Saturday, March 24, 2007

Is it Insulting to Call Someone a Lady?

Andrea Learned, a blogger whose work I enjoy over at Marketing Profs, has posted a piece examining when to use the word "female" instead of "woman." She goes to that venerable etymologist, William Safire to solve the riddle. That's all well and good. Here's what struck me in her post.

The entire piece is worth reading (and perhaps posting on a company bulletin board) if you are involved in marketing to women, and is all the more the case if you are in an industry or business environment that still, even occasionally, refers to women as "ladies." (Egads.) In this day and age, most of the women I know would say that that 1950s-sounding word has an especially negative or condescending connotation.
My first reaction to that was, "If you're so thin-skinned that the word lady causes you to react negatively, you've got more problems than just picking out the correct words to use." Yes, I realize that the post is trying to help people use effective terms in marketing and ignoring the feelings of your audience is a bad thing to do, but still, what's the problem here?

Are we so full of modern arrogance towards the past that we can't handle the term "lady"? Geeze, get over it. My parents' generation knows for a fact that some things were better in the 1950s than they are now. Every generation has its good and bad. It's sad to see these little snippets of temporal snobbery.


Kelly the little black dog said...

Sad isn't it. I have to say I get really tired of hearing female instead of woman and lady. It sounds too clinical. I've noticed that there is a strong regional aspect to this. Its largely a coastal thing.

Anonymous said...

Q: Is it insulting to call someone a Lady?

A: Only if you follow it with "of the evening".

Seriously, those who are upset by being called "lady" are either hopelessly trying to PC our language towards "1984", or have a personal interpretation of "lady" that includes a connotation of age, well beyond their own age.

Foxfier said...

*chuckles* My mom uses the word "female" as a polite way of... er... saying she's not polite enough to be a lady and not mature enough to be a woman and not charming enough to be a girl!