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It’s a small word. A common word. And like many small, common words, it is saturated with meaning.
Sure, “girl” means “female child.” The basic meaning is relatively simple. But we use it in a lot of other ways, too. And that’s wonderful, actually. One of the things I like about words is their strange ability to be both precise and elastic, to have both an exact meaning and a host of other associations and idiosyncrasies.
Some of the associations we have with the term “girl,” though, are ultimately damaging. Living in the South, I’m also not unfamiliar with the racial connotations that may accompany the word, though the racial implications of “boy” are more often discussed and debated. We’re probably all familiar with the phrase “like a girl” as a pejorative meaning that something wasn’t done very well. And many of us, especially of a certain generation, have been called girls by bosses…
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