Grammar Moment: “Ladies”
OK, so this is really only a little, tiny pet peeve of mine. It has to do with how the news media and others report on women’s sports. Time after time, some benighted correspondent will refer to the athletes as “ladies” – for example, calling the University of New Mexico women’s basketball team the “Lady Lobos.”
Sorry, folks, these athletes aren’t ladies, they’re women. Ladies attend tea parties and keep their pinkies extended properly. They are courteous and gentle and polite. They defer to others, even when they disagree. They most certainly don’t assert themselves if such assertiveness might cause discomfort.
Anyone who has seen top-level female athletes in action knows they aren’t ladies. They’re not just assertive; they’re aggressive. They won’t defer to their opponents just to be polite or avoid uncomfortable feelings, although they do respect the rules of the game. When they feel the rules have been breached, they can express themselves very saltily – I recently got an earful from a Dutch athlete who trains in El Paso, when the Dutch athletic committee (much more influenced by politics than a wish to field the best athlete) passed her over in favor of another woman who trains in Rotterdam but whom she beat by three seconds at a meet in Jamaica. I don’t particularly approve of any athlete, of either gender, using foul language, but this particular athlete proved she definitely is NOT a lady; she is a woman. (And if anyone watches the European track championships, if the Dutch athlete in the women’s 800-meter race loses by less than 3 seconds, you should all know Blondie would have won.)
Meanwhile, it’s not just sportswriters who misuse the term lady. I have this watch, for instance, that has the incongruous name “Lady Ironman.” It’s a great watch. It has a timer feature, so I can use it for race countdowns, and it works great. It also has a chronograph feature that allows me to time distances before the race, so I can plan my start and get a feel for my time to the line. It’s designed for runners, and it has a lap timer function that I’m sure I can figure out some good sailing use for, up to 49 laps. Best, it’s not too expensive – I got mine at Kmart for less than $40. It did have a slight problem that when strapped to a very thin wrist, there was too much pressure on the joint between the band and the watch, and the band separated from the watch; I’ve solved that problem by not cinching the watch down but leaving it a bit loose.
By comparison, last year I got Pat a Gill sailing watch for more than $200 – I saved $30 by getting the one with the neoprene band rather than the stainless-steel bracelet, but that band has since broken, and so Pat now carries the watch in his pocket. It has a more sophisticated timer, which issues audible tones every 30 seconds during the first 4 minutes of the countdown, then every 10 seconds during the last minute, then counts every second of the last 10. The Lady Ironman requires that the tactician keep an eye on the watch and call the time to the helm. However, with the watch in his pocket, Pat often accidentally triggers a starting countdown, which can lead to embarrassment in public places.
Overall, I’d say that the Lady Ironman is a much better deal than the Gill watch. However, getting back to my original main point, I really don’t like the name. The type of athlete who is going to use this watch is not a lady. She is going to be a woman. Therefore, I would really like Timex to rename this watch. It’s not the Lady Ironman; it’s the Ironwoman.