Someone arrived at my blog via the following search this morning:
Excellent question. If a derogatory term requires that the speaker intends it to have a negative connotation, I don't think it's derogatory. And I do think that's what it means to be derogatory. But I've never been comfortable with the term. It's always seemed like a diminutive. I understand that it's intended to be a substitute for 'girl' to refer to people who are supposed to be old enough that 'girl' feels inappropriate but who aren't quite women yet. Or at least that's the intent. There's never any negative intent with this word as far as I've ever known, but something about it just rubs me the wrong way.