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Language Matter

Why should not refer to a woman as “girl”, the very same way we don’t refer to a man as “boy”.

In Italy, where I was born and raised, it’s extremely common to use the words “ragazzo” and “ragazza” (boy and girl), to address people until they are over fifty years old.

The language have the right words for them, “uomo” and “donna”, but people commonly use the younger versions. 

I have always been against this common mistake for the very same reasons Mayim Bialik explains in the video.

By Luca Sartoni

Team Lead at Automattic, WordPress contributor, co-organiser at WordCamp Europe, blogger, photographer, geek, nerd.

One reply on “Language Matter”

This is interesting, and I’m absolutely guilty of it (and will pay more attention to it in the future). I think English, or at least the American English I’ve been raised on (and I’m guessing Mayam Bialik as well), complicates this a bit further:

With men, there’s a safe middle ground: I wouldn’t call the men I work with “men” – or rather, I wouldn’t call a single one, individually, a man. Man is too old, too formal for my tastes (and for the people I’m generally referring to). So I use “guy”. It’s clearly a step up in seniority from “boy”, but steers clear of the weird formal connotations of “man”.

We don’t really have this middle ground with “woman”. I suppose the analog to “guy” might be “gal”, but using “gal” makes the speaker sound about 75, and referring to a potential dance partner. As a result, the comparison between what we call grown men and grown women becomes a little muddier.

I’ll still start using “woman”, because Mayam is right – “girl” is too diminutive, too condescending, and I probably would not have considered that on my own.

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