Date: Thu, 20 Oct 1994 13:48:25 EDT


Subject: Re: offending idioms

Though some males may preen at being called a "hunk" or "stud,"

these objectifying terms can be as jarring as the older, informal term for

a girl: "filly." Male libbers may also look askance at the use of "booty"

as a posterior descriptive, especially when thinking of the denotative

"loot" or "treasure." Even "groovy" has its potential as a sex offender

when thinking of its origins as "in the groove," meaning exciting or

stimulating, seen most strongly in song lyrics such as "shake your groove

thing." But there seem to be two levels at which these terms work. On the

public level of usage, offense seems to occur more readily from idiomatic

animal comparisons like "chick." On the private level, there is, at times,

an enjoyment, amusement, and enthusiasm for the malleability of our

language. So on one plane, certain highland clans may take humbrage at

"scot free" (though it has no relation to the many derogatory references to

Scottish cheapness), while on another, the inner group enjoys a certain

mockery of itself. And terms change from negative to positive (as in

"yankee") or shift focus (as in "honky"). Am I making sense here? Perhaps

I need some Dutch courage or maybe I'm just horsing around (originally a

sexual idiom).

Some animal rights activists may be offended by your use of animal references. Last year I read a book (I can't remember the exact title, but it was something like "1001 Ways to Save the Animals"), in which a whole chapter was

dedicated to erasing phrases such as "dog ugly" and "fat as a pig" from the

English language.