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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  #101  
Old 01-08-2019, 06:42 PM
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Yes, we all know that there are some contexts where an adult man can be called "boy" without offense. And in those same contexts, an adult woman can also be called "girl" without offense. But the point is, there are a lot of other contexts where an adult man would not be called a boy, but an adult woman would be called a girl.

As for "Fiji water girl", if a bottled-water company had hired male models to mingle at a high-society event and pass out water, does anyone seriously contend that they would be referred to as "water boys"?

Quote:
Quoth BigT:

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.
The parallel fails, because "guy" or "dude" aren't informal terms for a young man. They're informal terms for a man of any age. What would you informally call an old woman? Is there any reason you can't use the same term for a young woman?
  #102  
Old 01-08-2019, 07:39 PM
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So the takeaway is, basically, that while using the word "girl" to describe an adult woman is not necessarily inherently offensive, it does have a high probability of being perceived as offensive and therefore is best avoided unless you are very, very certain you know your audience. Like, y'know, a lot of other words.
  #103  
Old 01-08-2019, 07:47 PM
HowSoonIsThen HowSoonIsThen is offline
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I doubt I have much new to add here, but seeing as I voted (I'm a male human and I say no) I should at least explain my answer

I usually say girl, but I mean it as the opposite of "guy" not the opposite of "boy". I don't think it's inherently offensive, but if someone asked me not to call them a girl I'd happily oblige. That's just common decency.
  #104  
Old 01-08-2019, 08:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
As for "Fiji water girl", if a bottled-water company had hired male models to mingle at a high-society event and pass out water, does anyone seriously contend that they would be referred to as "water boys"?
I'm not sure if you're contending they would or wouldn't be referred to as "water boys". Because I think they would. I don't think they'd be called the "Fiji Water boys", true, however they might be called "waterboys" because that's a person, not necessarily a young male, who passes out water.
  #105  
Old 01-08-2019, 08:48 PM
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I spent my teens surrounded by handicapped / retarded / mentally deficient people my own age. There is, AFAIK, no term that can be used to refer to an unnamed handicapped / retarded / mentally deficient person that is not inherently offensive. The offense is inherent in the content.

That influences my thinking on other examples of attempted thought control by language manipulation: if "girl" is offensive, it's because the group it refers to is low-status or broken. You can't fix that by adopting a different word.
  #106  
Old 01-09-2019, 07:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Akaj View Post
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.
We are both 60, have lived together for over15 years, and plan to be together until one of us kicks. We've used girlfriend/boyfriend but it's always a bit cringe inducing. Lately we just introduce each other as husband/wife when we meet new people.
  #107  
Old 01-09-2019, 07:51 AM
purplehorseshoe purplehorseshoe is offline
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The late Other Shoe and I were together over 10 years before we even married. I started using "my non-lesbian partner" in some cases (after discovering that referring to "my partner" when he wasn't around led to certain .. assumptions) and it got the point across.

There really isn't any other good term in American English for that relationship.

(As an aside, in Polish, the term used translates literally into "my boy" or "my girl" using exactly the same word as used for a prepubescent child of that gender. Confused the hell outta me at first.)
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  #108  
Old 01-09-2019, 10:23 AM
Ashtura Ashtura is offline
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It's funny, I was watching the new Ellen Netflix stand-up special, and this topic must have been in the back of my mind, because I notice she referred to herself as a "girl" several times. And she's 60.
  #109  
Old 01-09-2019, 02:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
As for "Fiji water girl", if a bottled-water company had hired male models to mingle at a high-society event and pass out water, does anyone seriously contend that they would be referred to as "water boys"?
Likely not, but I do think that the term 'water boy' or 'water girl' are discriminatory in a class sense. In that service people are not as fully adult as those that work 'real' jobs, so they can be called boy and girl - same concept as the 'girl at the front desk' sort of thing.
  #110  
Old 01-09-2019, 02:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Chingon View Post
Well I think it might depend on the context.
Exactly - but in the "general" context, I would say yes, just as saying "boy" to an adult male, regardless of race, is inherently offensive.

Note that there are some instances where "girl" is part of the nomenclature - for example, on So You Think You Can Dance?, they have no problem with calling the female dancers "girls" even though, by rule, all of them are at least 18; I think it's a "dance thing" of some sort.
  #111  
Old 01-09-2019, 07:09 PM
Melbourne Melbourne is offline
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I was told (OED) that the word boy was related to the word buoy, from fettered, chained: that the relationship of boy to servant didn't derive independently from ideas of immaturity.
  #112  
Old 01-09-2019, 07:10 PM
Melbourne Melbourne is offline
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Exactly - but in the "general" context, I would say yes, just as saying "boy" to an adult male, regardless of race, is inherently offensive.
Unless they're Irish.
  #113  
Old 01-10-2019, 01:45 AM
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Naah, that's boyo

I voted "other opinion" - it's inherently offensive if a cis-het man says it.

Last edited by MrDibble; 01-10-2019 at 01:47 AM.
  #114  
Old 01-10-2019, 01:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Melbourne View Post
I was told (OED) that the word boy was related to the word buoy, from fettered, chained:
The etymologies of boy and buoy are unrelated. Or there wouldn't be all those Germanic "boy" cognates.

Last edited by MrDibble; 01-10-2019 at 01:51 AM.
  #115  
Old 01-10-2019, 02:16 AM
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I think the operative word is "inherently". There's no such thing as an "inherently" offensive word.

Except maybe "pedantic".
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  #116  
Old 01-10-2019, 03:10 AM
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Originally Posted by MrKnowItAll View Post
I think the operative word is "inherently". There's no such thing as an "inherently" offensive word.

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  #117  
Old 01-10-2019, 03:15 AM
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What is the current thinking on "little filly"?
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  #118  
Old 01-10-2019, 03:44 AM
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I am aware that some people might bristle at "girl" is some circumstances, so I do try to reduce my usage, but I hope I wouldn't be condemned immediately if it did slip out. It is part of the vernacular, after all.
  #119  
Old 01-10-2019, 06:31 AM
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Originally Posted by MrDibble View Post
The etymologies of boy and buoy are unrelated. Or there wouldn't be all those Germanic "boy" cognates.
My OED is old. Opinion about the etymologies of boy and buoy must have changed.
  #120  
Old 01-10-2019, 01:56 PM
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It depends. A little kid calling a woman a girl because that's how they think, no problem. I'm fine with a woman referring to friends as girls. Girls night out and all that. A grown man calling a grown woman a girl? No. I wouldn't call a grown man a boy, either. A grown woman or man calling a minor female a girl, ok. A grown woman calling a younger adult woman a girl...depends. Certainly not to someone's face. i.e. I might refer to someone as a girl to an older (like me) woman friend but I wouldn't call her a girl to her face.
  #121  
Old 01-10-2019, 02:00 PM
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No word is "inherently" anything. Context always matters.

Words are arbitrary combinations of sounds that accumulate connotations through use. How people use a word creates meaning.

If "girl" has a sufficient history of use that undermines the status of adult women in society, then that is a reason to avoid it, not because of any inherent characteristics.
  #122  
Old 01-10-2019, 05:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
The parallel fails, because "guy" or "dude" aren't informal terms for a young man. They're informal terms for a man of any age. What would you informally call an old woman? Is there any reason you can't use the same term for a young woman?
You appear to miss my point. What I'm actually saying is that there is no female equivalent to "guy" or "dude." And so "girl" has evolved to fill that place.

"Girl" is both the female version of "boy" and of "guy." "Gal" didn't take off. And "dudette" is surfer lingo.

I do argue this lexical gap is because women were historically infantilized. But I can't force the existence of a new word to fill in the gap. I have to accept that "girl" will be used in contexts where "guy" would be used for a man.

That said, in this particular instance, there's precedent for using a more formal term than usual for service jobs. I've heard people say the "mail lady" or the "beer lady." So I think the better term for this situation is "Fiji Water lady."

But I don't get too upset at "Fiji Water girl," either, as that is the current English-language female equivalent to "Fiji Water guy."

Last edited by BigT; 01-10-2019 at 05:02 PM.
  #123  
Old 01-10-2019, 06:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BigT View Post
I've heard people say the "mail lady" or the "beer lady."
"Beer lady"?
"Beer lady"?

You heard someone refer to another human being as a "beer lady"?

Details please, I'm laughing out loud imagining possible explanations.
  #124  
Old 01-10-2019, 09:29 PM
Siam Sam Siam Sam is offline
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Originally Posted by kayaker View Post
"Beer lady"?
"Beer lady"?

You heard someone refer to another human being as a "beer lady"?

Details please, I'm laughing out loud imagining possible explanations.
Thailand has beer girls. They hang out in regular -- not brothel-type -- pubs and restaurants promoting certain brands of beer. They will be dressed in the colors of the brand. Some examples can be seen here.

Every Japanese baseball game has beer girls running through the stands topping up spectators' glasses. Info here.
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  #125  
Old 01-10-2019, 10:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Siam Sam View Post
Thailand has beer girls. They hang out in regular -- not brothel-type -- pubs and restaurants promoting certain brands of beer. They will be dressed in the colors of the brand. Some examples can be seen here.

Every Japanese baseball game has beer girls running through the stands topping up spectators' glasses. Info here.
I think I'd still rather go with Duffman.
  #126  
Old 01-10-2019, 11:16 PM
Haldurson Haldurson is offline
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Context is everything, but overall, you should address people by their name, or whatever is most proper for the social situation. I don't want anyone calling me boy, or dude -- offensive is not the right term though. I would feel annoyed and disrespected. Call me by my name, or if you don't know my name, ask me what it is. I would say that when in doubt (ie., if you haven't already established that the person will or won't take offense) simply call them by their name. Why even mess around? I don't get it? Why make this so complicated? People, whoever they are, may prefer being addressed in certain way. Other forms of address, offensive or not, would not be preferable to using the preferred way of addressing someone. Ma'am or Miz, or Mrs. for a woman during formal occasions, First name for informal, etc.

Last edited by Haldurson; 01-10-2019 at 11:21 PM.
  #127  
Old 01-11-2019, 07:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Siam Sam View Post
Thailand has beer girls. They hang out in regular -- not brothel-type -- pubs and restaurants promoting certain brands of beer. They will be dressed in the colors of the brand. Some examples can be seen here.

Every Japanese baseball game has beer girls running through the stands topping up spectators' glasses. Info here.
Yes, the US has beverage promotional girls. who do promo work for the big national labels. Nobody would ever refer to them as "beer ladies". Craft breweries like to deride the national breweries over this. A local brewery sent a beer-boy to a beer event. He was an overweight dude in a bathing suit and flip flops who was very knowledgeable about beer and very funny as well. The line to get a picture with him was longer than the beer-girl picture lines.
  #128  
Old 01-14-2019, 03:50 AM
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For the OP, I've made a conscious effort to think and use woman instead of girl for adult females, though I still might slip up from time to time.

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Originally Posted by Babale View Post
When women are actually fully in power - like some of the female pharaohs, or a few other monarchs throughout history - they tend to keep the same title. Even if people refer to them as "queens" in day to day speech, their legal title is identical. So however Context chooses to identify, they are legally a monarch holding the position of king :P
I think King Elizabeth would disagree with you. What you are showing is a manifestation of patriarchy, where the office is assumed to be male because, duh, men are the ones who hold power.


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Originally Posted by MEBuckner View Post
*Using "female" and "male" as nouns can also be offensive, in some contexts. I tend to associate it with "police-speak", and it can be racially charged, although obviously that isn't always the case: Single White Male, Single White Female, and so on.
Say what? Offensive?

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Originally Posted by minor7flat5 View Post
This is one of those places where an old guy seems less offensive than a younger guy.

I remember old bosses who would make a comment like "I'll check with the girl at the front desk" or something like that, and it flew right under the radar and seemed like something old guys say.

But unless you are nearing retirement age, it sounds offensive without without very specific context.
No, it sounds offensive either way. If you're 92, I may let it pass with a chuckle and a pat on the head, old boy.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
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 in most contexts, it would be considered out of place to use "boy", but nonetheless still common, for some reason, to use "girl". Since the offensive contexts are more common than the inoffensive ones, I answered "inherently offensive" in the poll.
Agreed.


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Originally Posted by Ravenman View Post
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.
I don't see that from the lyrics. https://genius.com/amp/Christina-agu...l-wants-lyrics
She wants a man who will be by her side and support her while she is a bit lost, one who will be faithful. But be the boss? Not seeing it.

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Originally Posted by Inigo Montoya View Post
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.
Materteral
https://en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/materteral

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Originally Posted by Annie-Xmas View Post
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."
Um, what?

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Originally Posted by BigT View Post
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.
Huh?

Quote:
Still, I could see someone arguing that all such language ultimately comes from the male infantilizing of attractive women.
I think it's more of robbing women of authority.

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Originally Posted by Melbourne View Post
That influences my thinking on other examples of attempted thought control by language manipulation: if "girl" is offensive, it's because the group it refers to is low-status or broken. You can't fix that by adopting a different word.
This is a different case. They're using the low status term to rob women of their status.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Haldurson View Post
I don't want anyone calling me boy, or dude -- offensive is not the right term though. I would feel annoyed and disrespected.
A distinction without a difference.

Last edited by Irishman; 01-14-2019 at 03:55 AM.
  #129  
Old 01-14-2019, 06:28 AM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Irishman View Post
Say what? Offensive?
Referring to a man as “a male” or a woman or women as “a female” or “females” is associated with police and military jargon and I perceive it as tending to be objectifying and dehumanizing.

The most jarring contexts are when a young black man is referred to as a “young black male” because that’s a common way to hear cops describe a criminal suspect. And when men “on the prowl” start referring to “females,” it feels very creepy and objectifying.
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