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Ladies and Gentlemen

This is a post I first published on April 1, 2010

I noticed that Pseu subtitled her Post on Hand bags, (…one for ‘the girls’). She used quotation marks which to me, indicated that she was expressing caution when using that phrase to refer to the female members of this site. It made me think about the difference in the use of monikers as employed by the two sexes.

I am not sure where the responsibility for this lies, but it would seem to me that while there are plenty of terms by which one can refer to a male, there are relatively few which one can use to describe a female. What is more, those female forms are often considered by women to be patronising and/or insulting.

Consider, chap, fellow, fella, bloke, guy, oke (South African, as is ‘ou’.), lad, laddie, boys, men, geezer, gentlemen, gent, dude, mate. I am sure there are many more that others can think of. When addressing or speaking about members of the male sex, even adult men, use of any of these synonyms is very rarely considered insulting or patronising on their own. They would need a qualifier either in terms of tone or other descriptors to make them such. Generally speaking, if any adult male or female were to address one or more male adults, or indeed speak about them using any one of those terms it would not sound rude. The exception might be ‘boy’ in the singular, but in the plural, very few men would be angered, if one were to say, “come on boys, let’s go”. In fact all the words are largely affectionate and indicate a form of comradeship. Of course there are plenty of insulting terms for men too, but they are obviously intended as such; dick-head, for example.

On the other hand, look at the female equivalents: girls, ladies, lass, lassies, women, gals. Very soon one descends to glaringly patronising and demeaning, chick, honey, bint, bird, doll, shiela, petal, flower, peach, babe. There are not many names that are polite and few that are friendly. Even the use of girls or lassies can sound patronising while using ladies can sound too formal and is certainly limiting. Woman or women, just sounds brutally impersonal. There is no male equivalent of ‘gents’. After that the various forms become down right rude. Without going into any of them, we all know a few such expressions. Even then, the female insults are much worse than the male. To be called a dog, can almost be a compliment to a man.

So, I have some questions. Am I correct in my observations? If so, why is it do you suppose that the difference in number and meanings of synonyms for the two sexes exist?  How do women, individually and in a group, like to be addressed, other than by their names, when affection/companionship is being expressed. Am I confined to “Good morning ladies” or “come on ladies, let’s go”?

Categories: General Tags: , ,
  1. December 18, 2010 at 2:21 am

    Hello Sipu,

    I’m just having an early morning surf and I seem to have came into your waters. A fine blog on the issue of names. I knew a guy (there I’ve started) who became very upset if you called him a boy as in, example sentence: “How are you doing, Andy boy?” Bo Diddley would rear his angry head, I’m not a boy I’m a man he would say aggressively.

    The parlance of today would suggest that as there is no nice terms for women, they get called guys instead. This video is a take on the theme. I like the video very much as Limmy speaks in the same accent as me.

  2. December 18, 2010 at 5:56 am

    Hi TR, thanks for dropping in. Limmy makes the point well, though he does not suggest anything else. I can see that Bo Diddley would not have liked being called a boy, but that goes back to the whole race thing. Here in Africa and in the US, white employers referred to blacks as boys. Though it was not used in a derogatory sense, it was patronising and humiliating.

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