Here's something I often wonder about: if males are called "men" or "guys" (or "blokes" or "chaps" in England) then what can women be called?

Sometimes I use the word "chick" but that implies someone who's not the smartest on the planet. "Guy" doesn't imply anything negative or dumb or offensive, but "chick" seems to be frivolous. I don't want to say "woman" because it sounds so grown-up and serious, and "lady" reminds me of someone who's put on a lot of lipstick and is uptight. It's also outdated, though sometimes I hear people using that word. "Woman" is more standard, as "man" is. I wouldn't say, "I need to talk to that man over there." Yuck--it's so formal and stiff. But I often, or always, say, "I need to talk to that guy over there." There's nothing wrong about the sound or implication of that word.

So what should we say about women? Sometimes I say "girl" but that's really a word for someone much younger. "Chick" seems like it's meant to be a compromise between the young and old, but it's shallow.

So what's a good word?


Arrogant Polyglot said...

Good question, MJ. Without tremendous reflection, I would say that I use 'chick' as my default for any girl of or about my age. I would probably never call a 9 year old 'chick', nor a 90 year old for that matter. So 'chick', for me, would be any girl/woman between the ages of, say, 15 to 40. After that, I'd most likely use 'cougar' (!)

I don't think 'chick' is pejorative. It doesn't strike me as offensive at all.

And I suppose it's better than the French equivalent: une nana.

mj said...

It's not offensive but it's lightweight, while "guy" has a firmer feel about it. I use "chick" sometimes, but it seems cartooney and doesn't have gravitas.

Maybe I should make a public appeal for a guy-type word for a chick.

Abel said...

OK, maybe it's just a tad old-fashioned, but how about "gal"?
I think it's just about the equivalent of "guy", it carries no negative connotations that I'm aware of, and it seems to suggest more substance than "chick". If it's "out" maybe we should bring it back; it would be easier than establishing a new word.

mj said...

Good point--I hadn't thought of "gal." It's so 40's, but who cares. Maybe some "famous" cultural commentator or language guy/gal will try to bring about its re-emergence.