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View Full Version : Do teen girls and young women of today call their female friends "girlfriends"??



Plot Device
10-29-2013, 06:37 AM
Not sure where to ask this question. Thought about the "Philosophy of Language" sub-forum. But I opted for here instead. This is actually sort of a writing question. I have a 20-something female in my WIP and the realistic usage of the term "girlfriend" by my character is now questionable in my mind.

When I was a teenager (1980's), it was only just starting to become not so advisable for a girl to refer to her close female friends as "girlfriends." My general sense --both then and now-- was that it was actually sort of a GOOD thing for it to start to become not advisable, because it indicated that lesbianism was just starting to become recognizable and acceptable. It was being quietly admitted to (no longer denied), being given some room to exist. Thus the term "girlfriend" was (from my perspective) slowly being relinquished by heterosexual girls as not belonging to them anymore. Part of it was admittedly a homophobic desire not to be mistaken by others for being a lesbian, but another part of it was a sort of a Seinfeldian "Not that there's anything WRONG with that," kind of a relinquishment.

So ... I am now 40-something and want to know: do ANY female hetero teens/20-somethings use "girlfriend" anymore at all today? Is it totally gone from usage among hetero girls of today's young generation? Or has it hung on?

I will say I have heard it used as a joke among young girls of today, sort of like conversational hyperbole, bordering on absurdism. But I'm talking about using the term in all seriousness. Such as, I recall an old black & white film from the 1950's or 1960's where a woman in her late 20's was being questioned by an officer (I think it was a murder investigation) and he asked her some question in all seriousness, and the answer she gave in all seriousness was "I was out with my girlfriends last night, officer." No hyperbole at all. And THAT is what I am angling in on here.

Thanks.

cornflake
10-29-2013, 06:55 AM
Not sure where to ask this question. Thought about the "Philosophy of Language" sub-forum. But I opted for here instead. This is actually sort of a writing question. I have a 20-something female in my WIP and the realistic usage of the term "girlfriend" by my character is now questionable in my mind.

When I was a teenager (1980's), it was only just starting to become not so advisable for a girl to refer to her close female friends as "girlfriends." My general sense --both then and now-- was that it was actually sort of a GOOD thing for it to start to become not advisable, because it indicated that lesbianism was just starting to become recognizable and acceptable. It was being quietly admitted to (no longer denied), being given some room to exist. Thus the term "girlfriend" was (from my perspective) slowly being relinquished by heterosexual girls as not belonging to them anymore. Part of it was admittedly a homophobic desire not to be mistaken by others for being a lesbian, but another part of it was a sort of a Seinfeldian "Not that there's anything WRONG with that," kind of a relinquishment.

So ... I am now 40-something and want to know: do ANY female hetero teens/20-somethings use "girlfriend" anymore at all today? Is it totally gone from usage among hetero girls of today's young generation? Or has it hung on?

I will say I have heard it used as a joke among young girls of today, sort of like conversational hyperbole, bordering on absurdism. But I'm talking about using the term in all seriousness. Such as, I recall an old black & white film from the 1950's or 1960's where a woman in her late 20's was being questioned by an officer (I think it was a murder investigation) and he asked her some question in all seriousness, and the answer she gave in all seriousness was "I was out with my girlfriends last night, officer." No hyperbole at all. And THAT is what I am angling in on here.

Thanks.

I wouldn't think a thing of it if I asked where someone was and she said 'out with my girlfriends.' ???

It's more specific than 'friends.' Yes, I hear people say it. I also hear 'friends,' but, yeah, that you'd think it was weird I think is kind of weird? That just wouldn't occur to me. I dunno. If it's one, like 'I was out with my girlfriend,' I dunno, I guess if I didn't know the person's general sexual proclivity if they had one I might make some assumption maybe? I dunno that that'd occur to me either.

I mean if a heterosexual friend of mine said 'I was out with a friend,' they might mean they went out with a friend to watch a game, they might mean they were hooking up with someone. :Shrug:

rainsmom
10-29-2013, 07:06 AM
I'm not the target audience you specified -- I'm 45 -- so my answer may be irrelevant for you. I can say that among my peers, who range from 30-60, the term is used regularly. "I'm going out with my girlfriends this weekend." "Oh, that's a girlfriend of mine." "She was out with a girlfriend when she heard the news."

Very, very common. No one thinks twice about it. It's used by both marrieds and singles. In fairness, though, we live in Seattle, so sexual preference is pretty much a non-issue. No one questions whether the statement is made about a friend or a sexual partner because no one cares (unless you're looking for a date!).

Gena_Skyler
10-29-2013, 07:13 AM
Well, I'm kind of on the borderline, I'm 29, but I definitely say it. I will easily say "I was out with a girlfriend," and not think twice. To say "I was out with my girlfriend," might mean something different.

That being said, the few lesbians that I know usually refer to their girlfriends as their partners, so maybe things have changed in that sense?

Kerosene
10-29-2013, 07:13 AM
Some girls choose to call their "girl" friends girlfriends. Others don't. I've found it kinda depends on the group.

In high school, I've heard more Hispanic and African Americans do this--maybe it's the stronger values of family/friends working in favor. And more "preppy" girls too.

But, even my mother says it, and other women I know (ranging from age 14-97).

Depends. Try it and see if it fits for you.

Plot Device
10-29-2013, 07:22 AM
So far seems like "Yeah, no problem."

But Gena's "yeah" response here includes a few interesting points:


Well, I'm kind of on the borderline, I'm 29, but I definitely say it. I will easily say "I was out with a girlfriend," and not think twice. To say "I was out with my girlfriend," might mean something different.

That being said, the few lesbians that I know usually refer to their girlfriends as their partners, so maybe things have changed in that sense?


The whole "my" girlfriend thing makes sense. Very subtle difference, but the distinction seems valid. And the "partner" comment is also valid.

Jehhillenberg
10-29-2013, 07:47 AM
I don't really catch myself saying/using "girlfriends." I probably have some friends who use it, though.

jjdebenedictis
10-29-2013, 07:55 AM
Among my 20-ish-year-old students, I never hear the word girlfriends used that way. They might say, "I was out with my friends," but they wouldn't specify which sex those friends were (I don't think it would occur to them to.) At most, they might say, "I was out with my girls," but this would be a stylistic choice--they'd say it with a bit of flair and a smirk to acknowledge the pretentiousness of the expression.

Jehhillenberg
10-29-2013, 08:24 AM
Among my 20-ish-year-old students, I never hear the word girlfriends used that way. They might say, "I was out with my friends," but they wouldn't specify which sex those friends were (I don't think it would occur to them to.) At most, they might say, "I was out with my girls," but this would be a stylistic choice--they'd say it with a bit of flair and a smirk to acknowledge the pretentiousness of the expression.

Yes. This is very true for me and people I know.

Rina Evans
10-29-2013, 09:51 AM
Among my 20-ish-year-old students, I never hear the word girlfriends used that way. They might say, "I was out with my friends," but they wouldn't specify which sex those friends were (I don't think it would occur to them to.) At most, they might say, "I was out with my girls," but this would be a stylistic choice--they'd say it with a bit of flair and a smirk to acknowledge the pretentiousness of the expression.

Twenty-something here, not in an English-speaking country, but with many, many American and British friends. I can confirm the above. 'Girlfriends' will be used very rarely, not in the singular, and the flair is true as well. It won't be completely serious, and will indicate that the event was probably 'girly' in type and invoke images of gossiping and talking about 'boys' or buying shoes.

Ramshackle
10-29-2013, 10:59 AM
Late twenties here, UK.

Never heard people use it here. To echo JJ, "I'm out with the girls" might be used (smirk may or may not accompany)... but not 'girlfriends'.

Also, "I'm out with the girls" seems to be used in the 30s - 50s range (estimate) more than 20s.

Katrina S. Forest
10-29-2013, 11:21 AM
Plot Device, I think I'm about 10 years or so younger than you and honestly, I would say the complete opposite. I never heard the term used growing up -- I've only heard it as an adult and never in that hyperbolic tone you're talking about. It never worked its way into my vocabulary mostly because my social circle is tiny and contains more guys than girls. ^_^;; If I need to refer to a group, it's usually in terms of where I know that group from. "My high school friends," "my church friends," ect.

GeekTells
10-29-2013, 11:35 AM
Should you decide it's dated, PD, you could always have your character teased for using such a dated term (by another character). Or she could tease herself when someone looks at her funny for using it.

Etc.

Putputt
10-29-2013, 12:08 PM
Late 20s...I've used it and heard it used before in California, mostly in plural terms. "I was with two of my girlfriends" or "one of my girlfriends". I said the latter once during a conversation with my in-laws, who are British, and they actually waited until after we finished talking to bring it up and laugh about it. ("One of your girlfriends? As in, 'OooooOoo, girlfriend'?") So I guess it depends on location and age.

Anninyn
10-29-2013, 01:19 PM
late 20's, UK. I hang around in pretty alternative groups, so that might bias my response.

I would never, ever say 'out with a girlfriend/my girlfriends' unless I was talking about a girl/girls I was dating.

'Out with my friends' or maybe, at a stretch, 'having a girly night' (to express that no men are involved) would be as far as it goes. Though, as I said, perhaps it's the people I spend time with that make for that distinction.

EMaree
10-29-2013, 01:48 PM
Late twenties here, UK.

Never heard people use it here. To echo JJ, "I'm out with the girls" might be used (smirk may or may not accompany)... but not 'girlfriends'.

Also, "I'm out with the girls" seems to be used in the 30s - 50s range (estimate) more than 20s.


late 20's, UK. I hang around in pretty alternative groups, so that might bias my response.

I would never, ever say 'out with a girlfriend/my girlfriends' unless I was talking about a girl/girls I was dating.

'Out with my friends' or maybe, at a stretch, 'having a girly night' (to express that no men are involved) would be as far as it goes. Though, as I said, perhaps it's the people I spend time with that make for that distinction.

22, UK, and this matches my experiences. I'll use "out with my friends", £out with the girls£, and occasionally the slightly tongue-in-cheek "with my lady friends".

I consciously don't say "girlfriends" because it will be misinterpreted.

There was a trend for a while among those younger than me to refer to girl friends, particularly your best friend, as BFFs, but I'm not sure if this is still a thing.

LJD
10-29-2013, 04:09 PM
I'm in my late twenties, and I don't use it. To me, it is a very dated term, one I associate with my grandmother. Not my parents. My grandmother would refer to my friends in this way, and it always threw me off. Don't think I've heard anyone else use it with any regularity.

buz
10-29-2013, 04:15 PM
I consciously don't say "girlfriends" because it will be misinterpreted.

Well, there's that, but there's also that "you go girlfriend" thing that refuses to die and...you just don't want to associate yourself with that, know what I mean? ;)


There was a trend for a while among those younger than me to refer to girl friends, particularly your best friend, as BFFs, but I'm not sure if this is still a thing.BFFLDs (pronounced "bifflds"), Best Friends For Life and Death :p

OP, I grew up understanding "girlfriends" used in that context was almost always said by older adults "trying to relate" to teenagers (think Amy Poehler in Mean Girls (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZP2NpFC5P48)) and thus it took on sort of a dorky lameballs affect for me (and, I assume, everyone else, since I never heard anyone my age saying it)--but I did understand what it meant. :p (So I guess conversational hyperbole would be the only time I say it? :D )

ETA: I'm 20-something, grew up in Eastern US.

usuallycountingbats
10-29-2013, 04:30 PM
I think it depends on where you are. The Americans I know use it, the Brits I know (and I am one and live in the UK, but have also lived in the USA for a few months), don't, and wouldn't.

slhuang
10-29-2013, 04:31 PM
20's, U.S.. It's used in my social groups without a second thought all the time (to refer to women a woman is platonic friends with). It's also used for romantic partners, which is occasionally confusing but not often. Like Gena said, usually for a partner it's phrased as "my girlfriend."

I often hear:

* "out with my girlfriends"
* "out with a girlfriend"
* "a girlfriend of mine"
* "I want/need a good girlfriend" (hey, it's LA, they're hard to come by)
* "Hey, girlfriend!" (you need a specific type of personality for this one though)

all meant platonically (and we have plenty of gay people here).

FWIW, if you hung a lampshade on it for being old-fashioned, I'd side-eye it, because it's perfectly current where I am. If you want to give a nod to the people who'd think it sounds funny, I'd recommend flagging it as a regional difference instead ("Wait, people don't say that here?" kind of thing).

Vito
10-29-2013, 04:58 PM
I clearly remember my older sisters (born in the early 1950s) often using "girlfriend" when referring to their pals.

When I was a teenager back in the '70s, female classmates and neighbors occasionally used "girlfriend" like that. Same thing, while I was in college during the 1980s

Four of my nieces (born in the late 1980s) lived in my home during their elementary school and middle school years, and I never once heard any of 'em use "girlfriend" in that way. They're all young adults now, and they still don't use that term.

Little Anonymous Me
10-29-2013, 04:59 PM
21, in college. No one says that. No one. :tongue If you're being silly or something, sure, but it's dated, and it sounds like a parent trying to be cool to my gen's ears. Not disagreeing with slhuang--it is just absolutely not used in my area. You might be out with some friends, a Big, a bestie, whatevs, but you're only out with your girlfriend if she's a real girlfriend here.


It's so funny how different slang can be in one country. Speaking of which, it might be easier to ask young'uns specifically from the neck of the woods where your story takes place. :) My cousins from Indiana and I might as well speak a different slanguage.

slhuang
10-29-2013, 05:11 PM
21, in college. No one says that. No one. :tongue If you're being silly or something, sure, but it's dated, and it sounds like a parent trying to be cool to my gen's ears. Not disagreeing with slhuang--it is just absolutely not used in my area. You might be out with some friends, a Big, a bestie, whatevs, but you're only out with your girlfriend if she's a real girlfriend here.


That's so funny! Whereas I don't even know what a "Big" is, and nobody in my social group would use "bestie" without cringing in irony (I only hear "bestie" on comedy shows).

Eta: Totally agree on how fascinating regional differences are. My old roommate always used the "positive anymore," and it drove me up the wall until I looked it up and realized it was a Midwestern-ism. (Okay, fine, it still drove me up the wall, but then it both bothered and fascinated me. ;))

Little Anonymous Me
10-29-2013, 05:52 PM
That's so funny! Whereas I don't even know what a "Big" is, and nobody in my social group would use "bestie" without cringing in irony (I only hear "bestie" on comedy shows).


My university has an enormous Greek population* so saying you're out with your Big (mentor assigned when you pledge) is synonymous with being out with a good friend. However, I'd think students from schools with smaller Greek scenes would be drawing blanks. :tongue


Maybe I hang out with annoying people? :D A lot of girls I know (including myself) use bestie.



Eta: Totally agree on how fascinating regional differences are. My old roommate always used the "positive anymore," and it drove me up the wall until I looked it up and realized it was a Midwestern-ism. (Okay, fine, it still drove me up the wall, but then it both bothered and fascinated me. ;))


I had to look up your roommates saying. Eep! It sounds odd to me. But then, I occasionally say I'm 'fixin' (G's are for the weak! ;)) to do something, which probably would drive other people to murder.


I lurve learnin' slanguage from new places. 'Tis fun.


*Along with being tier 1 in doctoral research, we also rank in the top Playboy party schools every year. We have a university run Office of Greek Life.

Xelebes
10-29-2013, 07:41 PM
My mom, who is in her late 50s uses it all the time. My sisters, who are in their their late 20s, use it occasionally. Less gay stigma and more. . . why would you need to specify your friends as girlfriends? Oh, and Alberta, Canada here.

JulianneQJohnson
10-29-2013, 08:19 PM
I worked with teen girls for three years in Kentucky. They used "girlfriends" but "my girls" was more common. They did not use "girlfriend," that was always something like "she's my girl."

Caitlin Black
10-30-2013, 01:27 AM
This is all very interesting. I can't say I've ever really paid much attention to the use of "girlfriend" around here. I know that I've been somewhat familiar with the term since probably the mid-90s, but then I'm not sure if that was from TV shows or actual people around me...

The flip side, of course, is that if I said, "I'm out with my boyfriends", everyone would assume I was having gay group sex. :)

Robbert
10-30-2013, 02:12 AM
^ :roll:

In case my 20-yr-old (UK) daughter speaks about her flings, she'll say ...I once dated a woman... . Understandably, 'partner' and 'girlfriend' do not form part of her active vocabulary. If ever she were straight, she would not use 'boyfriend' either. She finds the terms 'girlfriend' / 'boyfriend' are both yuck (!) and outdated.

Looking at it from the perspective of inappropriate forms of address, damsel, Fräulein, mademoiselle, Miss, spinster (...) have all but vanished. Why not get rid of two more!? To me, the concept behind gf/bf is vague at best.

Caitlin Black
10-30-2013, 02:34 AM
Especially as "girl" and "boy" mean, by definition, "not-yet-adult". Describing a sexual partner in those terms seems kind of gross to me.

"Partner" sounds a lot better to my ears, and can be used with any sexual partnership.

sheadakota
10-30-2013, 02:34 AM
I asked my 22 year-old niece who lives in NYC ( if that matters) She said The Girls is how she refers to her female friends.

anydayshirley
11-06-2013, 11:32 PM
I say girlfriends, but I also say things like "gams."

shaldna
11-07-2013, 02:04 AM
Late twenties here, UK.

Never heard people use it here. To echo JJ, "I'm out with the girls" might be used (smirk may or may not accompany)... but not 'girlfriends'.

Also, "I'm out with the girls" seems to be used in the 30s - 50s range (estimate) more than 20s.

I was just going to suggest this as well.

Although I've heard 'with the girls' used a lot in younger folk in their teens and 20's.

shestval
11-07-2013, 09:37 AM
I'm 30, in the midwest US. I personally don't use it but I wouldn't bat an eye if someone else did.

I wonder if it's a city thing. I think I heard it more when I was living in larger cities than I hear it now, living in the middle of nowhere.

Sydneyd
11-07-2013, 10:10 AM
Hard question to answer because of the nuance of each statement. For me, late 20's, living in the US:

"Out with the girlfriends"= "Out with the girls"
"Out with the girlfriend"="Out with my partner"
"Out with a girlfriend"="Out with one of the girls"
"Out with my girlfriend"="Out with one of the girls OR out with a partner" (for me the relationship cue changes with the possessive)

IMO if you are using the plural, girlfriends, rather than girlfriend, it mostly clears it up. I would not think you meant a polyamorous relationship that included more than one girl. So if you added the plural, I would understand what you meant.

However, if you're worried and don't find a definitive answer, why not, "i was out with my friend Susan." :D