Thursday, February 16, 2006

post the fifty-first

As promised, today I discuss the issue of the word "boy."

Boy carries a certain connotation that the words guy and man do not. I don't really mind being called a guy; as a 23 year old male, I feel like that might be the most appropriate description of me. Man seems to imply a sense of grown-up-ness. Men are the ones running the government, businesses (for the most part; Steve Jobs, for instance, is definitely a guy), and other important aspects of society. I'm pretty sure that I'm not a man just yet, or, at least, I'm not one very often. I rather prefer being a guy, in which state I can be irresponsible from time to time. Being a guy just feels cooler than being a man.

But a boy...

The term boy, to me, at least, seems almost condescending. There really isn't a female counterpart to it that I'm aware of. Seven, seveteen, and twenty-seven year old females can all safely be called girls. There aren't any subtle nuances that are carried with that term. However, boy does carry some implications with it. I feel like calling a male a boy implies that he is still emotionally immature. This feels especially so when young women talk about boys that they're interested in. It feels as though they are (subconsciously, perhaps) setting themselves above these males. I, for my part, feel slighted when I'm referred to as a boy. I really don't like it. I'd much prefer to be called a guy, or perhaps even a young man. I wouldn't mind being called a man, terribly, but it makes me feel more grown-up and responsible, which feelings I'm not sure I'm ready to take on just now.

Maybe some others of you have felt like this before. Maybe you haven't. In either case, I'm very tired from having taken Petra to the airport this morning for a flight which, to my knowledge, left the airport after sitting at the gate and on the runway for over four hours. Good thing I got up at 4:30. When I get really tired like this, I get increasingly philosophical, and I think it's coming out in this post. Maybe I should go take a nap.


bawb said...

Great post. Dave Barry's Guide to Guys makes a similar distinction between a "guy" and a "man," you may know. I like that book.

Sorry the flight was held up.

Random Reader said...

I disagree about the female counterpart; I feel the same way about being called a 'girl.'

Gals, ladies, women...all fine.

By the way, the connotations change completely when you compound the word. There's a big difference between guy-friend and Boyfriend (notice the capitalization).

Petra said...

Now, not to be too obsessive about correcting you every online chance I get, but there is a danger to calling women "girls" after a certain age; many are offended by it, claiming that it carries those exact same condescending connotations.

Also, boy, oh boy, you think you're tired. And bawb, I'll accept that commiseration. That was quite possibly the worst day of travel I've ever had, which includes my 16 hours of throwing up from Riyadh to Paris.

And I like random reader's point about compounding--there's also a big difference between boy toy and guy toy. And playboy and playguy. And tomboy and tomguy. And boycott and guycott. And boysenberry and guysenberry.

And by the way, I think I'm going to start every conversation about you now with "this boy I know named Op..."

Katya said...

I have to agree with the random reader, that "girl" is much closer to being the counterpart of "boy" than it is to "guy," but I don't think that there is a good female equivalent for "guy." "Girl" runs the risk of being patronizing, "lady" is very formal (or oddly informal: "Hey, lady!"), "gal" is old-fashioned, and "woman" sounds old (although it's OK in a business setting).

I imagine that males (how's that for sidestepping the issue?) don't like being called "boys" because they don't like the diminutive connotations that go along with it. Females don't really have much choice about being diminuized.

morningglow said...

I don't mind being called a girl. I also don't mind being called a woman. Some days I feel all grown up, and others, I feel like I'm 7 years old.

I think i like it most when people call me sister. Not as in "Sister Fleming" though I don't mind that either. I just love it when people call me sister.

Redoubt said...

Try "girlie."

*attempts to stab memories of ex out of brain*