Media Blog

In Search of Things to Resent

The politically correct mind always is in search of things to resent. Apropos of apparently nothing, Salon’s Kate Harding examines her discomfort with the world “girl.”

One only has to look at the evolution of the word “lady” — from honorific to patronizing to almost exclusively tongue-in-cheek (with various detours along the way) — to see that the perception of an adjective meaning “female person” can change with the times. Anyone can earn the right to call me a “girl,” just as anyone can earn the right to call me “Katy” instead of “Kate” — but you’d best not do either before you’ve otherwise demonstrated respect for my adult competence.

Goodness gracious, angels and ministers of grace defend us, the rights that must be earned! But one wonders if she’s familiar with the evolution of the word “girl”? Via World Wide Words:

For about two hundred years after it arrived in the language in the thirteenth century girl was indeed a general term for any young person. If a writer wanted to make clear the sex of the person, he had to add a qualifier: knave girl for a boy, and gay girl for a young woman.

Got that? To our Auld Ynglish-speaking ancestors, a boy-girl was a knave and a girl-girl was gay. But that was back in the dark ages, when there were only two sexes. (“Hermaphroditic heresies”: If PBS doesn’t do it, who will?)

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