Monday, September 8, 2008

How We Talk

There was a time about 30 years ago, when the term"lady" was downgraded, with "woman" the preferred nomenclature for those of the female persuasion. "Lady" was reserved for our mothers. We were WOMEN, hear us roar. At the same time political correctness required that we use non-classist and non-racist words in referring to everyone. Thus the term, "cleaning lady" evolved, at least in the U.S. of A. (In Germany a putzfrau is not called a putzdame, but then they are not known for tact over there, much less polical correctness..) 

One result of this overly correct, non-offensive language is that terminology for referring to others has resulted in some strange, non-specific descriptions of people not previously accorded the terms "lady" or "gentlemen." For instance, I heard an employee of a bank which had been held up say that "the gentleman handed me a note demanding that I give him the money before he blew my ***** head off."  Our secretary at work would tell me there was a gentleman waiting to see me. Expecting to find Alistair Cooke, I would instead be confronted with Stanley Kowalski. One hears cops reporting being "kicked in the balls" by a combative "lady." These usages render the words meaningless

I don't know what to do about this, other than to drop the terms "lady" and "gentleman" from our vocabularies, since they no longer have a place in our egalitarian society. We're all men and women here, with no need to categorize our selves as gentlefolk. We did win the revolution.


Nancy Near Philadelphia said...
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Nancy Near Philadelphia said...

I remember as a young teen thinking the people I knew who were "ladies" were boring. And the ones that were "women" were boring, too, only older. Looked about for alternatives and came up with "broad" and "dame." Either one sounded so much more appealing.