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. LornaJane on February 6, 2007 at 3:27 am

    Here in the UK we don’t use “gal” as a common form of address but I don’t think its offensive. I can put up with most forms of address, even at work, which is just as well as here in Yorkshire I get a range of “love”, “pet”, “duck” and who knows what else. I try to refer to women as “woman” rather than “lady” or “girl” and so long as nobody calls me “babe” I’m happy :)

  2. Lissa on February 6, 2007 at 1:13 pm

    I think Gal is fine, I personally don’t like to be called a mam, because I think it sounds old.

    • Barbara Wilson on August 4, 2016 at 11:44 am

      The word Gal was a derogatory word used in the South to demean women of color…I speak from experience.

      • Rena Laws on August 9, 2016 at 4:40 am

        My daughter is called “girl” by her inlaws. She is fine with it, but I have southern roots and it just irritates me to no end. It’s right there with “boy” and the n word. I haven’t heard anyone called “boy” or “girl” in the way I am thinking in so long and I am so glad, but to hear my daughter being called that, it hurts!

        • Spleenman on September 12, 2017 at 4:50 am

          I had a coworker, thankfully for only a short time, who used “boy” that way and said a lot of other racial things to a coworker. One day he tried to pick a fight with the guy and he was way bigger than the guy he was picking on and thankfully thebguu he was a jerk to was able to lock his ass for trying to start a fight. The bigger guy got fired on the spot and humiliated by getting beat up by someone not only smaller than him, but also in the fact that everyone knew this racist just got beaten up by someone of a race he was discriminatory towards. It was a satisfying scene at the end.

      • jones on November 29, 2016 at 3:02 pm

        That would explain then, why a black woman at Macy’s was offended when the cashier asked who was next, and I said this gal. Being from Nashville, to me, gal is an inclusive endearing word also meaning your young, as opposed to using Ma’m which can make you feel old.
        I was raised in Denver by liberal Christian parents to never be a bigot. I could marry any color man I wanted to, from any side of the trax I wanted to. To be judged for innocently using this word is beyond the pal. This kind of reaction makes me sick. If people don’t want people to be bigots, don’t give them a reason to become one.

        • Brian on December 22, 2016 at 11:41 pm

          it’s fine that you didn’t initially realize why the use of the word would be offensive, but when your only reaction after learning why she was offended, is to be completely defensive to the point of blaming the offended? that speaks bounds, and just adds to the problem. and for the record, there is no “reason to become one.” your viewpoint is a privileged one, and the many ways in which you felt the need to explain just how much you couldn’t possibly be a bigot, your final statement actually supports bigotry.

          • coolactual on February 27, 2017 at 5:00 am

            @Brian There really are people whose being offended is cause enough for blame. My parents practised tough love on me and sometimes when I took offence at what they’re scolding me for they’ll scold me even more. Depends on the nature of the “offensive” subject, I suppose. Looking back, I appreciate what they did. Being offended about the wrong thing is just as bad as a legitimately offensive thing. I reckon “legitimately offensive” means a lot of things to a lot of people, but the thing is, NOTHING CHANGES if you blame people for blaming people who are offended by something lame. People have a right to their two cents. You can blame Jones. You can blame me. But at the end of the day, WE CAN ONLY FIX OURSELVES. The person who was offended WILL HAVE TO FIX HIMSELF too. (Btw I’m not blaming you for anything LOL)

          • Imani on July 9, 2017 at 11:46 pm

            Thanks so much Brian for putting that out there. It’s amazing how many people, mostly people who are Caucasian, don’t feel like the word is offensive. They think it’s ok to use because it wasn’t said with intention to harm. That’s so easy to say when they aren’t in the skin of African American/Black people. They are so quick to tell us to get over it when they never had to. If a man of any color would have said “oh this b***h over here is next in line”. There is NO WAY any woman of any COLOR would not have taken offense. There is NO WAY that man could have said that he meant it as an endearing term and it’s just another way of saying woman/female/girl/gal. Our ancestors went from being Kings and Queens to being slaves (not servants there is a difference) and being called gals and boys and lest we forget the never endearing, never acceptable “n” word. We can’t change our race or skin color however all the “Southern” “I didn’t mean any harm” “my grandma used to say it” and the millennials please know that you can pick another word to use.

          • Miz on August 26, 2017 at 10:33 pm

            Thank you, Brian. I couldn’t have stated it more powerfully! I was surprised that she was offended instead of attempting to understand through empathy!

        • Black woman on April 16, 2017 at 8:37 am

          You are a filthy racist!!!! Your whole post was lined with common racist garbage!!!! Don’t give black people or other people of color you don’t like, a reason to want to hold their nose as they pass you! Stop

          • ColorSmeller on August 5, 2017 at 9:56 am

            I dont get it im fprm romania and i still dont know what gal is

        • Caesar on June 20, 2017 at 5:13 am

          You may have used the term innocently enough but to the woman and most black women, it is a term that was used as was “boy” in reference to black men as demeaning.

      • LARRY on March 27, 2017 at 7:34 pm

        Sorry, my Mother used to call the women she played cards with each week the “Gals”.

      • Carlena F on April 20, 2017 at 10:38 am

        Yes, I agree! I am an AA woman, 40 years old with 2 children 7/17. I trained with this older white male for 3.5 weeks and he callecalled me girl several times. It made me feel uncomfortable. After a few more times of him calling me girl I stated to him, “My name is Carlena, if you forgot.” He stopped for awhile until we met for another training weeks later. He referred to me as girl again and I just looked at him with a tight lip. Now he just speaks, still doesn’t use my name.

  3. abby on February 6, 2007 at 1:25 pm

    i agree with lissa. gal is ok to call anyone where if you call somone a different name such as mam or miss you seem to take offense to it. I believe it is just a way to express who you are without putting a major label on you.

  4. gretchen on February 6, 2007 at 5:47 pm

    As I see it, it’s not offensive. I think it is the equivolent to “guy”. Now what about “girl”? Is it improper to refer to a grown woman as a “girl”? My husband says he frequently hears phrases like “the girls in the front office” when referring to the secretaries. Is that bothersome or should they be referred to as women?

    • Mary on January 29, 2016 at 2:08 pm

      Yes, referring to any professional woman as a “girl” is dismissive. Why is it important to specify gender. How about referring to them as the “secretaries in the office” or the “admins” etc. or by their name. Calling a woman “girl” is a term of endearment not to be used in a professional environment.

    • Carlena F on April 20, 2017 at 10:40 am

      They should be referred to as ladies. Girls are high school students.

      • Syndia on September 5, 2017 at 5:42 pm

        It’s curious what can be offensive to some and not others. I use gal as the feminine of guys and was very surprised to learn that it can be offensive to an AA woman. As for me, I dislike to be called a girl or lady at the office: I’m neither (Girls are young or immature and ladies are too dainty for the professional world – both are in need of help). I’m a woman, and when the conversation is “guys” casual, i prefer to be addressed as gal. That said, when I was younger, a “guy” at work used to call me “woman”; it was the way he said it that rubbed me the wrong way and i had to remind him several times not to do it.

        I guess people may not always know what can be offensive and the tone may say more than the actual word; all we can do is kindly and gently tell them how we feel.

  5. Paula The Surf Mom on February 7, 2007 at 10:51 am

    This PC stuff just goes too far sometimes… There is nothing wrong with “Gal”

    • skay on March 10, 2017 at 2:53 pm

      It’s not that it’s “incorrect” in any way. Just very dated (my grandparents!) and speaks of poor education.

  6. Paula The Surf Mom on February 7, 2007 at 10:54 am

    But then I’m a cowgirl type with a southern accent from North Carolina where Ya’ll is considered indeed a real word.

  7. kel1 on February 7, 2007 at 2:11 pm

    I don’t see anything wrong with it. I mean, unless someone uses it in a derogatory way, with the intention to insult me, then I don’t take offense.

    I notice that in the UK they DO have very different ways of addressing people. I think I’d like it better there. I’d rather be called “love” than “gal.” :d

  8. Biker Betty on February 8, 2007 at 7:54 pm

    I think Gal isn’t used much these days. I can’t remember when I last heard it, but it might be something I just wouldn’t take notice to.

    It’s not offensive to me, unless used in a bad way. Many ordinary words can be offensive if used in a wrong way or tone.

    • Emma Lin on June 1, 2017 at 8:36 pm

      It got used recently in Daya’s single “Sit Still, Look Pretty”… Your comment is outdated.

  9. gretchen on February 8, 2007 at 8:50 pm

    I really don’t hear it much these days either. I do notice that when I hear it, it’s coming from a much older person. I just don’t think my generation uses it as much. :-?? But I agree, as long as it’s used in a nice way it’s not offensive.

  10. Stephanie on February 8, 2007 at 11:23 pm

    Not generally offensive. Better than “girls” at the very least.

  11. Kristen on February 9, 2007 at 12:26 pm

    Clearly I’m not offended by the word chick and I’m not generally offended by most forms of address. Girl, gal, chick, people even call women dudes these days. That’s all fine and good in a casual environment. However, I think in business, it depends on how it’s said and who’s saying it. Sometimes gal comes across as intentionally demeaning. Like “gals in the workforce” and that kind of crap.

    • Karen on October 28, 2015 at 8:34 pm

      Personally, I think it is offensive for a man to refer to a female coworker or employee as “gal.” I have an employee of mine who has referred to me as “that gal” Karen ***. I have also heard him refer to other female employees as “that gal.” He has made other comments to other employees about the fact that he doesn’t think “a gal” should supervise a man. This to me indicates that he is using the phrase “gal” as a derogatory phrase for someone of the opposite sex. I don’t hear him referring to the guys as “that guy” so and so. He just refers to men by their name or title.

      I take offense to this phrase in the workplace and have told him so directly. Personally, especially considering my knowledge of his sexist attitude toward women, I put the phrase “gal” in the same category as being called a broad. I feel it is inappropriate in the work environment to refer to a female as anything but her proper name or title.

  12. Michelle Twiste on February 13, 2007 at 1:52 am

    I’m not intimidated by “Gal” – Two of which have competing definitions as per my online dictionary.

    1. Gal – alliterative term for girl (or woman)

    2. Gal – a unit of gravitational acceleration equal to one centimeter per second per second (named after Galileo)

    I’m more partial to definition # 2… ;P

    – M’chell

    • jones on November 29, 2016 at 3:07 pm

      Like that preference. Thank you. I shouldn’t be made to feel like a bigot because I used it in a polite way.

  13. Myra Slater on March 9, 2007 at 1:58 pm

    I really don’t feel comfortable with the word “gal” but, perhaps it’s because I consider it as one of those out-dated words which reflect the user as a bit “out of touch.” This may sound a bit over the top. The word “gal” has the potential of insulting and nonimpressing. Referring to your audience as “gals” in a professional setting does not convey respect, power or sophistication. The word “gal” has that “good old boy” flavor. Take the extreme of the “N” word, which is vulgar to some persons, both African-Americans and non-African-Americans. Yet, for some, considered appropriate within a certain cultural context when used by certain persons. The other extreme is “you guys” which sounds totally inappropriate and immature when used with an intelligent or professional audience and yet, perfectly benign in a more personable, fun, nonformal context. Therefore, I summize that the word, “gal” is probably disrespectful to some (female)in the context of profession and power, because it addresses one (generally female) inappropriately. It’s like saying, “yes Mam” [with a southern accent] versus saying, “yes, President [Hiliary] Clinton.” It’s not vulgar. It’s just not the smartest word to use. Yet, in the context of being informal, personable, and fun (depending who your audience is), it is perfectly benign and, therefore, o.k. I don’t think my 98 year old granny would mind being referred to as a pretty good old gal, but then again, knowing my Grandmother, she might. See what I mean. Granny sounds sweet to some just as “gal” does. Yet, grandmother sounds a bit more respectful.

    • shy on March 22, 2017 at 6:53 am

      I tell you what happen to work in a prison years ago. I was the hall security officer. So i had to let th employees and inmate go to their destination. I was taught words can not hurt you. But these inmate inmate that heard this white tell me come here gal and open this door. Those inmates wanted to beat that employee up for calling me a gal. Not hearing that word before i didn’t pay any attention to it. But those guy said that was a racist word white referr us to a female cow.Now that got under my collar than. So i ask the man that what he calling me. He hollow no cause those inmate was going to take him down if i hadn’t told it let me handled it. I told that employee call me officer or by my last name what we all suppose to address each other as. But i knew this man was racist cause he never show me he like blacks. Some people you know when they don’t like blacks or whites if you be around then along enough. But i broke great barer on the job. For they knew it they were liking because i want who their parents describe black people as. We are human beings not aminals. Where i am from its very little racist people cause we didn’t go for that kind of way. We love each other and showed in my days. But my parents days and grandparent days was totally different. I would have been dead with my ways. And that’s the truth.

  14. Mrs.T on April 14, 2007 at 11:48 am

    I have always found the word gal to be offensive . I am not just jumping on the PC bandwagon. As an African -American woman born and raised in the South, I know that it was used derogatorily towards black females. “Tell that gal to get busy”, “Come here gal ” and on an on and on..
    When I have heard it used , as as they now say CASUALLY I ,have alway told the person using it that it was a derogatory term.

    • Jeff Walker on October 11, 2015 at 9:43 am

      What offends you about the word gal? I think the word woman is much more offensive when us in a sentence. Tell that woman to come over her or tell that woman to get to work. Maybe it depends where we were raised.

    • Cherie on February 12, 2016 at 9:14 pm

      Thank you! I feel that the term gal is offensive , demeaning and direspectful! I have just finished trying to explain to two young women that exact thing! They let me know I was the only one bothered with the term and had issues I needed to get over! I said, the person you are referring to has a name and deserves the respect to be referred to as a brave strong woman, or use her name , not hay take a look at what this ” gal” did! Seriously!? I was taught to respect people not to use acronyms to describe them! I am white, live in the Northwest but my Mom was from Nashville and she would NOT and I mean Not tolerate disrespect on any level! People have a name if you do not know it then use the term woman, lady, something that shows respect!

  15. Machelle on May 29, 2007 at 7:03 am

    The word is offensive and refers to African American Women in a derogatory manner. It was also used in the movie “Color Purple” by a white man inthe film. He used it in the movie refferring to a young black lady. It is offensive and the word originated in the south. My great grandmother who is deceased and would be 110 today also told me that the word Gal was used to downgrade young black women in the south in the 1900’s.

    • jones on November 29, 2016 at 3:09 pm

      Glad to know that now that I was branded a bigot and all around bad person for using it out of innocence.

  16. Kel1 on May 29, 2007 at 12:34 pm

    Wow, I had no idea the term was used in such a way in the past.

    I have never particularly thought it was the greatest of terms (I prefer “ladies”), but certainly never knew it was used as a derogatory term for African American women.

  17. Zupko2001 on May 30, 2007 at 8:46 am

    I always think of the word “gal” as an old outdated way of addressing women. While I dont feel it is derogatory (also, not knowing the meaning behind it when used in the past toward African American women)

    I actually prefer the word “woman”. If you think about the connotations that go with the word “Lady” and compare it to the word “Woman” Woman sounds stronger and shows more power than any of the others.

    Look at these two sentences and what comes into your mind for each. “I am a woman poker player.” “I am a lady poker player.” Which sounds stronger and more knowledgable?

  18. gretchen on May 30, 2007 at 9:10 am

    Yeah – I agree – Woman is a much stronger word. I don’t really like the term “gal” – not because of it’s original use as noted by Machelle, but because it sounds so old-fashioned to me.

  19. Shahara on June 11, 2007 at 6:25 am

    Gal is a derrogatory word used back in the days of slavery to address the “house gal”. That is why it is offensive to many people, especially in the south. Do not ever call a black woman “gal” expecially in corporate America. You will get a very odd look, although you probably meant nothing about it. It will be impressive if you immediately correct someone who says this. You’ve got the knowledge, now pass it on.

    • Cindy on July 29, 2016 at 9:31 pm

      You are so correct. People look in words and their meaning in the dictionary. As we all should know the dictionary gives you a good version, as Bitch is a female dog, but people use the word in a totally different way and we all know what I mean. And saying the word boy to an African American man or saying not to any grown man. So just a couple of things here to make you stop and think before we speak. You never know who your offending. So maybe we should all just address each other accordingly.

    • jones on November 29, 2016 at 3:11 pm

      I will, that’s for sure. And you pass it on that majority of any one other than African Americans see this as a cute nice word, not insultive. So they may want to be kind, and give a person the benefit of the doubt, and lighten up.

    • LARRY on March 27, 2017 at 7:44 pm

      Sorry, My Mother used the word Gals all the time. The women she use it with used the word just like my mother. They never used the word around black women because there were no black women living in their city. However, if one of them had been black, I bet they still would have used the word gals.

  20. gretchen on June 11, 2007 at 6:01 pm

    Thank you Shahara – I will most definitely pass it on! ;)

  21. Hoss on December 31, 2007 at 1:22 am

    Gal is a bad word, people who use it sound backward, outdated and by certain standards, racist. I witnessed a manager in the workplace use the word gal in reference to an African American female co-worker and she made him wish he had never called her “A good gal.” Everyone involved wished the old fella had just kept his mouth shut and never tried to compliment someone… When all else fails just keep your mouth shut and dont call anybody gal, ever…

    Thanks for this post.

  22. LaRue on January 8, 2008 at 1:02 am


    I was watching Good Morning America, with Diane Sawyer, interviewing Barack Obama and he made the statement that his wife was a hard working gal. I am outraged that a young man, that is telling the world that he is a change agent, is so backwards and using a word that African American women find to be offensive. Gal is a negative word used in the south to demean women. It is embarasing that Obama would use a term identifying the workds of his wife. And, the American people have not said a word about it…

  23. Chet on January 29, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    I was just called out by of all people, my brother on using this term. I sincerely had no idea it was perceived by some people to be derogatory. From my own perspective, the word means more like what the earlier posters in this thread indicated, a cool casual reference to a woman. To me, it was, in fact, positive; and much better than calling a girl “dude” even though, without regard to sex, the same sort of semantics is usually implied.

    Still and especially, I have a real issue with people attacking innocent word users like Barack (whom I am not for incidentally) and taking exception to the word and not the wway the speaker intended it. The intent is what matters. Your emotional response to a word, without any accountability to listen carefully for the semantic intent of its use on a case by case basis, is a knee-jerk darkness you should choose not to spread in our beautiful world.

    Just a theory.
    Just something to consider for guys and gals alike!

  24. LaRue on January 29, 2008 at 10:08 pm

    I think we all have different opinions of what is considered as proper and offensive. It depends on the time and generation and what took place during the time that you remember certain words and certain situations… I am from the South, I have been discriminated against and I have struggled to be in the position I am presently holding. I have been called many names…However, it is strong woman like myself who have made it possible for young women to feel comfortable with being called, gals,bitches, dogs, and you can come up with other names that rapers are calling women now days. However, to each his own, and I don’t think the future first lady of the white house should be referred to as Gal…Do you?

  25. Chet on January 30, 2008 at 1:55 am

    Well I have no problem with him referring to his wife as a gal (even if she does become the First Lady) because I think he meant it as she was a hard worker and a down-to-Earth woman and he was in-fact respectful in connotation. But that is my takeaway from his meaning which is the evidence upon which I base my emotional reaction to his statements. I think it is fairly clear that the word itself is not consigned to derogatory neglect for most people. This means, and this is just my opinion, that speakers like myself (and I venture to say Barack) can only hope that listeners take the time and give us the considersation to carefully weigh exactly what we intend to say, and that they do not let an almost Pavlovian response to historical or even personal experiences that causes them to red flag a word, reflect improperly on us.

    It’s just a personal hope.

    I did care enough about my brother’s response to me to look it up. The lion’s share of evidence available that I could find on the internet seems to show that, by far, a majority of listeners are in fact mystified by why the word would be considered derogatory.

  26. LaRue on January 30, 2008 at 11:04 pm

    Again, this is my personal preference, I don’t like the word gal, never will. Now, gal, if you enjoy being call that, that is your personal option.

  27. Jo Anna on February 9, 2008 at 8:16 pm

    I definitely do not like the word gal or yes man. And, I agree 100% about gal being a good old boy word that was used to call black woman during slavery and after slavery too. In the south white men are really terrible for using this word. That’s one way I can tell if a white person is probably from the south. It’s a good old boy term,and they just can’t get over it. It’s bone deep. It’s a crying shame. Why can’t we all just get along and live and let us live already why don’t you!

  28. Paul on February 15, 2008 at 9:36 pm

    I am a 46 y/o male that was born and raised in a northern state. I was not raised in the slavery era. So to associate men that use the term gal, as being good ole boys is offensive to me. I am not a good ole boy. I merely use the word gal like a woman would use the word guy. Seems some people are so cought up in the past that they find offense when offense wasn’t even intended.

    • Chuy on August 16, 2016 at 10:37 pm

      If you’re from the north then respect your northern heritage and don’t use that word. It’s an ugly word.

      • LARRY on March 27, 2017 at 7:48 pm

        chuy—My Mother used that word All the time. My Mother did not consider it to be an Ugly word. Who made you the expert? I trust My Mother’s use of the english language over yours and I take great offense over your attitude.

  29. Jamie Hankins on March 13, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    Being from South England, I’m familar with the word being used without the connotations expressed by the Americans and only as a slang term for ‘girl’ with perhaps connotations of being ‘down to earth’, and thus basically a feminine version of the term ‘guy’.

    It’s certainly been interesting to hear that it has developed other connotations elsewhere, worth being aware of should I ever find myself in the southern states of the USA.

    I certainly wouldn’t criticise a Brit for using the term though, as the term simply lacks those connotations in British English.

  30. gretchen on March 13, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    It just amazes me at what offends us sometimes. We often assume that the offending person is purposely trying to hurt us in some way when honestly they just see things from a different perspective. :-?

  31. T. Eddie on April 23, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    Gal to an African American woman is the same as “boy” to an African American man. Just shouldn’t be used.

    • LARRY on March 27, 2017 at 7:51 pm

      t. eddie—I really do not know any African Americans. If black folks are Americans, then they are just that–Americans. If they consider themselves to be African Americans, then they should move to Africa America, wherever that is.

  32. tiffanie on April 23, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    Even though no offense is meant, when you learn better, you do better. The term was undoubtedly used in a derogatory way; it was used as a source of power, basically to strip black women of their womanhood. Another example of this is that grown black women were expected to call white women – even white girls “Miss,” whereas the white women or white girls were expected to call the grown black women by either their first names or “gal.” Language in our American culture has been used to do unbelievable things. We have come a long way from those days in our country. No, we don’t need to be stuck in the past, however, it is totally ludacris to think that racism is over-just look at the kkk riot in Jena, LA this Jan. or the neo-nazi march in Columbia, MO last year. People are still hateful. Bottom line is that now that you know that it was used in a derogatory sense, pick another word to use to describe a female. When you know better, you do better; otherwise, continue to showcase your ignorance and insensitivity to fellow Americans-fellow humans.

  33. LaRue on April 23, 2008 at 7:23 pm


    Very well said. If you are aware that a word is used in a negative manner, don’t use it…

    If you continue to use it, then you are no better than the user of the word during slavery.

    I wonder why there are so many negative words directed toward African American by whites, but there are no negative words directed toward whites by African Americans, as a whole. White gals and boys are always putting their foot in their mouth and having to apologize afterwards, why is this.

    • LARRY on March 27, 2017 at 7:55 pm

      La Rue You put your foot in your mouth when you wrote “White gals and boys”. A better description would be White gals and guys. By the way, do you use guys to describe a group of women?

  34. Dale Cavallin on May 2, 2008 at 7:29 pm

    Having grown up in rural Southern California in the 1940’s and 50’s, I NEVER thought there was anything derogatory at all about the word “gal”. As a matter of fact, I used to sing what was a popular song out of the Big Band Era…. “I’ve got a GAL in Kalamazoo”. My own mother would say
    things like “some OTHER GALS and I are planning
    a picnic”. We’re talking folksy informality here. I get a kick out of those who are “oh-so-hip” and politically correct nowadays staying awake all night looking for more ways to be offended.
    C’mon! Laugh it off, lighten up,and GET A LIFE!
    And…if one really wants to be offended, I’d
    suggest directing some well-deserved anger at the
    depravity and filth in today’s “culture”.

    • Chuy on August 16, 2016 at 10:43 pm

      When you die, let us know so that we can celebrate.

      • LARRY on March 27, 2017 at 7:57 pm

        chuy—You are truly a sicko! Whatever your race, religion or gender–you are truly one sick individual.

  35. LaRue on May 4, 2008 at 1:25 am

    What do you mean, filth in todays culture? What culture(s) are you speaking about? Now, you NEED TO GET A LIFE… and go GET YOUR GALS TO HELP YOU CLEAN UP THE MESS…

  36. tiffanie on May 5, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    It’s not about whether or not you mean to offend someone. Nor is it about the fact that there are other issues that need addressing. Just because something doesn’t offend you does not mean that it is not offensive. What I’ve learned is that the people who are capable of teaching others are the people who are great learners. When you learn better, you do better. Obviously in Southern California the term “gal” is not used to demean women; however in Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, and some other Southern states, the term was used to demean women. Instead of attempting to diminish the issue by bringing up other issues, what about saying, “Hey, today I learned something I didn’t know-now since I know this, I can apply the knowledge that I have, rather than continuing to showcase my ignorance.” Just a thought-when you know better, you do better.

  37. lmc on September 4, 2008 at 9:05 am

    I was just “reemed” for using the word “gal” – been using it for years, learned it from a “gal” that I was friends with eons ago. I currently work in a different region of the country, east coast, federal agency – there is this highly vigilant, 50 something (maybe late 40’s) A. American woman that sits in my vicinity – she claims that the term is racist, same as calling a Black/A.American man “boy”. Looked it up in the Urban Dictionary – and of the definitions that address this word – appx. 5 in total – one mentions this origin – the rest say nothing about it – so it is not used currently as a derogatory word – faded from this use if it ever was, in fact, used in a derogatory manner toward African women. Other than hearing commentary from this site and from the woman that sits next to me – I have NEVER before heard of these origins or former usage.

    Although the word was originally derived in 1795, more recent usage was from the mid-19th century – 1940’s-50’s – and it was a complimentary way to address a woman – Webster’s dictionary does not mention racist origins – notes that the word means “girl” or “woman” and that it eventually morphed into the concept of “his Girl Friday” from the 1950’s.

    From Webster’s dictionary;, “a female assistant (as in an office) entrusted with a wide variety of tasks”.
    There is no mention of racism or racist history in Webster’s dictionary – the current issue.
    “Gal Friday (or “Girl Friday”) is the feminized “Man Friday” concept;
    “Man Friday” in Webster’s current dictionary is defined as, ” an efficient and devoted aide or employee : a right-hand man”.

    It’s origins are from the classic novel, “Robinson Crusoe” a novel by DaFoe. Friday was the trusted servant in the novel. The phrase “His Man Friday” came into popular use in the 1950’s to describe a trusted a loyal male worker in the booming post-WWII business, capitalist economy that was thriving in robust urban locations around the country.

    “His Gal Friday” is the female counterpart to this phrase – used to define and efficient, smart, snappy female worker in an office environment. The word “Gal” came into popular use in the rapidly increasing boomer generation as they hit their pubescent years – shortened from “His Gal Friday” to just “Gal” – it was used toward sharp, funny, witty and hip young females – it is a way to refrain from using descriptives that imply age such as woman or girl.

    To ensure that Webster’s dictionary would mention a derogatory origin, I checked the word, “Boy” in the same issue – and indeed, in the listing for the word “Boy”, these is notation that it is, at times, used in a derogatory manner. There is no such notation for the word “Gal”.

    If I find any legitimate, academically provable origins of the word “gal” that date back to the ages of slavery or the post repressive era that followed – I will definitely update you.

  38. gretchen on September 4, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    Interesting research. Thanks for posting and please let me know if you learn anything more. ;)

  39. Man on September 4, 2008 at 10:08 pm

    Did anyone on this thread know that I am offended by being called a human? This is because many years go when the word was created, someone somewhere chose to use it in a derogatory way. Since I now know better than to use it, I am offended when people say it to me. Just because they don’t say with malice or hate, I am still offended because I know that the word can be used in a derogatory way.

    Do I sound ridiculous? To some of you, maybe not. However, It should be clear that I am not serious. I’m just sick of coming across so many complainers the whine about things that are pointless.

    A) Gal is not a slanderous word for a woman. It is a word that generally means woman, and is often times used when referring to young women. Why choose to be offended?

    B) Sorry, but Urban Dictionary is in no way a credible source to use in an argument. It’s written by biased, and possibly ignorant people who can say whatever they want. (and often do.)

    So please stop complaining and telling each other to ‘get a life.’

    More like, ‘get OVER it.’

    • Lady on October 9, 2015 at 9:37 am

      I don’t like being called a human…I am a person. I don’t like “gal” or even “girl” as I am a grown woman with grown children and grandchildren. I am a woman or a lady, not a “gal” or a “girl”. At my age I am fine with ma’m as miss is for the younger women.

      • LARRY on March 27, 2017 at 8:01 pm

        Lady—My Mother was a lady, and she used the word Gal or Gals all the time.

    • Ladies on August 25, 2017 at 12:26 pm

      I agree 110%

  40. man on September 4, 2008 at 10:09 pm

    Also, sorry for the typos.

  41. lmc on September 7, 2008 at 8:49 am

    As so eloquently stated by “man”, I too am sick of whiners – especially the type that spatter out the type of crud that the person in my office does and then REFUSES to discuss her perceptions tossed out at others in a debatable way. She comments after shooting a line of crap like this out that she is, “done with the topic” – only once she is done speaking with no input from any other person.
    It see,ms as if this type of attack is used to simply nail people, stop everybody with fear at the cry of racism – something that this co-worker is great at doing – garnering all control of a situation with ignorant attacks such as this one noted above. But, this is one slang use that I hadn’t heard of and was intrigued by the racist woman’s remarks – wanted to know if it was, indeed, ever used and commonly known as racist.
    Now, supposedly, it was yelled out to slaves when the “cracker” (word used for the man carrying the whip and NOT because he was pale white like a saltine) was strutting down the rows of the field – and I am having a hard time imagining a man flailing a whip at a female slave, a black female slave exclusively, too, yelling some sort of thing as, “get to work gal” in the heat of doling out a good lashing.
    So, I do agree that Urban Dictionary is not a legitimately academic source, I used it merely as a means of gaging whether or not the word was known on the street as being racist and knew that I would be unable to get this type of information in a more formal format such as Webster’s Dictionary.

    Additionally, I would like to note, it isn’t reasonable that certain people can claim a word as their own and attempt to hold all people to what they have defined as the only use of the word or THE use of the word.

    Damn if I am going to stop saying words such as boy, or cracker or gd it GAL! A boy is a small male child, my dog or my best male friend, a cracker is something that I put in my soup and a gal is a term that I will continue to use to note a person that is female that I most likely am referring to in such a way because I am unaware of her name or noting something in a general way about an unknown female that I happen to see – ie: “that blond gal over there”.

    NP about the typo’s, too : )

    • Chuy on August 14, 2016 at 10:25 pm

      You sound like an old fart asshole.

      • LARRY on March 27, 2017 at 8:02 pm

        chuy—You sound like a nut case to me.

    • Chuy on August 16, 2016 at 10:26 pm

      If I saw you in person I would punch you in the face.

      • Nice Gal on December 27, 2016 at 6:54 pm

        get real Chuy. Also, check the date. Troll

      • LARRY on March 27, 2017 at 8:04 pm

        chuy—You wrote–“If I saw you in person I would punch you in the face”. How stupid is that. You are worthless.

  42. LaRue on September 9, 2008 at 3:54 am

    Oh my God!

    I am so sick of people responding to the word of gal and proclaiming that there are a lot of whiners out there and to get over it.

    I have been discriminated against, treated poorly by white folks, called gal and disrespected in many ways. It is truly difficult to get over it.

    Why is it that people are not sensitive to other’s feelings and respect others for where they have been in their lives and how they have been treated?

    These statements show that there are still people in the world who enjoy hurting other people and want other’s to forgive their short comings, but are not willing to forgive the short comings of others who have been mistreated for 100 years and are still held down in many situations.

    I am so ashamed of those people who are still trying to justify their right to call others names that are not appropriate.

    When I am called a girl or gal by a male, I address them by boy and the whole level of communication changes. What is good for the goose is good for the gander.

  43. gretchen on September 9, 2008 at 7:18 am

    I guess I just don’t understand this part:

    “When I am called a girl or gal by a male, I address them by boy and the whole level of communication changes.”

    You don’t like it so you retaliate by doing the same thing back? How is that helping? :-?

  44. LaRue on September 9, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    If I tell you that a word hurts me, why would you continue to say those words to me, if they hurt.
    Why is it that white folks just don’t get it.

    Gal hurts, Gal hurts, Gal hurts, Gal hurts, do stop, stop stop stop hurting me.

    I am not whining, just respect me. If I don’t want you to call me gal, call me by my name.

    • LARRY on March 27, 2017 at 8:06 pm

      Larue—I would probably prefer to have absolutely nothing to do with you. You are a complainer/whiner–I prefer friendly, compassionate people.

  45. Richard on October 25, 2008 at 7:30 am

    GUYS AND DOLLS referred to ???
    Why is name and email required?

  46. William on October 29, 2008 at 12:41 pm

    I also had no idea that such a benign word was used in a derogotory fashion. I understand that some women find it a bit old fashoned, but I never knew there was a racial facet to this as well.

    I think that this argument is really kind of silly. The only “danger” word for caucasians is the “N” word. I think the African American females are being a little too sensitive on this one and should look and see if the “gal” using culprits are using the word to address non-black women, too. Then, at least, the racial element to this argument will have been squashed. But, the PC, women’s lib part of the argument still has a good point.

    Prove to me that the word “gal” was created when slavery was rampant in the USA and I’ll feel differently.

  47. Jay on December 7, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    Trying to control words is a strong element in pecking order. Forcing others to use only words you find non-offensive is often a form of disrespect itself. Don’t talk to me unless you use my form of the language (and I can change the rules at any moment).

    What really matters is respect, and without it no political correctness in word usage will solve anything.

    Truth be told, sadly, ALL word related to females have been used disrespectfully over the years by disrespectful brutes (Is brutes a disrespectful word? I hope so). No matter what word you insist males use to describe those of the opposite gender (is that disrespectful?) that word will soon also be tainted by disrespectful usage. Only respect will change things, not musical chairs in changing of word usage.

  48. demi on December 8, 2008 at 7:01 am

    hmm i think its probably based on the individual if they think its offensive or not. if its a shorter way of saying “girl” it may be offensive, because a co-worker may be implying, on purpose or not, that this woman is a young child, immature, less intelligent/wise etc.

    its one of those grey-patch words, its no “sugar,” or “angel” or some other baby-name which is regarded as sexist.

  49. Paulr on December 28, 2008 at 9:05 pm

    I am a 44 year old male in Nebraska. I sent an email to my friend in California with the word gal in it. I just meant gal as in girl. My friends wife and then my friend took offense to the word. They even recommended I use the word “Chick” before the word gal. It shocked me!! I had no idea that that word stirred such emotion is some woman. Where I live and work (hospital) it is a term used often by both men and women. To be truthful, I was a little shocked and offended initially that they found this word offensive…especially since I know by buddy has used it in the past.

  50. NorCal on January 24, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    I was practically battered for saying “gals” yesterday. I used it in a warm indearing way within earshot of a small group of women of which only a couple were African American by the way. I had never heard that it was derogatory and as a matter of fact the resturant I just ate at across the street labeled their bathrooms “guys” and “gals”. (I think that is why it stuck and I used it) The women didn’t care about my analogy. I’m sorry they are offended. But too bad. If it isn’t used in a derogatory tone let it slide. Please stop trying so hard to be offended all the time.

    Also: LaRue said:
    “I wonder why there are so many negative words directed toward African American by whites, but there are no negative words directed toward whites by African Americans, as a whole. White gals and boys are always putting their foot in their mouth and having to apologize afterwards, why is this.”

    LaRue, perhaps you forgot these words directed towards whites:


    What I find interesting is all those derogatory words used towards whites basically go unchallenged. (watch just about any night club comedy act) and now I find I’m not even suppose to use such a benign word as gal? LoL!

    And of course there is the double standard of whites not being “allowed” to use the “N” word while African Americans can use the word is nothing more then race baiting and is in my opinion the most openly used form of racism in American today.

    • Chuy on August 16, 2016 at 10:41 pm

      Your people have never been slaved or genocide or taught to be ashame of their heritage. You wouldn’t understand.

      • LARRY on March 27, 2017 at 8:08 pm

        chuy—So go someplace where you feel accepted. Stop trying to change what does not need to be changed.

  51. Rosalun on March 4, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    I am a 53 year old Black female who was educated and reared in segregated Texas. The word “Gal” was always used when a white was referring to or talking to a Black female, regardless of her age. Continue to use the word “Gal” when talking to a Black woman and eventually either your feelings will get hurt or your face slapped. Enough said.

  52. gretchen on March 4, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    Rosalun – thanks for your comment. It’s interesting to see what is deemed offensive in different cultures. In some countries, what we Americans call the “f” word, is considered a normal everyday word – not a cuss word. Crazy.

  53. Jim Low on April 8, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    I suspect it is a generational thing to some degree. I am a 58-year-old Missouri native and have heard and used the term “gal” all my life. Like the originator of this thread, I always thought of “gal” as the feminine equivalent of “guy.” Although I feel comfortable referring to a large group of men and women as “you guys,” I hesitate to do so when the group is small, say two men and one woman.

    Curious about the origins of the word, I Googled “gal,” and found a post, a snippet of which I reproduce here:

    “After years of dangling in lexical limbo, not a putdown but not quite kosher for general usage either, the word gal lately has gained legitimacy, even a mild cachet. It has appeared about 70 times in The New York Times this year, roughly double the usage of six years ago. In The Washington Post, gal was used 85 times in 1995, compared to 58 times in 1989. O.K., newspapers may not exactly be arbiters of hipness, but keep in mind that most of these uses occur in quotations of real men and women.

    As for trendiness, who is a better judge of it than the young? Kate Clinton, a columnist for The Progressive and a self-described “gal comedian,” said she started incorporating the word into her routines after hearing women in their 20’s talk about their gal pals.

    “I like the word gal, it’s a great-feeling word to say,” she said. “It has a guttural quality to it, it sort of rolls around in the right side of your mouth.” Ms. Clinton appreciates the sense of it as well. “It’s a sororal, flapperish, Dorothy Parker word,” she said. “A career gal is somebody who has a need for smart martinis after work.” During a recent performance, she introduced a variant, “your galship.”

    For the full version of the above, see http://www.nytimes.com/1995/11/19/weekinreview/november-12-18-where-woman-was-there-gal-shall-be.html, which includes an explanation of the term’s source and first recorded usage — apparently in a Mother Goose rhyme.

    I am as prone to political correctness as the next person, but I do occasionally find myself wishing we could balance sensitivity with a healthy sense of humor. It seems to me this is a place for the latter. Otherwise we run the risk of throwing out the baby — a friendly and not disrespectful sobriquet — before we have a serviceable replacement.

    Respectfully to all,


  54. gretchen on April 9, 2009 at 10:47 am

    Jim – that was very insightful – thanks for researching and posting that information. :)

  55. LaRue on April 9, 2009 at 11:23 am

    All of this insights and new knowledge is meaningful to the reader. However, many words have changed its meanings over the years. For instance, bitches, pimps, fool, and dog (dawz) are now household words. For the new generation.

    Females are enjoying being called bitches, etc. You don’t know who appreciate these new interpretation of word usage today, so the best rule of thumb is, if you are not sure about your audience, don’t use it.

  56. gretchen on April 9, 2009 at 11:28 am

    In general, just about everything we do is offensive to someone on some level. I agree that we should choose our words carefully, but I also ask myself frequently if I am just taking something the wrong way and need to adjust my attitude. Sometimes taking a brief moment to put myself in the other person’s shoes is all it takes to realize they meant no harm. :)>-

  57. Jamie Hankins on April 9, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    “For instance, bitches, pimps, fool, and dog (dawz) are now household words. For the new generation.”

    I think that might depend on the household! I can see some of my friends using terms like ‘bitch’ toungue-in-cheek on occasion but they are still rather insulting.

    I guess it varies a lot though. I also have met people who use the term f**king between every other word just casually and with no ill intent. Sounds dreadful to me but is obviously normal to them.

    I think Gretchin has a fair point about it being good that we -both- watch our own language to try to be less unintentionally offensive -and also- to try to be understanding of what other people actually mean by the words rather than worrying about the words themselves.

  58. LaRue on April 9, 2009 at 3:31 pm


    My point was not taken…People are still trying to find justification in using gal.

    If you only remember these words, you will be okay in any setting. Don’t use it if you don’t know your audience..

    And, gal is not a household word. If you think it is Okay to call someone gal. Try calling your mother your gal pal. Or even better, I am sick and tired of all you white gals out there trying to justify using this word. Now, did that statement offend any of you gals???

    • Lady on October 9, 2015 at 9:39 am

      I hate “gal” and I’m white

    • LARRY on March 27, 2017 at 8:12 pm

      La Rue—My Mother was proud that I was her son and she was my Gal Pal as well as My Mom.

  59. gretchen on April 9, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    No – your words didn’t offend me, but the sentiment behind it was less than pleasant. /:)

  60. LaRue on April 9, 2009 at 11:15 pm


    Help me to better understand your statement, Gretchen..

    It sounds as if you are reading into the statement. It did not offend you but the sentiment behind it was less than pleasant…That is what I have been trying to inform the readers of. Know your audience and you don’t know how the other person feels until you walk in their shoes.

    Get over it…:(

  61. gretchen on April 9, 2009 at 11:17 pm

    So it’s not the word choice – it’s the attitude, right?

  62. LaRue on April 10, 2009 at 10:41 am


    The executive who thought it was ok to call the women in the office gal.

    Follow my directive:

    1. Go to the highest female executive on your job and say,” Good Morning Gal”.

    2. Make sure that you have cleaned out your office first.
    3. Make sure that you are financially secure, because
    4. Your happy ass will be in the unemployment line soon.>:)

  63. LaRue on April 10, 2009 at 10:45 am

    It is a generation thing to call someone gal. So know your audience. :)>-

  64. Jay on April 11, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    Reading these posts has convinced me there are two types of people I really don’t want to talk to:
    those who are offensive in using disrespectful language AND those who take offense at anything and everything.

    Those who take offense easily are just as disrespectful as the other kind in that they show no respect for differences in background, culture, etc, and want to completely control the language of everyone around them. It’s all about respect and disrespect.

  65. LaRue on April 11, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    Well Jay,

    From your statement you probably need to go and live on an island by yourself because you have isolated yourself from the people who control the world.

    The purpose of each individual person should be to love and to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

    It would be a grand idea is people would get up in the morning and say, WWJD. If you know that these words stand for without asking your friends, then you are a just person.

    Be blessed. @};-

  66. Jay on April 13, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    Be blessed, also, LaRue,

    I’ve found the great majority of persons I deal with are considerate and respectful, but then, with so many people in the world, I avoid those who aren’t wherever possible. Time is too valuable.

    No island is necessary for me because I seek out persons where mutual respect is the norm. I’ve left jobs where people are disrespectful because no job is worth a hateful environment.

    True, those who control the world often gained their positions by cruelty, but I seldom have actual personal dealings with such people, and then I would avoid people like that anyway. The world has more wonderful people than I could ever meet….why would I spend time with the cruel and the thoughtless?

  67. LaRue on April 13, 2009 at 5:22 pm


    Your mother should be very proud of you…It takes guts, integrity, and courage to stand up for what is right.

    I am proud of you and I don’t know you.

    LaRue (*)

  68. Octavia Storay on August 19, 2009 at 10:41 am

    I happened upon this discussion as a result of looking up the history of the word “gal”. A male co-worker used the word in a public forum and it made me a bit uncomfortable. And I wanted to understand his understanding. So here’s another reference point..I’m an African-American from the deep South. The terms “boy” and “gal” were utilized to refer to African-American males and females, respectively. Obviously in the South ma’am and sir were and are still considered respectful. So being PC is more about being aware and empathetic, accepting and respecting that your world view is not the only ONE.

    • TRuth on December 9, 2014 at 2:02 pm

      Well said Octavia

  69. Mr. Evan Watts on September 2, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    I am a man that was born in Biloxi, Mississippi, in 1948, at Kiesler Air Force Base. At the time I was born my mother was 38, and born ib New Orleans, La. My dad was born in Pittsburg. Ks. in 1909. My mother,being raised a ” proper southern woman”, tried not to give any biased thoughs or negative behavior mannerisms. Of course, over the years that I had “grown up” in these times and place,as I look back,that didn’t always be true. Only through re-assessing back to then, did I have understood neither my parents, nor myself have been untouched by the time,places or the environments that we have or had been through.Only after living in the Bay area for 30+ years and changing to a new carieer, did I find out from another military raised person, who happened to been a fellow southerner and a black man. He had inform me that, indeed that the word gal was truly not welcomed as a name addressing a black woman. Honestly, I was very shocked by this revelation! My point is sometimes people, try as they might, can not help being biased in certain things. So, as a fellow human being, and not being born with a complete grasp of all that is being portrayed as politically correct, lighten up and try a little understanding and tolerance. By the way, I have learn a lot from this website. Peace,an try not to worry about the small stuff. Take it from a 61 year old man, life is too short!

  70. Dan on September 27, 2009 at 1:34 am

    Hi. I’m a 43 y.o. man, and I absolutely hate the word “gal.” I didn’t know about the connection to slavery before I read this message board (thank you to other posters for enlightening me), but even so, the hair on my neck always bristles when I read or hear the term. It conjures an image from a 40’s film noir, where a man would be talking to his buddy in a bar, and when the waitress came up to his table, he’d say something like, “Candy’s a fine gal, ain’t you, sweetheart.” I would hope we’re far beyond that now. What really upsets me is the fact that journalists still perpetuate this ungodly term in the media. If it’s controversial for talk in the hallway, it certainly doesn’t belong in the headline of a national news story.

    • LARRY on March 27, 2017 at 8:15 pm

      Dan–Does the hair on your neck “bristle” when you hear the word Guy or Guys? If Not, why Not?

  71. Tania on October 9, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    I am a 24 y.o. woman, and although I am originally from California (and currently live there), I lived in Alabama for 10 years. Out there, ‘gal’ was extremely common, used by both men and women. It quickly became part of my vernacular, and I still occasionally use it today. I don’t necessarily do it intentionally, but it’s a habit that is hard to break. I think one’s opinion toward the word largely depends on where one is from.

  72. Lizzy on October 21, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    It just creeps me out. Every man I have ever heard use the term has been a bit crusty and beligerent. I think that men use it because they are uncomfortable with respectful terms (woman or lady) and don’t know what else to say.

  73. Mike on October 22, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    I am a black man. If white people used gal to describe only slaves, that would be one thing. However, white women were also referred to as gals, so I feel that nobody should be taking offense to this word. If the mean white men would say to the slave women,”Get to work, woman!”, would you be offended by the word woman? I think not. Slavery was wrong, and gal was used because it was a common word, and happened to be used by mean slave owners.

    LaRue, I think you should consider this fact. My white friend is sometimes called “boy” by his white friends. No big deal at all. “Boy” is a harmless word. My white friend is more American Indian than I am an African, but the truth is, we were both born in America. He has never been racist or owned slaves. I have never been a slave. I have had just as much opportunity as he has, and I actually make more money than he does, but none of that matters. I can’t live life with a chip on my shoulder for what happened a hundred years ago. We say we want racial equality, but we stir up stuff like this. I could pick any word that I want and find a reason to be offended by it. Don’t make everyone uncofortable with their own culture. People who say gal as a female version of a guy mean no harm, and shouldn’t have to worry about it. Again, think to yourselves,”What if slave owners said ‘woman’?”

  74. Wight on October 22, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    I’d just like to note that ”Get to work, woman!” is desrespectful in terms of gender anyway. By addressing someone in this way as part of a command, it implies that there’s something inferior about the term ‘woman’, just like ‘Get to work, boy!’ does. If these terms didn’t imply less authority then they wouldn’t be used to try to express authority over someone. It’s also just rude in general.

    In fact, the root of calling adult black men ‘boy’ is likely based in the same denial of respect. As a white male, my friends could get away with calling me ‘boy’ and I could happily call myself ‘boy’ but I would -not- at all be pleased by being addressed as ‘boy’ by an employer or stranger.

    I suspect this whole subject is rooted in the way that black people have historically been referred to in informal ways that weren’t really suitable for the context.

  75. Mike on October 23, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    That’s correct, Wight. in that context it is rude and disrespectful. But if the slave drivers would have said “Woman”, would black women hate being called a woman? And what if white women were disrespected at one time by being called “woman”? Why should we stop calling them women? You have re-proven my point. Gal, if not said in a demeaning or disrespectful manner, is not a bad thing to call anyone. period.

  76. Wight on October 24, 2009 at 5:11 am

    “That’s correct, Wight. in that context it is rude and disrespectful. But if the slave drivers would have said “Woman”, would black women hate being called a woman?”

    I dunno, that’s not our world. It would depend on what alternatives there were and the exact connotations that had been attached to the world.

    In any case, I think it’s bad communication to ignore the connotations of the words you’re using, just as a general rule they should be kept in mind.

  77. Mike on November 2, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    Nobody alive today was a slave. Nobody alive today was a slave owner. In my opinion, People should not be offended by a word that has an obsolete bad connotation. It was also used toward white women in a non-negative way, so how can it be that the sole use of the word is offensive? I am almost offended that someone wants to come in out of the blue, and tell me to stop saying an innocent word that I’ve been lovingly and amorously saying all of my life.

  78. Melanie on December 16, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    I don’t think “gal” is offensive, per se … it’s not as disrespectful as “broad” .. but, it always grates on my ears just the same. It seems to be a term I hear used by older men who don’t know what to politically-correctly call a grown woman. I would rather hear them say something like, “she’s a nice lady” than “she’s a nice gal”.

    But that’s just me. Coming from a very coarse and frank-speaking Italian-American family (New Yawkers :), I just despise political correctness. Goes against the grain.

  79. Lee on December 21, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    i notice those who had something to say about the use of the word GAL are white/ woe, oh well i am a black woman n i do not welcome the word , i find it demeaning. most blacks as far as i know also don’t welcome the use of it. every one has a personal name use it. ty vm

  80. Chris on January 15, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    I just found this website in search of discussion of why “gal” was offensive. I am 43 years old and have never heard gal be used or thought of as offensive. I am African American and it is used in my family by women and men. Gal is to Female as Guy is to Male. However, I now understand why some southern African American Women might be offended. I can’t offer enough sympathy for their feelings, but they must also understand that southern America is not the world and it is not 1834, it may be used and I have never known anyone to have hurtful intentions using it. Wow!

  81. Voice of Reason on February 22, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Get a life people, seriously. The world’s going to hell in a handbasket as we speak.

  82. Cris on March 2, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    Very interesting. I was reading a science fiction book and the California heroine kept referring to herself as “Gal”. I was checking when it was a popular word to use. Heard it used in old songs “Buffalo Gal”, etc. Words are so slippery that it is a miracle we can communicate at all. Maybe to me means” I will do it if I can’t escape”. To my husband it meant “I will do it if I have to climb mountains or swim rivers”. We had a lot of hurt feelings and misunderstandings before we discovered this. Might mention that he is a native Texan and I am from the North.

  83. Female Human Being on March 10, 2010 at 4:40 am

    How about not using the terms man or woman (as these are social constructs that come with associated descriptions and expectations of behaviour, etc) and just use male/female… (then we get into the sticky, and never-discussed issue of those who are neither, or both – Intersex individuals). Why don’t we have a third box on the formal governmental papers for those who are born with indiscriminate genitals?

    In terms of “being called” things.. I would much rather be called a female hockey player, a female guitarist, a female student…
    Not a girl, not a gal, and definitely NOT a woman. Being a “woman” implies that I’ve bought into all that entails.
    I am not a “feminist” either; I am an equalist – if that term has not been used before, I am coining it now.

    Equal opportunities, and different abilities regardless of what’s danglin’ b’tween y’ur legs!!

    • gretchen on March 10, 2010 at 8:39 am

      Very interesting perspective – thanks for sharing!

  84. Ruben on March 16, 2010 at 5:19 am

    Thanks all for helping me with your comments.
    I am a guy from Spain working in a british company. I was searching on the internet if this is a good way to name a lady, because a british girl went a bit mad when I named her gal… but she calls me every time guy…
    What a mess!!

  85. Marc on May 30, 2010 at 6:15 am

    It is racist, Bottom line.

  86. gamorris on October 25, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    Woman is a very formal word. Can anyone say what word(s) would be inoffensive to women in general casual conversation?

  87. PDF on November 3, 2010 at 9:22 pm

    Wow, I am just seeing this conversation only because I recently had an experience of being called a “gal” by a white man and as an African-American woman I did not appreciate it and I had to let him know. I too as others have stated was born in the South although not fully raised in the south being an “army brat” but I have spent the majority of my life as a whole in Georgia. I can tell you the word “gal” in the south is derogatory. I have read every post listed here and I realized that a lot of people don’t understand why and unless you have experienced it for yourself, you never will. Getting over it is not easy especially when you are reminded daily in the south. Trust me when I tell you racism still exist especially in the south and it is extremely difficult for black women. the reason you will not find much research print on the derogatory words used to address blacks in the south especially during slavery and still happening today is because most slaves could not read or write so who is going to document it. The black community only has the words of our ancestors passed on from generation to generation and once blacks began to be educated and could actually get something published did this history get printed and it is still not recognized as truth because southern whites do not want to admit they “behaved badly” and still do. Here are a couple of books that reference black female slaves as “gals”. Mistresses and Slaves: Plantation Women in South Carolina 1830-1880 pages 85, 116, 138, 142, 229. Malindy’s Freedom: The Story of a Slave Family. You can also check out this site to read about the extensive oppression of black women from slavery to the 20th century – http://www.eblackstudies.org/intro/chapter11.htm

    Here are a few derogatory terms used to refer to blacks during and after slavery and even today:
    Mammy (Aunt Jemima)- domestic slave considered an ethnic slur
    Pickaninny – black children – remember the remake of Polly Anna called Polly where the doctor referred the little girl as a pickanninny and had to be corrected
    Uncle Tom – dutiful servant of the white master/mistress
    Buck/Boy – used to belittle black men
    Gal – used to belittle black women
    The “N” word – no need to explain
    Coon – remember “Forrest Gump” who did not understand and replied “Mama would sweep them off the porch with a broom” – not too long ago was it.
    Darkie – referred to a really dark skinned black person
    Missy – another word used to belittle black women

    Now we all know these words are defined differently than they were used in the south but you cannot get over something that continues to be used over and over again. While the intent may not be negative the mere reference of them is and therefore the use should be avoided. As an African-American woman, if I am referred to or spoken to using any word that is derogatory in nature regardless of the intent, I will take the opportunity to gracefully educate the culprit. I ask others to refer to me by my given name without shortening it which to me is a form of slang or familiarity (family and friend) for which they are usually not privileged to have. Depending on the level the individual is at will determine whether they can call me by my first or last name. In other words for equal or above positioned colleagues, we are on a first name basis and for students and colleagues below me in position should refer to me by Ms./my last name. It is a matter of respect. Being raised a military dependant; I do not mind being called mamn because I realize it is a form of respect used in the military. Ultimately for me, I am a “Lady” first and therefore prefer to be addressed as such. While woman seems more powerful than lady, I am not on a power trip and I actually like being a lady. Prior to turning 18 I was a girl but never will I ever accept being called a “gal” or “missy” by anyone. That is just unacceptable!!!

    Keep in mind that until you have experienced any form or racism you cannot begin to understand the impact it can have on an individual. For the record, I am an African-American woman who can pass for white if I so choose thanks to slavery and the degrading of black women as property and breeders who were constantly raped by white masters, their sons and their friends and this happened to my family from Liberia to the United States. I am a lighter complexion than a lot of southern whites and I still experience racism in the south because regardless of complexion one ounce of black blood as they referred to it makes you black in the eyes of the law and you were therefore a slave. If anyone is interested, I will be glad to share my family history with you.

  88. Greg on November 5, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    I think that Gal would be a gender slur (if at all) and not a racial slur. If I said, “What race is a wetback?”, you would know hispanic. If I said chink you would know Chinese (or asian). If I say Gal there is no race related to that word.

  89. Nyckii on November 24, 2010 at 8:40 am

    Actually “gal” is one of many offensive terms to describe a woman, especially a black woman, it makes us uncomfortable. The term historically was used by whites before and during the civil-rights era to refer to black women exclusively. The term was used to”try and put someone in their place”. It was also used to lump a group of “black” women together, and deny them their identity. To just say “gal”, no one had to call the black woman by name, or even admit she had a name or viewed her as a person. So, now that you have been educated, this should help to avoid any future “ass-whoopings”. Thanks.

  90. Dee on November 25, 2010 at 8:48 am

    gal is also used to refer to a woman who is loose and whorish. Not cool at all. Lady or woman is a much better term to be used. If you have to think about it too much its obviously not right. Just stick to the basics unless you’re from the south and that is a part of your colloquialism. Generally “Gal” is used to refer to a woman who just isnt worth much more than her looks…sort of like “Chick” or “Hot tomato” lol

  91. NorCal on November 25, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    It’s been almost 2 years that I have followed this thread since first posting.

    I still use the word gal. It’s simply the gender equivalent to guy. I don’t usually use either word to describe a single person. It’s usually, those guys, these gals. or whatever. It is only derogatory when used in a derogatory way. Like any word can be.

    Up to this point the word isn’t even on wikipedia’s List of ethnic slurs.

    I’m sorry some are offended by the word. But abolishing the use of a word that was misused by a few means the haters won. This whitey ain’t playing that game.

  92. bama bell on February 13, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    really, females? My parents had me later in life, and still use an older dialect. My daddy has called me gal since i was a tot, and have never heard it as a derrogatory term. Political correctness has gone too far. Something is going to offend someone no matter what, so get over it. We are so worried about offending someone we walk on eggshells all the time. Get down off your cross, build a bridge, and get over it.

  93. Jacqueline on February 16, 2011 at 9:33 am

    I happened upon this site, because this older white man just called me a gal at work! I was highly offended. You can play games if you want, but period point blank the word gal is and was used as a derogatory term against black women for decades! You can say YOU don’t mean it that way, but the connotation is what it is and there’s no way of getting around it! So much so, that when I told my HR rep she proceeded to have a conversation with him about NOT ever using the word again at work or else! As a black woman I’m offended and I am SOOO tired of people trying to act like they can use a word, say they mean something else, and the person who was offended should then just not be. As if!

  94. NorCal on February 16, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    Sorry you are offended Jacqueline.

    But like I said in my last post, it isn’t even listed as an ethnic slur on wikipedia.

    Merriam-Webster defines Gal as:


    When you look up other words that are known to be derogatory the dictionary lists the words as “usually offensive” or “usually disparaging”.

    So, it may be offensive in your mind, but the rest of the world has apparently gotten over it. Personally, I would respect your wishes and not call you a gal. But if HR tried reprimanding me for using a legitimate word (according to the dictionary)in a non-derogatory way I would have them back peddling so fast their heads would spin…

  95. shoppagurl on April 28, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    My neighbor who’s the same age as me or maybe a few years younger, both 60ish called me a ‘gal’ after introducing me to his dog who was named after Stonewall Jackson…standard comeback after we were freed: ” How old do the damn gals grow in your family?” Play dumb if you want to, but it’s an insult to a black woman. Diane Sawyer called the First Lady one; I’m not surprised, she’s from the south; her true colors were showing.

  96. Brenda on May 21, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    Really? I get so sick and tired of African Americans being offended by the slightest thing. I am not a racist and have many friends of different nationalities, sexual orientation, age, etc. but it always seems to be that the one that feels the need to complain the loudest is the African Americans. Really. If you were not a slave yourself, then why be offended? My family comes from indentured slavery and yet I don’t feel as though I need to be offended by terms from the past and how they are used today. I happen to know that African Americans sit around calling white people “crackers” and other derogatory terms so don’t try to take the higher ground when it comes to this comment. Here is one for all of those people out there trying to “define” their heritage…. use this one instead, I AM AN AMERICAN… that’s it. That’s what you are… quit segregating yourself and just enjoy the differences amongst us… and quit using how actual slaves were treated in the past as an excuse for your bad behavior in the present. If you wanted to start being treated in this world as an upstanding member of society with all the rights that go with it, then BE that upstanding member and try to take the higher ground. So all of my favorite gals out there… give a shout out to the word GAL… because it means girl, which represents WOMAN and femininity and be PROUD to be an American Gal!

  97. Brenda on May 21, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    Oh and in case you were wondering, even though I am white, I HAVE been treated in a discriminatory manner before in my life. That treatment is not exclusive to only those races other than white. But I don’t use it as a crutch to complain and moan over my lot in life!

  98. Jamie on May 21, 2011 at 6:21 pm

    Heh, I always know I’m going to see something transparently racist whenever someone feels the need to state ‘I’m not a racist’ before beginning their rant.

    Brenda, your rant not only makes generalisations about African Americans and their behaviour, it also ignores the effect of history on contemporary society. The historical impact of slavery has not gone away even though slavery itself has.

    Also, just because slavery was abolished in America and that considerable success has been had with tackling racism does not mean that terms with racist connotations stop being problematic or offensive.

    Finally, whatever forms of discrimination you may have experienced does not give you a free pass when talking about the discrimination and prejudice that other people experience. It’s definitely true that most people will experience some from of discrimination or marginalisation in one regard or another but that does not take away from the seriousness of racism.

  99. L Mikkia on June 15, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    I’m trying to figure out what the point of going into such a huge dialogue about the use of a term that has nothing to do with a person’s identity. Now, I admit I like to say “dude” just as any other person uses an identifier; however, at the end of the day, if a person says “don’t call me that” or don’t refer to me that way (no one ever has, btw)…then I won’t. Simple. I think the issue is RESPECT. We’ve really lost that in society. At the end of the day, people should not be so flippin lazy that they can’t call a person by their name (and their chosen name, at that). Imposing a nickname–which is not even a term of endearment derived from a mutual close relationship–on a person is not respectful. We need to gain a person’s consent in how we address them. We have the right to call ourselves whatever we choose; but that right of speech does not allow us to call other people whatever we want (at least without some recourse, backlash, etc). People don’t have to take what we shell out–no matter how innocent or well intentioned we think we are (from our perspective) being.

  100. patricia on August 30, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    i would not think of the word gal being used if it was my mother but the way it was used toward me and my sister was very racial i am almost 60 and i respect all people and i don,t refer to them as gals.

  101. CJ on September 8, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    Who knew the word gal would trigger a two year posting frenzy full of such disdain? I searched out this site because I used this word innocently today while addressing a group of people and had a 60 year old white male colleague of mine, who’s opinion I value, tell me I needed to be careful because a woman might be offended by the term.

    I have to tell you I was completely shocked. I’m a 39 year old white male from the midwest. It is not a term I generally use, and I agree that it sounds outdated, but offensive?? I want to say this is PC gone wild but who knows?

    Truth be told I thought it was a rather safe and neutral way to refer to a woman in much the way the term guy is used.
    Would I use this term to refer to a single female directly? I don’t think so. I believe the quote was something along the lines of “I interviewed a gal that would be a great fit for that position yesterday…”

    While I appreciate the history lesson and can understand that some African American women may be uncomfortable with the term I will trust that my audience is intelligent enough to understand the context the term was used in.

  102. deborah shane on September 21, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    I looked this up because I had seen an ad in a major Fashion magazine for a Miss Jessie’s Hair products for frizzy/curly hair. Their website features only Black women, yet the product stated “Also for White gals too”. I thought this was odd, given that I would never in a million years call a Black woman a “Black Gal”. So it seemed like reverse racism to me. I was reminded of a Regina music box in my family from the early 1900’s; the song discs had names like “Pickaninny Jubilee” and “I’ll Make Dat Black Gal Mine”. These were songs from the Al Jolson/Blackface minstrel days… meant as entertainment, but born of ignorance and insensitivity to any thoughts of political correctness. To me, the word “gal” is derogatory and demeaning in any sense aside from dated terms like the innocuous “guys and gals”. We should be beyond that.

  103. Mona on October 2, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    I respect people who don’t want to be call “Ma’am”, “Gal” or in a group “You Guys”…I have seen people use “Lady” ..like “Lady, listen to me!” so I think a lot of words can be used in a degrading matter. I don’t mind the word “Girl” even “Old Girl” when used for a female, because the word GUY is the equivalent..people use “Guy” and “Old Guy” instead of older gentleman all the time..so I am balancing out nature by using Girl, and for those of you who think it’s a term for kids, keep in mind that GUY is not to be used for anyone over 20..but it is. It’s the steps between Boy and Man, not to be dragged on to death. “You Guys” would be something to get offended over especially if the person says they are a feminist and using it on females and female/male groups since they are the ones that didn’t like the term “Mankind” or “Men” for a group of females and males. Guess what? If a GUY is a man, then GUYS are men, it’s just logic..you can’t argue that.

  104. jefallon on October 10, 2011 at 12:34 am

    wow! i recently moved from the north east to the north west where i was surprised to hear the word gal used to describe women of all age. and never once in a derogatory way, but always in an informal and often endearing way. i dont use it and probably never will because it feels weird to me, but only because before moving here i had never heard it used other than in old films and songs or by old men talking affectionately about some woman. it just makes be feel old, lol. and while i understand if you come from a culture where it was used in a derogatory way, you hold offense for the word, i find it weird that you would insist on being offended no matter what, even if that person is just as likely to refer to his wife or mother as a gal. there is enough offensive things out there, with the intent to hurt, why waste energy on on things that are clearly not meant to hurt? that being said i will be sure to never refer to an african american woman as a gal. (by the way, do you call boyfriends “boyfriends”, or would that be wrong? i call mine cute boy, but that’s because he is cute and well i secretly want to degrade him and make sure he knows he is inferior to me. but he just thinks its because i love him. silly boy.)

    well thank you for the education… i truly didnt know. i was just teasing cute boy about this silly local use of the word and decided to look up the origin. who knew!

    btw pdf… my pennsylvania dutch great grandmother was always lovingly called mammy straub all her adult life. it was an endearing term for grandmother. because i love my family, i am going to take ownership of that name. thank you!

  105. shaaronie on January 19, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    At work, there is this older gentleman, who works part-time who always refers to me as “gal” and I do find it offfensive. I am the only female he does this to although there is another A.A. who works here and we are the same age. “How are you Gal?”, Hey gal, let me speak to so and so”. I try to keep positive about it, it’s like being able to see a live version of an extinct animal or something. He may be the last of the red hot racists but probably is just an out of touch cad!

  106. T on February 16, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    This kind of debate is why I encourage use of the words “bitch” and “bitches.” They apply to BOTH genders equally well, are unquestionably offensive to both genders, and in general they are just very versatile words. No one can honestly call you racist or sexist for referring to someone as a “bitch.” The fact that is not sexist is evidenced by the fact that you can call someone a “son-of-a-bitch” to much the same effect.
    Yes, you may say, people have a hard time calling you racist or sexist with a straight face, but in fact they may call you an “a**hole,” at which point you simply point out to them that “a**hole,” “bitch,” and “son-of-a-bitch” have effectively the same meaning, within a small margin of error. Thus you have then immediately agreed on a undeniably equitable way of referring to each other, with absolutely no question as to whether the references are offensive or not! Sans racism, sans sexism, sans PC, sans “god-damned overly PC people,” sans argument, period. Love may not be a universal language, but antagonism sure is.

  107. Jamie Hankins on February 17, 2012 at 1:32 am

    In response to T’s comments.

    ‘Bitch’ is not gender equal.

    For a start, terms like ‘son-of-a-bitch’ insult a man by calling -his mother- a bitch, which still harks to the gendered origin of the term; principally, ‘bitch’ is a term to insult women.

    People may call men a ‘bitch’ directly but the usage is different. The traditional use of the term ‘bitch’ against a woman just insults her for being overly aggressive and cruel. Using this traditionally feminine insult against men has the added implications that he is weak or effeminate in his ‘bitchiness’.

    Compare and contrast; ‘He’s such a bitch’ vs ‘He’s such an arsehole’. It can also be seen in usages where it implies ownership; ‘He’s his bitch’.

  108. Nell on February 20, 2012 at 12:39 am

    I’m a 46 year old black “woman” that was born & lived in Texas all my life. About 3 weeks ago I informed a co- worker that her use of the word could be VERY offensive. Her defense was that she is from the north, but she has been in Texas for 30 years. She has been a Registered Nurse for over 30 years. I have been a Registered nurse for 21 years. SHE KNOWS BETTER. She is still using the word. I pick my battles carefully and I have not decided if I will take it further or not. I’m not saying she is racist, but I hope she picks a different word this week… Not sure I can take it anymore (Oh yes, she is “a white gal.”)…. See the word is offensive if refering to a black or white (will let the reader decide what to insert “woman or lady,” but please don’t insert “gal.”)

  109. Jobe on February 29, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    And a German asking for a “Rubber” simply meant they wanted an eraser. But us Americana think ‘condom’.

    Guys & Gals, we should stop thinking so hard about the words used and more to ‘how’ they’re being used.

  110. kimmarie on April 6, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    G.A.L. = Gun Active Ladies
    That should take care of any ambiguity, reference to an inferior race, color, creed, gender.
    We are all ONE, created under God, with equal opportunity and the chance to turn out as we should, respectful to human life and existence.
    Point Blank

  111. M on April 15, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    I’m a older black women. This afternoon 4/15/2012 in Pensacola, Florida, a woman probably in her early thirties, chided her three children to be careful “you almost ran into that gal. When I was a young girl 55 years ago, “gal” was a derogatory term used for then Negro domestic workers. I could not believe in 2012 I would hear that word again. “Gal” in the 1960’s was used by male bosses for secretaries or assistants ( My “gal” , “gal Friday). As I was not wandering the aisles of Publix with an Underwood typewriter, I excluded the second possibly. I agree with Nell. I would not have been offended had the woman said “you almost bumped into that old lady.” Gal , I am not. nor have ever been,

  112. maria on May 4, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    As a 56 year old white, female raised in the South, I am absolutley shocked when anyone uses the word “gal” to describe any woman but especially an African American woman. I definitely hear it as a derogatory label. I was so surprised when people I know from other parts of the country used the term to describe women in Africa until I realized they were not aware of what it meant in the South–they just thought it was like “guys and gals.” Best to steer clear of this term… it brings up the old wounds of utter disrespect and disregard even felt by those of us not on the receiving end.

  113. Wight on May 4, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    I would have thought the last comment should have been taken evidence on how meaning in language is regional rather than that the term is to be avoided in all situations and all contexts.

    It’s clearly the case that the term ‘gal’ has picked up some negative connotations in the south, especially towards black women. That’s a good reason to avoid using it… when in the south and referring to a black woman.

    As someone who does live ‘in the south’ but only in the sense that I live in the south of an island nation some considerably distance away, I’m not convinced that the negative connotations when used in American English in the south automatically apply to my use of the term when speaking in British English (not that I find myself using the term much but just supposing that I did). I suspect there’s something to be said about context here (and it’s worth bearing in mind that it appears to be a word that -gained negative connotations- rather than a word that was racist at it’s root).

  114. Jackie on May 9, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    I just came across this page and want to put in my two cents. I’m an A. American born and raised in VA. The term “gal” has always been offensive as far back as I can remember. I’ve mostly heard it used by old white men. The few times it was directed at me, it made my skin crawl.
    I am not a highly sensitive person, and I don’t see everybody as racist. The word racist is being thrown around too quickly these days. I believe we all have prejudiced thoughts. It’s only human. We are probably not even aware of most of them. People can and will speak and behave in an insensitive manner. I usually give them the benefit of the doubt unless it becomes a pattern.
    However, a true racist is a whole different thing. They are fully aware of their words and actions. There is an ugliness in their demeanor that is hard to describe if you haven’t experienced it for yourself. Their is a wild eyed, veins bulging, spit flying hatred that radiates from them. Look at some of the old news clips of the crowd when black students were integrated into white schools.

  115. J1 on June 27, 2012 at 12:55 am

    I think people are projecting their personal experiences onto the word. I personally have never heard the word used in what I would consider a derogatory manner. So to me, it is not a derogatory word. Other people have heard it used by people they felt were racist or condescending in some way, which made them attach a negative feeling to the word. In my experience, I always considered it an informal term, but not negative or derogatory in any way. I never heard it used oppressively or condescendingly like that. Do you think Obama or his wife Michelle feel that way about the word ? Of course not, otherwise he wouldn’t be using it.

    People need to understand that words may mean a certain thing in one context, but something else in another. Language is continually evolving. New words are born every year. Think about it: At one time, every word was not a word. Language is simply a form of communication – there are really no rules that don’t get broken eventually. It’s just a means for people to communicate what they mean to each other. As long as they are understood, it doesn’t matter if they “used the word correctly” or not. Rules are for games.

  116. Molly on July 17, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    Wow…I have been sitting here trying to decide what to write and I am still not sure. First…at the very top of this posting, someone tore into a poor older man when he was trying to pay her a compliment. He made the mistake of calling her a gal when he was doing it. This woman was more disrespectful, by far, than the gentleman. Obviously, he had no idea. IF she wanted to correct him, she should have done so in a more calm and respectful manner. Most of us had NO idea this was a “bad” word. I grew up in the south. I was considered poor white trash and lived a stones throw from what was then referred to as Shanty Town. Though my life is quite different now, I know of discrimination and I do not think “gal” is a word worth being offended over. A lovely friend of mine, who would rather die than hurt someone, excitedly exclaimed, “oh, you are the gal who is here to pick up…” She was verbally attacked by this woman! “I am NOT a gal…I am a lady blah blah blah.” Of course, my friend had no idea what she had done wrong. It just made the A. American woman look like a b**** which my friend would also never say. She worried over it and thought about calling her to apologize. So she says, “So here is how the conversation started in my head, Hi, I am the gal that called you a gal…”

    Come on people, white people today are NOT responsible for what our ancestors did. If someone is kind and calls you a gal. I would figure they don’t know it’s a “bad” word. As for the woman that is called gal by the older guy and none of her co-workers are…I would bet he likes you more than them. To get upset by something like this is just wasting so much positive energy and making perfectly nice people feel like bigots when they are far from it. I use the word gal and have for 50 years. I don’t intend to stop unless someone tells me, personally, that they are offended. As for our President, if is wife doesn’t mind being called gal…who are we to say he shouldn’t. She seems like she is quite capable of taking care of herself AND, again, he, obviously didn’t know it was unacceptable.

  117. Gina Sy on July 26, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    My co worker finds it offensive she says thats what black slave women were called back in the day.

  118. Surina on July 31, 2012 at 10:35 am

    I love the word “gal.” I got into the habit of using it to address a group of women from my one of my kindly aunts, since it represents her generation. I think there is something sweet and affectionate about addressing your girl friends as gals.

  119. Shoppagurl on November 9, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    Well this is my 2nd post. I was called ‘gal’ again last night by an older white male aquaintance and I asked him not to call me that because it was offensive. I explained my reason: that black women were called that when we were servants and slaves. His reply was, ” I know.” This is America in the south in 2012.

  120. gretchen on November 9, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    Wow – I’d say his reply of “I know” was more offensive than his use of the word “gal”. He is basically admitting he is using a term that he knows is offensive.

  121. NorCal on November 9, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    I’m sorry you were offended, but 72 hours after the first black US President was reelected and your take is “THIS is America”?

  122. swheatie on November 11, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    I’m a white male, early fifties, raised in Biloxi, MS an Air Force brat. My white wife of thirty years was raised in Vicksburg, MS, in a family you could describe as rural; members of her family commonly threw around racial slurs whenever it was “just us” white folks.

    That said, I was part of an offsite deployment with a young black female colleague with whom I have a good relationship. When I used the word “gal” in casual conversation riding in the car, she said that she thought the word was insulting. I had NEVER heard that “gal” might have offensive racial connotations, and, like an idiot, assumed we were talking about a generational difference rather than a racial one. I SO missed the point that I later sent an email informing other co-workers of a project she was going to be handling that I very nearly referred to her as the “Go-To Gal” in exactly the same way I would have referred to a male as the “Go-To Guy” on a project.

    It was only now, more than a year later, after seeing someone say “I’m just crazy ’bout that gal!” (referring to Melissa Harris-Perry) and that person being informed that it was a racist term, that I have realized how much in error I was.

    My point is: it is NOT widely known that African-American women find this term offensive. I don’t seek to offend ANYONE unless I WANT them to be offended, and here I was – as southern a white male as there is – literally ignorant of the entire issue. I’ve used this word my whole life as the feminine equivalent to “guy”.

    While I wish I had explored the subject in more depth with my co-worker, I’m sure as hell glad she didn’t fly off on the hair-trigger that some people seem to have. Geez, folks, moderate your responses appropriate to the situation… thank God she knew me and knew I wasn’t trying to belittle her.

    • gretchen on November 11, 2012 at 3:56 pm

      Swheatie – that was very well stated. Thank you.

  123. kitty on November 18, 2012 at 11:14 am

    I grew up in Southern California and my entire life the term “gal” simply meant a female person. I have used to term my entire life to refer to females of any age or race and never has anyone been offended – until yesterday.

    I moved to South Texas 2 1/2 years ago and so am still not familiar with ALL the various cultural nuances here in the South. I certainly was not aware of every way African Americans have been slurred throughout history.

    Yesterday I refered to a female who happed to be A.A. , and whom I had never met before in my entire life, as a gal. She took such great offense, she went immediately to my supervisor and reported that I was “going around calling her gal”. I took offense that without knowing ANYTHING about me, she would assume that I am the type of person who would knowingly use a derogatory term. I felt she handled the situation very poorly. All she had to do was pull me aside let me know she found the term offensive. All I needed was a little gentle education. I did apologize and explained that I didn’t mean any offense, but I was truly flabergasted.

    If you find a word offensive, I won’t use it, but don’t assume that I know it’s offensive – especially when you know nothing about me or my background.

    By the way, the word gal originated somewhere between 1785 and 1795 and was a dialect pronunciation of “girl.”

  124. Raphael on December 6, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    Look i know im late on this but gal is considered offensive. I was watching divorce court one day with judge tolan and the white woman defendant slipped up and called the judge GIRL. The whole court was in shock and the judge had the nastiet look on her face and read that woman to a t. Told the white woman about hwo she had come too far in her career to be disrespected. So yes as LaRue said No your audience.

  125. Raphael on December 6, 2012 at 11:11 pm

    Please stop refering to yourselves as human beings you are not animals.

  126. Mike on January 10, 2013 at 12:44 am

    In the Midwest there is nothing wrong with calling a female a “gal”. I only use it in written vocabulary, and purposely because it does sound outdated, yet otherworldly. I think of anyone from Rosie the Riveter to a cowgirl, or to any sort of hip kids hanging out on a Saturday night in the first half of the 20th century. If it is offensive in the South I had no idea.

  127. Matt on February 12, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    President Barack Obama used the word “gal” in his state of the union speech tonight, and has used it many times before. His wife has dark skin, and she isn’t offended. I’m thinking that it’s because she has never been a slave, and that the term simply means woman, and that it’s universal, regardless of skin tone.

    Stop trying to make an innocent word bad because some people used it in a mean manner in the past. The majority of people used it in an innocent, benign way, including the country’s first “black” president.

    It all can be summed up by an analogy someone used earlier on this thread: How would you feel if you had to stop using an innocent word you have been using all your life, because it was discovered that some idiot used it in a mean way 100 years ago?

    By the way, “guy” is officially offensive in America now. I found out that racist “black” women once used this term in a derogatory manner toward young “white” and “Hispanic” men. Please never say it again, or I will report you, and you could be fired because “I don’t know if I can take it anymore” (Quoting Nell from a previous post)

  128. Jamie Hankins on February 13, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    I think part of the problem here is that people seem to be assuming that either ‘Gal’ is always inappropriate, or it’s always okay. I think it obviously depends a lot on context; for example, surely no one is going to be offended if you use it, in an informal context, to describe a white female friend?

    I don’t believe intent magically makes a word inoffensive, but words work on the shared meanings that we create and they don’t mean anything without a conversational context.

    Here in the UK, ‘Gal’ and ‘Guy’ are vaguely American sounding words for woman and man. In at least some areas of the southern states of the USA, it’s clear that they communicate very different ideas. This is by no means the only linguistic gap between the two regions.

    Would it be very surprising to learn that words that are used in one conversation in one area of the USA may carry an significantly different meaning (or at least different connotations) in a different conversation in a different area of the USA?

    The lesson I took from reading this thread was not ‘never use the term gal’, but instead to be careful about how and when I use the term gal. For example, should I ever find myself talking to a black woman from the USA, I shalln’t be tempted to use it to describe it…

  129. Vivacious one on March 28, 2013 at 8:46 pm

    WOW, I have been educated!!! Honestly had no clue, I also always related it to gender. I just had a similar incident and got my 50+ honke bootie chewed up one side and down the other. Which made me do some research. Bottom Line, if something offends another and they say it does, common sense and respect will keep you from harming another’s feelings. Seriously, I wish everyone would just learn how to get along and quit the wah, wah, wah attitude. A lot of things have changed in 100 years, and sooner or later people that were not even involved will get off their pity pots, and join forces to become one! Go Barrack, He is definitely one of the more intelligent that knows the difference of THAT WAS THEN, THIS IS NOW!
    We all better focus on what counts, the FUTURE, before its too late.

  130. White Guy in a Great Church on June 6, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    I am a white guy working in a wonderful racially mixed church in the South. My parents generation (WWII / Korea), aunts & uncles etc, always referred to men and women and “guys and gals”. So I have always been more upset at that women were referred to as “guys” which was , to me a male word.

    However I have recently been made aware that using “gal” to address my black friends is not appropriate, particularly here in the south. Also, the above comments help me to understand even more of the depth of how the word was used in the past.

    So ladies, please forgive all us “guys” for using a word that might offend!

    I am not afraid of diversity, and don’t care for political correctness. Rather I cherish those around me. I dive right in and ask. One of the things I appreciate the most about my black (& other “non-white”) friends is we can talk about the worst and the deepest subjects because we love each other! Now I have a bigger family!

  131. Terry on July 21, 2013 at 9:27 am

    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?”

  132. Rebecca on February 14, 2014 at 2:39 am

    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.

  133. Patrick Gailey on October 18, 2014 at 5:44 pm

    Well Chet,

    While I appreciate your innocent take on people like Barak using this word with no serious negative intention, sometimes intention is not always the best way to analyze a situation. I won’t patronize you by giving very obvious examples of how good intentions can go by the waste-side in light of horrific realities.

    What I will say is that most academically informed people who spend their lives thinking about the socio-political implications of race in our country agree – Gal has a seriously racist history. Now the importance of whether or not the president was aware of this when he used the word can be debated. But what can not be debated is that the word gal, in recent historical memory for our country, was used as a derogatorily & slanderous word used to describe black women. In slave times, the word was much worse and used in similar connotation to the many iterations of the N-word.

    Now I believe based on your post that you are a decent human and that even if the N-word took on a new meaning in modern vernacular that you would still be reluctant to use it. In the same vein I would encourage you not to use the word ‘gal’ or view it so innocently. Just cause you weren’t aware that it was used in such a derogatory fashion during the eras of slavery, jim-crow, and everywhere in-between doesn’t make that horribly regretible aspect of American history disappear and as such it does carry a historically-racist implication – just like the N-word.

  134. Patrick on October 18, 2014 at 5:55 pm

    Allright Matt, why dont you go around calling everyone the N-bomb then. Or maybe refer to our dignified islamic brethern as ‘rag-heads.’ No, you ignorant man, just no! History carries important implications for language and always will.

    How hard is it to just call someone a woman or a “very competent or nice or interesting person?” Why is it even necessary to signify gender? I just don’t get what you could possibly have to be offended about and to write such a comment with such an upset attitude. As a clearly white male yourself you carry with you most of the privileges we could ask for in modern society in the US that are not necessarily afforded to women or people of color.

    I’m sure you’ll shrug off this comment but you can also choose to make a simple choice not to use a word that rarely comes up anyways. Your choice will definitely effect (some) other peoples’ opinions of you as a human – especially as you are clearly now aware of the former racial implications of the word. The choice is yours my friendly human.

  135. Patrick on October 18, 2014 at 6:02 pm

    1785-1795. Some pretty horrible things were happening during this time. Also, just because a word starts one way doesnt mean it doesn’t become derogatory, racist, inappropriate, or down right horrible. You are right, that person handled the situation poorly. But perhaps you can follow your own advice and try to seek to understand where that person was coming from.

  136. TRuth on December 9, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    It’s the end of 2014. I see that this thread was created in 2007. I don’t know the timeframe of the answers, but the reason I am here is…I am a Black female in Mississippi, last night a White (new)co-worker and I were discussing(txting) our daughters(grown women, mine especially) and sent pictures. Things were going well until she said my daughter was a ‘beautiful gal’. I took offense to the ‘gal’. Because in the culture and history of the south, gal is not a term of endearment. I ended my texting session(my phone was really dying, perfect). But now I wonder about my co-worker. Does she NOT know? or DOES SHE?. So to challenge myself, I went searching to see what was on the internet. I found my way here. It’s been real. I see those who are like me and feel like I do. I see those who DIDN’T KNOW it was offensive to African Americans. I see those who deem it as sexist (Mad Men anyone?). And I see those who are offended that someone else dare be offended by a word.

    To those who think that words are simply words. That is not so. Words can have a variety of meanings and intent. What is important is that we accept and respect the persons’ feelings and act accordingly, that is if you really care. To not dismiss a persons’ feelings as frivolous. Or think they should get over it by now. When situations still exist that causes a person to be affected or offended, be it racism or sexism, you don’t just GET OVER these. The offended party now has to decide how to deal with the situation. As in the case of my co-worker. Considering where I am and my past time with her, my guard is indeed up. I can’t say all, I can’t say most, but I do know African Americans who have the perspicacity when it comes to ‘hidden’ racism. I’m not talking about those folks who cry racism at the drop of a hat. NO! There is a difference that comes with maturity in judging a situation.

    For those naysayers, read the book, Black Like Me, by John Howard Griffin, a White man who traveled through the south as a Black man. Better still I dare you to do what he did and not be affected. Either way, I think your views will change. Or you could continue to not care. Continue to see the world in simple Black and White and never open yourself up to the many shades of each.

  137. Brass Belle on March 6, 2015 at 6:05 am

    Yes, girl is demeaning if referring to grown women (the way that one would not dream of calling an African American adult male a boy). I outright despise when men call us Baby Girl.
    Some terms are just considered offensive due to regions or eras. 30s era terms like chick, doll. and broad were offensive in the 70s; but have a resurgence now as our romanticism to all things vintage usually do. Being raised as s Southerner, Ma’am is just a term of respect to strangers who are in authority—or yes, who are older. But now, living in the Pac NW i have learned to avoid this as well as Madame. When in doubt, I always use ladies, women and if feeling familiar, dames.

  138. Mason on November 13, 2015 at 8:09 pm

    I’m so glad I found this thread. I personally hate the word gal & have only heard it used by sexist old farts & weirdos.

  139. Nancy on January 13, 2016 at 2:45 pm

    Goodness–i am a black woman, not afro/african american, or other PC nonsense. could not care less if someone uses the word–“gal”–for the vast majority it is a term of endearment. What is wrong in this loser country with everyone/everything being offended/overly sensistive all the time. Entitled loser culture. Grow up and get a back bone, and grow some ovaries sheep.

  140. Susan Burgess on March 9, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    I’m so glad i saw this site. I went to sams club today. I am a white woman and called a black lady a gal. I never knew it was a derogatory term. She let me have it. To make a short story even shorter, at the end of our conversation, it just flew out again. It is part of my verbiage i guess. She told me its like the n word or like fag. I can’t wrap my brain around this. I am 59, and i too thought it was just a term of endearment. I cried, and it still brings tears to my eyes, because i would never think to use it in a derogatory fashion. I have wonderful friends of all nationalities and religions. It hurts my heart that this lady became so offended. I grew up with noir, maybe thats been an influence on me. Its gonna be hard to change the words i speak, but im willing to change because i care about peoples feelings.

  141. carlo on June 29, 2016 at 4:21 am

    I actually find guy offensive and i,m a man. I like to be addressed by my name or as sir. Dude is also offensive to me. Gal sounds weird but I just found out that is how girl is pronounced in cockney English

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  143. Mike on March 6, 2017 at 1:21 pm

    Back in the 90’s in my college residence hall(they didn’t call them dorms for some reason)I remember seeing a list of words(and names)that were considered politically incorrect. Maybe they were seen as outdated I don’t. I remember that one of them was “gal.” I remember this struck me as a bit odd and to some degree still does. Maybe some people think of it the same way the would the term “dame” or “broad.” I’m really not sure. I don’t see how gal would be any more offensive than dude or even chick. Maybe it’s a term from another era but I still do hear it occasionally. I’m pretty sure it’s never used in the pejorative sense so I really don’t understand why anyone would be offended by it. Sure it’s impersonal but so is maam, madam, miss or sir.

  144. Ann M on March 22, 2017 at 10:31 pm

    I’m older and I’m Texan and I’m female. I use the word gal frequently in everyday conversations. My best friend is my gal pal. My grandbabies are the cutest little gals in town. My co-workers are great gals. What you been up to, gal? And never before until today has anyone been offended. I believe some of this ‘political correctness’ is bullshit, and this is one of them. The sensitive people that are so offended by something as innocent as a simple word like gal are the ones looking for any excuse to draw the racial line in the sand. Stop getting butt hurt about every little thing!

  145. Linda on March 26, 2017 at 2:38 pm

    I was born and raised in the South. I have many friends of all colors and nationalities. I have never known that the term Gal was offensive to anyone until just this week when I was told it was offensive to African Americans, I was dumbfounded. It was explained that using it was the equivalent of calling an adult African American male “Boy”. Evidently there are some African Americans who are offended by it and other who are not. Within a day of hearing this explanation, I saw African American actress Tamara Taylor on a Bones (t.v. show) retrospective refer to herself as a “lucky gal”. I guess someone needs to publish a list of words that anyone might consider offensive so we can keep up. I can’t recall ever using the word “gal”, but certainly would not have meant it in a derogatory way if I had used it, as it has no color connotation to it in my mind.

  146. Jamie on August 3, 2017 at 8:33 pm

    Is it offensive if a man says you are his gal instead of his woman? To me gal is more childish than a full grown woman. I still feel like I have no title with him.

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