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Someone arrived at my blog via the following search this morning: 

is +"gal" a derogatory term

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.


I dunno. I've never liked gal, but then, I'm perfectly okay with "girl" as an informal term for a woman, no matter what age. It's exactly the complementary term to "guy," as in: Girls' Night Out/Guys' Night Out, just the girls/just the guys, etc. If women prefer another term, I wished they define it. None of the old ones seem appropriate anymore: chicks, dolls, [b]and[/b] gals all feel out of date.

I have always felt gal(s) was a term that you would use for the female equivalent of being one of the boys, rather than a gentleman or lady. It comes from mid-century when class was still a defining social issue and a gal was a good girl who wasn't "high society"...she was a good gal, nice to be around.

Maybe it is too reminiscent of that dichotomy for many people.

When I hear someone called a gal, I don't think mid-century as in the 50s. I think Beach-Boys-era (late 60s) surfer girls.

I think gal is the female 'boy.' Context is king. If we're in some parts of the US, then it's probably derogatory, at least in terms of a power/respect issue. But probably not always.

It also depends on what part of the country you are from. Gal is very common here in Texas, so I doubt many people would take it rudely.

I have just been informed after saying gal that it is considered a derogitory term in the south due to the fact that it was used to put down slave women. I being from about 3 hours from Canada didn't realize it myself but have been corrected may times since moving to the south. Now you know.

A friend of mine who lived in the South for at least a decade says he's never heard that. So I'm not sure I do know.

"It also depends on what part of the country you are from. Gal is very common here in Texas, so I doubt many people would take it rudely."

David - common or not, I found out yesterday that some African American women consider the term offensive.

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