Friday, December 5, 2008

Some Words from Today's Headlines

This AOL headline today caught my eye and grated my ear.
Natalie Facing Ugly Allegations; Murdered Boy's Stepfather Sues Chick for Spreading Lies
It took me a while to realize why someone would use "Chick" here. The person in question is a member of the species known collectively as "Dixie Chicks." (Not my scene, man, which is why it took me a minute to piece it together.)

I've long had a spinal reaction to the word "chick." It's not just a feminist thing. I find it more icky when women use "chick" than when men do. A man's use of "chick" has a sort of Richie Cunningham connotation: a boy who likes girls. A woman's use of "chick" has the opposite ring in my ear: It sounds competitive and kind of hateful: a girl who hates other girls. Like, "There's this chick in school who's a total slut." Clearly, this is based on my limited experience (and also a glimpse into why I didn't find high school the most pleasant environment). But that's how it strikes my ear.

Of course, the band name the Dixie Chicks is self-referential, which in my mind means different rules apply. It's not a pretty sound, but it's not hateful, either. The K sound and the S sound in "Dixie" are a little harsh, and added to the K sound and the S sound in "chicks," it's rough on the ear. At least it's not dripping with high-school-girl contempt, though.

Here's another of today's headlines that caught my interest word-wise:
Stocks Rebound on Defensives and Banks
I hadn't heard "defensives" in a market context before. I wondered if it meant defense stocks. But no, the writers used it to mean a group of stocks including biotechs.

The first noun form of "defensive," according to my Webster's, is:
[Obs.] something that defends.
That "obs." means obsolete. So either the headline writers revived a basically dead word, or this dead word is not dead in the specialized lingo of the stock market and I'm just too much of an outsider (not my scene, man) to know it. (I'm chicky like that.)

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