I will definitely argue with you over this. In a hundred years "girl" might refer to any woman without suggesting their age at all. We could have another word in its place. What is the difference? Language is as language is used.* It's like when we were talking about feminism... Of course feminism might not be the most "accurate" word, but can't we use it anyway? It's not like anyone gets seriously confused that isn't Ahmet. Really, when is language inaccurate? Only when the actual meaning is misconstrued, which is what you have done here. It's a strange position but one might even suggest that it's more the fault of the interpreter who gets the wrong message when a fully fluent speaker says something in good faith (note: I don't believe this at all, inasmuch as it doesn't make any sense and there are plenty of counterexamples, but I thought I would bring it up as an idea). Certainly I have only myself to blame when I mishear someone else's words.smiley_cow wrote:I think part of the problem is nine time out of ten, the word 'girl' for an adult woman isn't accurate. I know you'll probably argue with me over this, because you see language as always changing, but I think people should make more of an effort to be more accurate with their language.
This is where semantics comes into play. You're never listening for the literal** meaning of what they say. There's way more to language than the most literal interpretation. This whole idea seems pretty questionable to me... I've said a lot of things that I didn't mean to say, and I'd hate anyone to hold it against me when they know what I really mean. It's a mistake, sure, and it's my fault, but can there be said that there is any malice or intent behind it? If I call someone a girl, unthinkingly, I am not suggesting that they are not fully able. Not even close. That's something that you're getting out of it that's not really there.smiley_cow wrote:And if we are to take what someone is saying looking just at the words they chose and not guess at what they probably meant, when the word 'girl' is used, it does insinuate that they are not talking about a fully able adult. Even though that's not usually what they meant to say, it is still what they said.
*I repeated this mantra at a meeting for my linguistics conference, and everyone laughed at me... But whatever, if I'm going to be serious about things then I have to take it as true, even with my personal reservations against it. I just thought "guys! This is what we do! None of us are going to get real jobs so get used to it now!"
**This is okay, right? I don't normally use "literal" in a non-literal sense. In any case, I'm not a big fan of hyperbole anyway.