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  Updated 1-2-08




























Southern Humorists shoot the breeze about girls 

Nowadays, political correctness is sometimes hard to define and writers can get themselves in a heap of trouble without even knowing why. 

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 tips.

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 girl."

George then shared his experience with the word "girl" from when he was a newspaper editor way back in 1991:

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 females upstairs.

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 them.

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 published.

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.

Leeuna agreed:

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 [email protected]@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 situation:

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. 

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 politically correct:

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 archaic sense.

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 word.

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 any:

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.

So, hopefully 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.


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