In this post, I told the story about the bookstore clerk who was asked whether a particular friend, who had just given birth, had had a boy or a girl. He answered, “She had a woman.” Reader writes, “So many jokes, so little time. How about, ‘Wow — she must have been in labor for days’?”
And here is a response to my item about “boys” and “girls,” and the politics (so to speak) of those words:
True story: A friend works in the petroleum industry. While living in Indonesia, he became friends with a fellow American, a 60-something southern gentleman who was the general manager of a cigarette-manufacturing plant. [Did Carmen work there?] [That was Spain, I realize.] This cigarette man had gone back to the U.S. to give a presentation to senior management of the parent company about his production operation outside Jakarta.
A few minutes into his presentation, he had mentioned, in his lovely southern drawl, that all of his cigarette assemblers were girls; that “the girls” this and “the girls” that. Unable to contain herself, a 30-something female VP boldly interrupted him, saying that it was sexist, degrading, and entirely out of line for him to belittle his production employees by repeatedly refering to them as “girls” and not “women.”
He paused to form a response and said, “Well, I don’t now what other word you would use to describe females between the ages of 8 and 14, but where I come from, it’s girls.”
A wonderful story, where lexical politics are concerned. We can talk about child labor in the Third World later . . .