Japan Today
Image: lemono/iStock
lifestyle

Listen up, ladies and gentlemen, guys and dudes: Terms of address can be a minefield, especially as their meanings change

32 Comments
By Scott F Kiesling

The requested article has expired, and is no longer available. Any related articles, and user comments are shown below.

© The Conversation

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

32 Comments
Login to comment

A male colleague could be forgiven for not knowing if using “guys” to refer to female co-workers is acceptable in the modern workplace. But should he address them as “ladies,” he risks a trip to HR, or at the very least being labeled a condescending creep.

Clearly "girls" is the correct answer.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

You always address a woman,you do have a relationships with as Miss,Mrs and you will be damn if you call her Maam

-7 ( +2 / -9 )

TaiwanIsNotChinaToday 06:52 am JST

Clearly "girls" is the correct answer.

If you are talking about someone over 18, they are not a "girl". They are a woman.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Words change their meanings over time, and meanings especially change as the use of an address term expands.

No, they don't. Certain bored idiots just decide they're suddenly insulted by a word. The rest of us with more important things to worry about carry on as usual until the limp-wristed powers-that-be acquiesce to this very loud but very minor

3 ( +9 / -6 )

very small minority and drag us all into the stupid mess.

3 ( +9 / -6 )

ThubanToday 07:25 am JST

Thanks to woke, everything is a minefield these days.

Yeah, goddess forbid men be forced to actually think about how they speak to women. Sheesh, next thing you know we'll be asking for the vote.

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

Yeah, goddess forbid men be forced to actually think about how they speak to women.

Most men in the world speak to women respectfully.

1 ( +7 / -6 )

It's not difficult to address people. In Japan, it's even more easy addressing by family name.

In America calling men Sir and women Ma'am is still very common. Countries like France and Italy remain very formal.

I never use the term lady and I never use slang.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

If you are talking about someone over 18, they are not a "girl".

My sister, in her 50s, will talk about herself and friends as 'the girls'.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

WandoraToday 08:21 am JST

No, they don't. Certain bored idiots just decide they're suddenly insulted by a word. The rest of us with more important things to worry about carry on as usual until the limp-wristed powers-that-be acquiesce to this very loud but very minor

Dictionary

Definitions from Oxford Languages · Learn more

etymology /ˌɛtɪˈmɒlədʒi/

noun: etymology

the study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history.

"the decline of etymology as a linguistic discipline"

the origin of a word and the historical development of its meaning.

plural noun: etymologies

"the etymology of the word ‘devil’"

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Goals0Today 09:00 am JST

My sister, in her 50s, will talk about herself and friends as 'the girls'.

I feel like you didn't read the article or make note of how it mentions the phenomena of taking back words that have been used to demean or insult them, making them their own, and using them in-group as a way of resisting the insult. Here, let me help:

These gangs started calling each other “dude” as a way to both resist the insult and to signal solidarity among fellow zoot-suiters. So the zoot-suiters added a new meaning of solidarity to “dude.”

On the other hand, saying something like “hey girl” to a man might be insulting, although such use is common in LGBTQ+ communities.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Just keep your interactions to a minimum. Be polite (expected in Japan anyway) and formal (it's a workplace, not a pub). Use names rather than anything else. Avoid colloquialisms and slang. Don't tell jokes or talk about politics. Be deferential to anyone higher up the food chain than you are (Sir, Ma'am) but do no talk down or be less than polite to those below you. Default to received pronunciation if you can. If someone wants to be friendly, you can lighten up a bit as you get to know them. They will probably say something like 'Call me Sal' and you can reciprocate. We have protocols just like computers. It's not rocket science.

Workplaces, like schools, love having endless rules, so that those with small amounts of power can feel good using it. You are paid to play by the rules. That's the deal. If it was fun, they wouldn't call it work or pay you to do it.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I feel like you didn't read the article or make note of how it mentions the phenomena of taking back words that have been used to demean or insult them, making them their own, and using them in-group as a way of resisting the insult.

Not the case at all. She's just kept using the term since her teens.

My oldest sister, on the other hand, is ready to pounce at anything that doesn't fit in with what we enlightened are supposed to believe.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Goals 0Today 09:40 am JST

Not the case at all. She's just kept using the term since her teens.

My oldest sister, on the other hand, is ready to pounce at anything that doesn't fit in with what we enlightened are supposed to believe.

Okay, but my point remains, doesn't it?

I am sure you are quire aware that one person using a term of address (as a term of affection, out of nostalgia, or as a in-joke, etc.) can have a different connotation than someone else using the same term of address.

You know this, right?

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

The issue came up this past spring when a male candidate for a school superintendent position used “ladies” in an email to address two women, including a committee member. The term, he was told, was a “microaggression” and “disrespectful”; his job offer was rescinded.

This is straight bull and exactly one of the things that is wrong with society today. Explain the situation to him and leave the job offer on the table. One "wrong" word that was written innocuously and the guy is out of a new job. Wouldn't happen to a woman, er, can I use that term? Saying one newly unacceptable term is unacceptable and could result in severe punishment. Ruining someone's livelihood over it? Totally acceptable and cheered.

Lots of these terms have been deemed unacceptable by feminists and the LGBTQ+ whatever community and they seem to feel whatever offends them should be changed.. That's why I avoid any interaction with them whenever possible. The people I hang out with don't speak in the language of the 2020s and don't spend all day chastising and berating people. Thank goodness.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Please don't bring stupid American Woke problems to other countries!

Not sure why this article is relevant for Japan. We don't have a gender crysis here. Please, keep this garbage to your country, together with the tipping culture.

USA is not the World, you know?

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

girl_in_tokyoToday  10:23 am JST

I am sure you are quire aware that one person using a term of address (as a term of affection, out of nostalgia, or as a in-joke, etc.) can have a different connotation than someone else using the same term of address.

There are terms we would use for friends and family that we would not use to our boss. That's common sense. But when the same word is allowed by a certain group but not another group - as determined by the first group and any apologists for that group - that is just plain wrong. That's like me calling myself a 'cracker' but getting offended when someone of a different hue starts using the term. It's either an acceptable word or it isn't. Otherwise we'd need numerous dictionaries with different words in each labelled derogatory.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Oh dear, I get so confused by these English gender words. Some times when I write about the Japanese female bands Lovebites and Bandmaid I refer to them as 'ladies' out of respect and adoration. They are all older than me, except one, Fami, the bass player of Lovebites, she is 20 and I am 23.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

girl_in_tokyoToday 08:17 am JST

TaiwanIsNotChinaToday 06:52 am JST

Clearly "girls" is the correct answer.

If you are talking about someone over 18, they are not a "girl". They are a woman.

So the correct answer to address a group of women is "women!"?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

We have a world in turmoil and we have people that consider what they are called incredibly important. As long as a person isn’t intentionally being rude to you, don’t worry and grow a thicker skin

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

But why are some terms that were once accepted, like “ladies,” now seen as offensive by members of the gender they reference, 

News to me.

As a male I use "ladies" all the time, directed towards females (as defines at birth) generally from 14 years old and up.

I always feel the same when I use that word. I am never offended by its use.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

yipyip

Do be honest, these pronoun people are a waste of space to me. How entitled are they to have such a triviality to be concerned about?

2 ( +7 / -5 )

The problem now is that so many idiots are just looking to get offended

3 ( +3 / -0 )

“The barbarians will be at the gate and we’ll be debating what gender pronouns to call them.”

-Douglas Murray

0 ( +1 / -1 )

If you are talking about someone over 18, they are not a "girl". They are a woman.

As we'd say in Scotland, are you sure about that, hen?

Over here, we're still girls and boys if we can drink past midnight. (I guess I'm an old bloke now.)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I use “ladies” all the time verbally but wouldn’t use it in writing or in a job interview situation like the poor guy who got crucified by the wokesters.

They did him a favor by declining him from such a toxic organization. He just didn’t know it yet.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Interesting perspectives, everyone. See? I used the all-inclusive pronoun for all of you. Except that I really meant 'Guys and Dolls'.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

We should start calling each other IT from now on.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Do be honest, these pronoun people are a waste of space to me. How entitled are they to have such a triviality to be concerned about?

Exactly. Pronouns are what I use to refer to someone else. I choose the pronouns. The other person chooses the noun.

Ladies, gentlemen, any more comments?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Much ado about nothing.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I am sure you are quire aware that one person using a term of address (as a term of affection, out of nostalgia, or as a in-joke, etc.) can have a different connotation than someone else using the same term of address. 

You know this, right?

I think you need to relax. You're taking it all too seriously.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites