Tuesday, December 31, 2019
How Not to Use "Boy" in Today's Political Correctness
The Limited Use of “Boy” Today We live in an era of political correctness. Once commonly used words and phrases are now suspect. Let’s look at the word “boy.” Words often have different meanings in different contexts. Merriam-Webster defines ‘boy’ as “a male child birth to adulthood,” but “boy” can mean much more and much less. We still say boys and girls, but further usage is very limited. A prime example is the mostly historic racist use of the word directed at African American males. The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. in his great Letter From a Birmingham Jail wrote: “[W]hen your first name becomes ‘nigger’ and your middle name becomes ‘boy”’(however old you are) and your last name becomes ‘John” ….” Thus the 11th Circuit in 2010 found the word "boy" racist when used by a supervisor against black employees. Another phrase from the same era is “Good old boys,” which are Southern gentlemen or a male clique in professions. It’s also a phrase to denote obstacle to women breaking into a profession or field. For example, the Directors Guild is dominated by Good Old Boys when it comes to Oscar nominations for Best Director. A historical usage is a side note of the atomic bombs dropping on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The bombs had different designs. The Hiroshima bomb was nicknamed “Little Boy” and the Nagasaki bomb “Fat Man.” “Little Boy” and its hydrogen successors hopefully will never be used again. Let’s look at other historic uses which either have, or should, fade into the sunset. King Tut, the fabled King Tut made famous on Saturday Night Live by Steve Martin, was known as the “Boy King,” which is hardly funny since King Tut died young. Paper Boy – I was a paper boy for 18 months in high school delivering the San Francisco Chronicle and also the overlapping San Francisco Examiner for four of those months. Both were profitable competing morning newspapers at the time. Who gets home delivery from paper boys anymore? “News Boy” is similarly archaic. I worked nine months as a office boy and two years as a catalog boy in college. Those terms are probably verboten today. Now we have externs and interns. Of course, “Boy Friday” is also a no-no today as well as its cousin “Tea Boy.” We also had messenger boys and errant boys as well as copy boys and servant boys not so long ago. Let us not forget Tarzan had Jane, Cheeta the chimp, and “Boy.” There’s also Boy Wonder – not to be confused with enfant terrible Should we say “boy genius” or child prodigy? We shouldn’t today call some girls “tomboys” Boys in the Band Boyz n in the Hood Nature Boy – a song and the nickname of a male model in Playgirl Magazine If we say “Good Boy” or “Bad Boy,” it sounds like we are training a dog without the bone or treat. Fr. Flanigan’s Boy’s Town tried changing its name to Boys and Girls Town since it started accepting girls but changed back to Boys Town. That’s bad judgment! More so is that fundraisers should learn from Boy’s Town’s success. It had an endowment of $191 million in 1970 and $568 million in 1992. It has over $1 billion in assets today. That boy has grown up! That is not a boy charity!