Wordwatch Towers

A plain language guide to punctuation, grammar and writing well.

Girl and man

with 6 comments

Greece and Crete

Greece and Crete (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yep … here we go again. Look at this from today’s online Telegraph:

British girl, 21, ‘killed by jealous boyfriend during row at Greek party resort’

A 22-year-old British man has been charged with beating his girlfriend to death after allegedly flying into a jealous rage at a notorious Greek holiday resort on the island of Crete.

A 21-year-old female is a girl: a 22-year-old male is a man. I find this particularly disrespectful and inappropriate in circumstances such as this. An adult male murder victim would never, of course, be referred to as a ‘boy’.

Ladies first? Not often

Sorting the women from the girls

When is a man not a man?

She’s so intolerant but he doesn’t suffer fools gladly

Trilling and shrieking

The female of the species

Top scientist or top female scientist?

Gratuitous modifiers — or the lady bus driver

Excitable and bubbly

Am I allowed to say that?


6 Responses

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  1. Now wait one darn minute: (1) It’s the Telegraph, not the NY Review of Books. (2) The headline, which was intended to grab readers, calls her a girl and him a boy.

    The text couldn’t very well call her “womanfriend” or something. I’d say you’re reading too far into things–at least in this case.

    Michael Farrell

    18/05/2010 at 9:48 pm

    • Hi, Michael — I think it is probably more important to note because it is in the Telegraph, which is part of our common culture and therefore pervasive. He is not referred to as a ‘boy’, but a ‘boyfriend’. The headline does not read ‘jealous British boy’, and would never do so.

      I was not objecting to the terms ‘boyfriend’ and ‘girlfriend’.

      Recently, a number of women were murdered in the UK town of Ipswich. The media repeatedly referred to them as ‘girls’. The oldest was 29.


      19/05/2010 at 6:01 am

  2. Yes, that was terrible. I can understand the idea of a 21 year-old being a girl in conversation, but in a publication beside a 22 year-old ‘man’ is irksome. I think many US newspapers would not do that, though colloqually (sp.?) many people still call women girls. Sometimes older people call yoounger men boys, but it’s generally women and is diminutive (or however you spell it). Great post and definately worth getting mad over. You should write the editor.


    18/05/2010 at 10:01 pm

    • Hi, Lisa — thank you very much for your thoughts. I spent some time a few years ago writing to various publications, advertisers and media outlets about how they used language in relation to women. I got some very interesting replies, including at least two from journalists who agreed with the points I made and said they would be more careful in future. (They may just have been fobbing me off, but their responses seemed genuine). Thanks for your kind words, much appreciated.


      19/05/2010 at 6:06 am

  3. As usual, you are correct in pointing out the regularity of sexism in common usage. It’s a habit, but it’s also a choice.

    (I picked a new WP theme. I hope it will be more easily viewable to you and TT, and others who found the blackness overshadowed my messages.)

    Invisible Mikey

    19/05/2010 at 5:25 am

    • Thanks, Mikey — yes, and often a lazy, unthinking choice made by headline writers, as in this case.

      I love your new WP theme — I don’t have to squint and put my nose against the screen when I visit now. Thank you!


      19/05/2010 at 6:08 am

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