Wednesday, February 27, 2013

On Language

Good evening all.

I have no right to use that title for this blog entry.  "On Language" was a column by the late William Safire that appeared in the New York Times Magazine every Sunday.  It was a wonderful column.  His wisdom on language, and on most matters, is sorely missed.

After I wrote my entry on "Casablanca" being a 'chick flick,' I received a very cheeky response from one of my readers.  I chuckled at the way she made her point.  Her point was remarkably well said.

It was from the avian society commenting on birds and movies.

I decided to look up the term chick flick.  I deliberately came home to do it, as I had no clue what the websites would yield.  I did not want to risk something rather questionable showing up on my work computer.

One item from the first page of the search was a link to Oprah Winfrey's magazine.  Another was to an article on Squidoo by a female attorney.  Yet a third was to Cosmo.  I did not even leave the first page of the websearch.

Which yields the following question:

If an offensive term (chick=woman) becomes utterly common, to the point of being used even by those labelled with the offensive term, does it lose its offensiveness?

Today, the National Museum in Ottawa announced that it was going to stop using CE and BCE to refer to the turn of the millennium.  Instead, it will return to the old terms BC and AD.  BC and AD are clearly, unquestionably Christian.  On the one hand, the number is important.  If the year is 2013, whether we call it CE or AD does not take anything away from the fact that it is 2013 years since the birth of Jesus.  On the other hand, BC and AD are Christian terms in a world the mosaic of which is becoming more and more pronounced every day.  Maybe the letters do matter.

It has been a couple of weeks since I got the response.  I am still deciding whether or not to pull the one  blog entry.  I am also still deciding whether or not to change the wording.

What are your thoughts?


P.S.  Thank you to A.S. at the avian society for pointing this out.


  1. I've read the blog post in question and think you should keep it. It's your blog and therefore you are able to exercise your free speech and freedom of expression. I'm a woman and do not find the term chick flick offensive. Sometimes people are way too over sensitive and get offended far too easily these days. If the kind reader has an issue with said blog post then she shouldn't read it.

  2. Having read this blog entry last night, I have given your question a great deal of thought and like Debbie, do not find the term chick flick offensive. If someone were to call me a "chick" using a derogatory tone I would be offended, but the term chick flick has become widely used and accepted in every day language. As Debbie said - it is your blog and you should be able to say what you like/feel. Have a nice snowy day.

    1. Way too much PC in the word already. Why loose the use of a term so widely used and readily recognized when describing a certain genre of film? Someone will always be offended about something, even if it's presence is pure in motive. If you want to see this in it's extreme knee-jerk idiocy, watch Blazing Saddles on DVD. A movie written and directed by Jews, that through the use of satire attacked antisemitism, racism, greed, corruption, misogyny, ignorance and intolerance of all stripes. Then watch it on AMC cable. In deference to PC and potential nuisance suits, all "offensive" references are censored out. All the language which was there to put a fine point on hatred was deleted. An art form eloquently, as in efficient and effective use of language and nuance, making its point was censored. Because of PC induced cowardice, the First Amendment rights of the film's creators and participants were violated and it's salient point was ignored and, worse, neutered.

      It was the Jews who stepped forward in the south during civil rights. Mel Brooks and Norman Steinberg have the authority to write and use the lines:

      "Now, come on, boys! Where's your spirit? I don't hear no singing'. When you was slaves, you sang like birds. Go on, how 'bout a good ol' nigger work song? Y'all know the camptown

      [railroad workers are singing "I Get A Kick Out of You"] Hold it! Hold it! Hold it! What the hell is that sh#t? I meant a song. A real song. something like
      Lyle: Swing Low/ Sweet Chaaaariooooot
      [workers look confused]
      Lyle: Don't know that one, huh? How about The Camptown Ladies?

      De Camptown Ladies?, they murmur among themselves in feigned ignorance.

      Then the white oppressors foolishly sign and dance to The Camptown Ladies in a way that demeans them in front of the black workers.

      Since they see fit to bleep nigger, perhaps they should overdub "De camptown Ladies" to "The Camptown Ladies" in a white voice so as not to offend the people they are trying to dignify. But let the whites make fools of themselves. Where is the PC sense in all of it. A film trying to speak about respect for individual dignity and humanity is PC'd into insignificance. Time to get off the soapbox. Stick with chick flick. I'll get over it, anyway.

  3. I'm not offended a being called a chick, but the term "chick flick" offends me. It is generally used in a dismissive way to imply all kinds of things about supposed differences between men's and women's interests, with the underlying implication being that there is something silly about women (or men, for that matter) who enjoy stories about love and romance.

    As for BC and AD, most people have no idea what they stand for.

  4. Rosemary...looking at it that way, it could actually be a derogatory term about men. Men happen also to like love and romance. R/SCG