Weekly Poll: Is the word “Gal” offensive?

My husband works in a politically correct Fortune 500 corporate environment (with a woman CEO I might add) so he often engages in conversations with others about the proper way to address other employees.    Recently, he was told by one of his bosses that the word  “gal” was offensive and he should try not to use it when referring to the women in his department.   He thought that was odd so he came home to ask me about it.

S0 is the word “gal” offensive?  My husband was under the impression that “gal” is to “woman” as “guy” is to “man”.   I had to stop and think about it for a minute.   I don’t often pay that much attention to how anyone addresses me.   When talking to my all-girl band, I usually say “you guys” or “you ladies”.   I don’t use the term “gal”.   It conjures up pictures of some cowgirl-type with a Southern accent.   Not that that is a bad image, just not likely something we see up here in the Northern states, especially this close to the Windy City.   I know a lot of folks with Chicago accents and I just can’t recall ever hearing them refer to anyone as a “gal”.

Now that I think about it, maybe it’s a generational thing.   I’m in my 30’s and being a product of the 80’s, I am more likely to call someone a “dude” or a “chick” rather than a “guy” or a “gal”.   I do realize that some women take offense to being called a “chick”, though.   So what is proper and acceptable these days?  Give me your thoughts…

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  1. Terry says

    Gal is a casual way to refer to a woman just as guy is used to refer to a man. I dislike calling everyone “guy”. Ma’am is a term of respect. Gal is actually the English Cockney pronunciation of girl. Guy originally referred to Guy Fawkes, an Englishman who was hung (executed) by the British for attempting to blow up Parliament around 1606 to assassinate James I, his family and supporters on opening day. It was a Catholic attempt to end Protestantism brought about by Henry VIII. Guy was hung, and the next year people celebrated it. Some came dressed up as Guy Fawkes, and so the term “guy” was born. If he had been named “Bob”, we would now be saying “how are all you bobs doing?”

  2. Rebecca says

    Wow! This discussion has gone on for some time. I’ll start by saying I do not like to be called gal or girl as in “Hey girl” or the “girls in the office”. I tolerate “lady” but am fine with “woman”. If I am addressing a group of women who dislike “woman”, I don’t have a problem calling them ladies. I never say boys when discussing grown men, nor do I call men who are dating my older friends “boyfriends”. I simply say “she is dating Mike”. Because I am African American and “of a certain age”, I have spent many years of my life in situations where I am the only person of color in school, at work and in social situations. So, I have heard a little bit of everything! I always start with the assumption that if the person said or did something so cruel as to make me cringe that they would not have done or said it if they had thought it so hurtful. I have always explained calmly and in a tone that I considered non-threatening the history of the word or expression and why it was negative to me and in most cases a large number of other African Americans. What I have found is those who care about me or other people who have had different life experience from them would respect my request to not use those terms and would not moan about how everything has to be so politically correct. Just as an example: A co-worker came in one rainy morning with a scarf tied around her head, my co-worker exclaimed out loud “Oh, Mary looks just like Aunt Jemima! A lot of history had to be shared quietly. The woman was mortified. I let her know that I certainly didn’t think she intended to offend.

    For those of you with friends from different cultures, you may be really tight with your buddies and you call each other all kinds of negative or stereotypical words, be sure that you understand that using the N word indiscriminately is just as unacceptable outside of “your circle” as calling a group of Hispanics or Latinos “wet….s”. In each group in this country there are terms best not used in open social settings.

    I have lived in several foreign countries and would never try to justify using terms that the inhabitants of the countries have told me were offensive because they didn’t make sense or didn’t mean the same thing in my country of origin even though I had to learn different terms for a number of ethnic groups in the same country.

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