Printable Version
Pronunciation: gêrl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1. An aggressively independent feminist young woman, especially sexually, a raunchy woman. 2. A member of the riot grrrl subculture movement in the US that addressed such issues as domestic abuse, patriarchalism, sexuality, and female empowerment.

Notes: Few dictionaries carry today's Good Word, but it appears in the Oxford English Dictionary, the grandfather of them all, which establishes its authenticity beyond all doubt. It is a lexical orphan.

In Play: A grrrl is defined as a young woman fighting for gender equality: "Helen Highwater is true gender-bending grrrl in lipstick and combat boots on the warpath toward true equality." She also lived a life reflecting gender equality: "All her adult life Helen has been a blatantly sexual and raunchy grrrl."

Word History: English actually has a consonantal and vocalic [r], the latter usually rendered as [êr]. Actually, the [ê] and [r] are pronounced simultaneously, making the [r] a vowel, easily pronounced by English speakers. Vocalic Rs are not uncommon. Croatia has an island named Krk and Czech has a vocalic [r] and [l], as in vlk "wolf". Today's Good Word is a blend of grrr, here, a symbol of anger + girl. The compound's origins lie in the early 90s in Olympia, Washington, spreading along the western coast of the US. It came from the name of a female punk rock group whose songs reflected themes named in the meaning (2) above. The origins of grrr were mentioned in the word history of cur. Girl, in Old English, was gyrele. How gyrele got into English is anyone's guess.

Dr. Goodword,

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