sum it even more immediately, "Is it offensive to say 'Fiji Water Girl' instead of 'Fiji Water Woman'?" And I don't even understand what this part



Quote:
Replacing it with “woman” doesn’t correct an error; it makes the song nonsensical because the female subject of the song is no longer a person capable of acting like a grown up.

Even means. Seriously--replacing the word "girl" with the word "woman" changes the meaning so that the character in the song is no longer capable of acting like a grownup?" I don't see the logic in that.
  #88  
Old 01-08-2019, 02:06 PM
Malleus, Incus, Stapes! Malleus, Incus, Stapes! is offline
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The poll results are interesting.
Indeedy.
  #89  
Old 01-08-2019, 02:10 PM
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I have heard women referring to each other as "dude." I love it.

I'm surprised no one has brought up "boyfriend" and "girlfriend." These seem to apply with equal facility to anyone you're dating steadily or living-with-but-not-married-to, be they gay, straight or anywhere in between, and at any age from pre-teen to retirement home.

Sure, people sometimes insist on "ladyfriend," "manfriend," "partner" or (ugh) "significant other," but give me "boyfriend" and "girlfriend" any day.

One last thing -- my wife refers to herself as "girl" all the time, e.g, "I love most Thai food, but I'm not a curry girl."
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Last edited by Akaj; 01-08-2019 at 02:12 PM.
  #90  
Old 01-08-2019, 02:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Darren Garrison View Post
...My real point of interest is very simple--language descriptivism verses language proscriptivism...
No, this is quite different. You're asking about our views on whether it's socially appropriate to use certain vocabulary.
  #91  
Old 01-08-2019, 02:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Darren Garrison View Post
Should all these songs, for example, be modified to say "woman" to be inoffensive? Gwen Stephani needs to sing Hollaback Woman, Madonna Material Woman, Paula Abdul Forever Your Woman, Katie Perry I Kissed a Woman, Christina Aguilera What a Woman Wants, Pink Most Women, etc.? Are adult human females who use the term "girl" to describe other adult human females wrong, and in need of correction?
Not at all. In fact Elton John should have been a Rocket Boy, Billy Joel the Piano Boy, Spencer Davis Group should have sung I'm A Boy, Z.Z. Top should have been a Sharp Dressed Boy. We also need Nowhere Boy, Mr. Tambourine Boy, and Street Fighting Boy.
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  #92  
Old 01-08-2019, 02:31 PM
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Spencer Davis Group should have sung I'm A Boy ....
But The Who beat them to it.
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  #93  
Old 01-08-2019, 02:54 PM
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Not to interfere with a good discussion but I just want to point out that the term water boy has been around for a while and in it's modern context doesn't really have much to do with age. Referring to a women doing the job of a water boy as a water girl doesn't seem to be intended to be offensive.

ETA: Sorry Nauplius I didn't see your post

Last edited by sitchensis; 01-08-2019 at 02:57 PM.
  #94  
Old 01-08-2019, 03:02 PM
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Originally Posted by susan View Post
The poll results are interesting.
They are. We have a long way to go, even with women.
  #95  
Old 01-08-2019, 03:11 PM
Dewey Finn Dewey Finn is offline
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Note that the poll question is whether the use of the word is inherently offensive. Plenty of those who posted here recognize that sometimes it's not offensive to refer to an adult woman as a girl, or to refer to an adult man as a boy.
  #96  
Old 01-08-2019, 03:53 PM
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Inherently? No. Because context. There are, for example, certain fixed phrases, like "You go, girl!" It can be used inclusively or self-referentially, where the speaker considers themselves a girl. And there's also using it to make a point--particularly when disapproving.

Your examples are acceptable examples. "Hollaback Girl"'s lyrics are "I ain't no holla back girl," saying bad things about considering a woman just to be a last-ditch fuck buddy. "Material Girl" is self-referential, and using an existing phrase. "What a Girl Wants" is self referential, and "Most Girls" is inclusive.

The only weird one is "I Kissed a Girl." It does feel acceptable to me, but I'm not entirely sure why. It may jut be because the speaker is female and refers to herself as a "good girl" (another common phrase) in the song.

Still, I could see someone arguing that all such language ultimately comes from the male infantilizing of attractive women. But, even with that argument, we aren't there as a society to object, and there's not really a good replacement. It's not like "boy" which we can replace with "guy" or "dude." "Girl" is the informal term for younger women.
  #97  
Old 01-08-2019, 04:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Darren Garrison View Post
Even means. Seriously--replacing the word "girl" with the word "woman" changes the meaning so that the character in the song is no longer capable of acting like a grownup?" I don't see the logic in that.
I believe they mean that, if you replace the word with "woman," you are a grown up. Woman means female adult. So you can't pretend to be a grown up if you already are grown up.

That said, I do agree with you that they are adding meaning to what you said. Neither what you said nor the context you said it in implies that you are making the point Ravenman claims.

What I will say is that your question obscures the underlying question of whether or not "Fiji Water Girl" is one of those contexts where it is okay or offensive.

I would argue that it is not offensive, per se, but I would understand people preferring a better term. I do get a vague sense of her being lesser, same as I do with the term "water boy."

I don't see any reason why "Fiji Water Lady" wouldn't work. Or even a gender neutral "Fiji Water Giver" or similar.
  #98  
Old 01-08-2019, 05:04 PM
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In the sixties (and I'm assuming before), calling a woman a woman was often considered to be demeaning. The polite term was lady and if you didn't use that, you were implying that she was somehow less than a lady. Hence the comedy satire group, LAW (Ladies Against Women).
Eh, not so much. The term woman was only considered an insult if it was spoken to clearly indicate the person wasn't a lady--that is, didn't conform to social norms for women in appearance, conduct, language, etc. But in all other contexts, it was fine. The beginning of the popular TV show Ben Casey began with "Man, woman, birth, death, infinity." Then there were the songs: "When a Man Loves a Woman," "Pretty Woman," etc.These were obviously not intended as insults.

Actually, it was the rise of feminism in the Sixties that led to the eventual decline in the use of the term lady as a term that confined women to the restrictive social norms of the day. The 1970s bestseller The Women's Room, featured a cover in which the word "Ladies" was crossed out on the sign, "Ladies Room."

That doesn't mean lady disappeared, of course. In 1971, Tom Jones had a huge hit with "She's a Lady," a Paul Anka song. Anka rewrote the first verse in 2013 because he now disliked its "chauvinism." The original:

Well, she's all you'd ever want
She's the kind I like to flaunt and take to dinner
But she always knows her place
She's got style, she's got grace, she's a winner


You can see why "she always knows her place" might offend women now, and why, even to Anka's conservative eyes, seems a little...dated.
  #99  
Old 01-08-2019, 06:13 PM
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Originally Posted by AHunter3 View Post
The main context from which the notion that it's offensive arises is the lack of parallel use of "boy" for an adult male human
That's absolutely not true in the UK. Boy is commonly used for adult men. "Me and the boys are going to the boozer tonight", "My dear boy..." (though you need to be grandfatherly), "How are your boys doing?" (when the boys are grown men in their 50s), "Give me the word and I'll send the boys round", "Yes, the boys will be round mid-afternoon to finish the painting", and so on. You can substitute lads for boys and lassies for girls.

And I'm firmly of the opinion that a sufficiently skilled orator can make anything offensive.
  #100  
Old 01-08-2019, 06:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Darren Garrison View Post
My real point of interest is very simple--language descriptivism verses language proscriptivism. Insisting that "girl" applies only to adolescent and younger females and not to (primarily young) adult females when both common useage and dictionary definitions recognize otherwise is strong language proscriptivism.
Prescriptivism. To "prescribe" something is to dictate what it ought to be. To "proscribe" something is to forbid or prohibit it.
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