Male Call: Five Strikes and Yer Out!


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 By James Roberts –

The woman, about 60 I’d say, had quite a tale of tribulation that you may find instructive. (Warning: names and locations have been adjusted for purposes of privacy.)

The husband, let’s call him Simon, is a psychiatrist. The woman, let’s call her Simone, had a well-paying job. They’re not millionaires but quite well to do…as you’ll see.

It seems that Simon went through these five-year spin cycles, almost to the month. After five years of marriage, they had their first child, a boy. After 10 years, a girl. Five years later he announced that he was joining a men’s group for meditation and getaways from society. They would gather in a sweat lodge, chew peyote (she wasn’t entirely clear what drug but since she wasn’t invited and it was a sweat lodge thing, presumably it wasn’t just marijuana) and…do whatever they do.

After a couple of these getaways he announced that he’d had a “spirit vision,” which also gave him a new name: “Speaking Falcon.” Her kids thought this was a bit odd since Simon hardly ever spoke, except to use typical psychiatrist phrases like, “So, how did that make you feel?” Simon declared that not only she, but the kids would henceforth use his new spirit name. She put her foot down: Okay in the bedroom “but I’m not going to inflict that on the kids and I’m not doing it in public with our friends.”

Five years later he’s at a professional conference in Lake Tahoe, which would last through Sunday. Would she like to bring the kids and join him then for a couple days of vacay? She would! Except he wanted them to actually drive up on the Friday…and bring their special joint checkbook. He had a surprise for her! Now, their marital deal was that either of them could buy stuff on their own whim as long as it was under $500. The big-ticket joint checkbook required both of them to co-sign. She figured, “What the heck” and did as asked. Arriving in Tahoe she discovered that the big surprise was a new car…for him. An Audi S4. He had seen one of his conference-mates with one and wanted one for himself. She agreed, not enthusiastically, but, after all, they had the money.

Five years later, his men’s group is off to meditate and study astrology at a vortex. When he returns, he announces that he is no longer “Speaking Falcon.” Whew! She thinks. Glad that’s over.

Except now he’s “Saffron Warrior.”

Ready for more?

Five years later he declares that he’d like to learn how to play piano. Great…how much harm can that be? Except he wants to buy the piano before taking the lessons. Hmm, OK, I guess he needs something to learn on. Maybe a nice Yamaha keyboard. She figures they can pick one up for $500-800 and if it doesn’t work out, well, they can put it on eBay or just give it away.

Nope. It’s got to be a grand piano. Not a “baby grand,” mind you (which my saintly departed mother played every day for 60 years, and which I was privileged to use for two years until my piano teacher fired me). The piano set them back $15,000…but they had the money. Six months later, when the lessons stopped, they were able to get $13K for it.

Five years later he announces that he’d like to travel to Nepal for about three months to further his spiritual development…with his <ahem> guru. Would she be kind enough to co-sign for the $50,000 it would cost?

Had enough? Well, so did she. She flatly refuses. He can go if he wants but she’s not helping him finance the trip…with the guru or otherwise. He pouts and stomps around for about a month and then, happily, seems to have put that dream aside.

Except…she notices his practice is losing money, month after month. It’s not like they can’t afford things, but it’s so odd that all of a sudden, the thriving medical business is going downhill, little by little.

Enough already. She hires a forensic accountant (whatever that is) who manages to find the proverbial back door to Simon’s computer. There seem to be a lot of unexplained transfers here and there, including one for $12,000. A few days later she visits him in his study and says she’d like to explore her astrological sign and she know he has some info stored about her “astrological nadir” (whatever that is) on his system. He agrees readily and opens up the file. Ooops…the kettle’s boiling downstairs for their tea! Would he mind taking care of the tea while she explores the birth sign material? He goes and gets the tea and returns to find a very stern and unhappy wife. (Of course, the tea kettle was a setup and she had already poked around on the computer days before; now she’s ready to confront.)

Would he like to explain what the $12K is doing in a secret account? He would not.

But she knew. He had been siphoning off his income all the while when she wouldn’t pony up the 50 G’s.

He asks for a divorce. She says, “OK, go ahead.” He gets them a high-power corporate lawyer he knows to split things up — but even this lawyer thinks things are fishy, despite the fact that he’s Simon’s friend. So, while Simon is on a bathroom break, the lawyer takes her aside privately and suggests the name of what Simone learns is called a “junkyard dog.” The “jd” is too busy to take her on…until she mentions the name of the corporate lawyer. Then, it’s game on.

Frankly, I’ve lost track of the strike count here, but let’s call it five.

Which one would’ve broken you? The spirit vision names? The pointless piano? The vanity car? The guru? Or does it take actual money shenanigans?

Need a guy’s perspective? Jot a note to Male Call at For more words, ideas and whimsy, visit

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Male Call: 9 Gobbledygook Phrases You Use…But Guys Hate


Click to read more about James Roberts.

 By James Roberts –

The Male Call Advisory Board™ (Linguistics Division) has noticed some disturbing trends in ladies’ dating profiles. We’re not saying that the guys don’t have their own gobbledygook, but from what we hear, the men are more about just outright lying.

Here, then, are nine annoying or meaningless phrases you can go ahead and delete from your profile. Some of these we’ve covered in previous columns, but apparently you weren’t listening (might be a “Midwestern values” thing).

  1. “Big heart” — No one knows what this means. It seems to imply that you rescue cats, hand out food coupons at freeway exits or cry during Avengers Or maybe you pay your fair share on group outings.
  2. “Love to laugh” (especially if your main pic shows a grumpy face). Here’s the deal: if you really L-T-L, show yourself in a humorous situation or….hmmm…say something funny. Oh wait, you don’t mean you’re funny; you mean you want your date to make you laugh.
  3. “No scammers” (Oooh…she doesn’t want me to scam her…I’d better leave her alone!). This is a bit like walking down a busy downtown street with a sign saying, “No pickpockets.”
  4. “Friends say I am…” or “Friends describe me as…”. Maybe your friends do tell you this, or maybe they just tell it to your face. Either way, it sounds like a self-serving cop-out. Now, if you were to say “My ex-spouse describes me as…” it would have a lot more street cred.
  5. “I look younger than my age” (super-especially, “Friends say that I look…” or “Have been told I don’t look my age.”) Your pic, if it’s reasonably recent and doesn’t include all your club mates, tells us what we need to know.
  6. “Midwestern values.” Really…as with “big heart,” no one has any idea whatsoever what this means. Maybe you want us to picture fields of wheat waving in the wind as you play hide-and-seek with a prairie dog. Or maybe you just prefer a beer over some Coastal Elite’s fancy wine.
  7. “Just ask” (in place of a profile paragraph). This is the cop-out of someone too lazy to even say “I like walks on the beach, Netflix and a pleasant, not-too-hoppy Midwestern beer.” Fact is, we know you don’t really mean it. You just don’t feel like making the effort.
  8. “Drama-free.” Translation: you live in a coma.
  9. “You will have to message me because I am not a member” (of this free site). This has the earmarks of someone doing a copy-and-paste from another site. This is especially noticeable on Bumble where the guy can’t even message you first! So, unless you’re on or FarmersOnly you can just scratch this nothingburger.

Now, do the guys have their own nonsense language? Are they looking for their “partner in crime,” their “last first kiss”? Let us know. Friends say we might need some new phrases.

Need a guy’s perspective? Jot a note to Male Call at For more words, ideas and whimsy, visit

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Male Call: A Charted Conversation


Click to read more about James Roberts.

 By James Roberts –

A guy-pal — let’s call him “Jon” — related an interesting get-to-know-you phone convo that, sadly, ended less than gloriously. Or, perhaps that’s really the point of such conversations. You decide.

Backing up. Jon and the woman — let’s call her “Jan” — connected on Tinder. She seemed perfectly aligned with his ideals: politically, socially, age-wise and looks-wise.

He made the first move by sending a message about one of her pix. They palavered back and forth a few times a day for two weeks via Tinder comments, talking about whatever people talk about…work, travel, weather, do-it-yourself projects.

Finally, Jan made the bold move. She messaged something like “You are very interesting to me, but I don’t really like texting. Would you like to talk?” (Jon didn’t provide the exact wording.)

Jon sent her his phone number and later that day received a friendly text with her number: “It’s nice to know we’re on common ground in terms of politics. Let’s talk this weekend. Have a good evening.” (or words to that effect…again, Jon was too lazy to copy the exact wording.)

A few introductory text messages follow in which Jon learns that Jan lives across the Valley. Still, it’s really only 21 miles away. Having nothing planned for Saturday, Jon had an afternoon meet ‘n’ greet in mind; so early Saturday afternoon, he gives her a call.

According to Jon’s phone, they yakked about everything under the sun or more than two hours: religion, politics, travel, more politics (fortunately, they were exactly in tune on that), food, spirituality, school, what they’re currently reading, movies they’ve seen.

And that’s when Jan said, “So, we’ve been bantering for a while. But I’d like to know more about the real you.”

Jon reports that this confused him. He responded politely (so he says) with something like “Wait, haven’t we just covered everything from Morocco to meditation?”

Thus, began what the Male Call Advisory Board™ calls a “charted conversation,” aka “The Interview.”

  • Do you have any pets?
  • Have you been married or divorced?
  • Any kids?
  • How do you feel about vegetarianism?
  • What nationality is your name?

Jon admits that he was somewhat curt in his responses, mostly because he doesn’t like interviews, especially dating interviews. Having satisfied the basic data of age, photos, politics and location, he mainly wants to know if the person looks reasonably like their photo and see if there’s any personal chemistry — which you can only really get F2F.

The nationality question wasn’t too bad, he reports, but the follow-up question raised the red flag.

“So…that’s an interesting name…how do you spell it?”

Now, having blurted out his last name he was at a loss as to how he could politely refuse to spell it for her. So, he did.

But the conversation was now dead, over in two minutes…with no follow up on either side.

Lesson: The whole point of Internet dating sites is to get the basic facts out of the way before you agree to a meeting. And the purpose of the meeting is simply: Are you who you say you are?

So, ladies (and in our experience, it’s the ladies who seem to want to conduct “interviews”): Go ahead and do the messaging and texting but nothing happens until you go face-to-face.

Save the interviews for hiring an intern or pet sitter.

Need a guy’s perspective? Jot a note to Male Call at For more words, ideas and whimsy, visit

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Male Call: Terms of Non-Endearment


Click to read more about James Roberts.

 By James Roberts

There’s no question that the dating industry—and by dating industry we mean both online dating sites as well as coaching services—is big business. According to Judi Schindler, author of Husbands: An Owner’s Manual and the blog, “The Toilet Seat Must Come Down, it’s forecast to reach $3.2 billion by next year.

And, apparently “dating coach” is one of the hot new careers of the 21st century.

Frankly, and with all due respect to coaches everywhere, the Male Call Advisory Board™ can’t see that such coaching is of much use. Yes, a good advisor can help you fix your out-of-focus, group-shots-with-your-besties and (yes, sadly) upside-down pictures. Your sloppy spelling. Your “love to laugh” and “no drama” clichés. But they can’t…ahem…fix you. Not that you need fixing but if someone tarts you up like a prom pic, you’re going to disappoint when your date sees the un-prom’d IRL (see below) version.

With that in mind, we’re providing the next best thing: explanations of the new terminology that is making your online love life miserable.

We’ve gathered these from a variety of sources including the aforementioned Schindler, the Dateable podcast, Macmillan Dictionary and the Board’s own fevered observations.

  • Breadcrumbing: sending messages, “digital morsels,” that suggest they’re still interested in you when in fact they’re unlikely to want to meet. Remember Hansel & Gretel? (Spoiler alert: the birds ate the crumbs leaving the kids lost in the woods).
  • Benching: like the previous but usually occurs after an actual meeting— when they don’t really want to date seriously but just “keep you on the bench” for emergencies.
  • Ghosting: Suddenly disappearing and not responding after a few dates in hopes you’ll get the hint. Similar to the “slow fade” or “drizzle.”
  • Daterview: a series of seemingly prepared questions designed to “get your resume” (a la TV’s Survivor) to determine if you’re dateable. In short, a job interview.
  • IRL: in real life…where you waste time when you’re not online tweeting and Instagramming.
  • Text black hole: a never-ending text conversation with someone you meet online but never meet IRL.
  • Catfishing: Popularized by the MTV show, a “catfish” creates fake personal profiles on social media sites to trick an unsuspecting person (the hopeful) into some scheme. This could range from getting you to fall in love with them to simply amusing themselves. The term reportedly comes from Alaska fishing companies’ practice of shipping codfish in big vats across the ocean and, to prevent spoilage, putting some catfish in with them to keep the cod agile.

And our favorite (because we just made it up)…

  • Drama: stuff you have in your life but they don’t, because theirs is “adventure”…or being a “partner in crime.”

Need a guy’s perspective? Jot a note to Male Call at For more words, ideas and whimsy, visit

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Male Call: We’re Not Your April Fool


Click to read more about James Roberts.

 By James Roberts

Last October, we reported a statistical survey — yes, cold, hard facts that we didn’t even have to make up! — on the online cliché terms women use to prove that you like to be as similar to every other woman on the planet as possible.

For example: “sense of humor,” “no drama,” “family & friends” and (sigh) “must love dogs.” See “Partner in Crime.”

So, we went back to Bumble (where women make the first move) recently to look at some photo clichés.

Specifically, we were curious about the seemingly large number of group photos the ladies offer. Apparently, the idea is that if you’re part of an attractive group, the guys will find you attractive. (Interestingly, the Male Call Advisory Board™ found evidence, called the “cheerleader effect,” that this is an actual thing, at least in clubs, though we doubt it applies to online scenes.) What is particularly confounding is when it’s impossible for the viewer to figure out which one is you. Not that guys are noted for photo authenticity, but our hair styles, hair color and makeup tend to be pretty similar from week to week.

Now, since we’ve been burned making gross generalizations in the past, we’ve found that actually counting stuff in a methodical way helps to quash many of our cockamamie theories.

Here’s what we found.

In a sample of exactly 100 entries (to make the math simple), 64 percent of the women eschewed (did not use) group photos! For purposes of the study, we used a very specific definition of “group photo,” to mean “a shot of two or more women not including statues of Dickens or Drinkwater, posters of King Elvis or Queen Elizabeth, babies or critters.”

Of course, this means that more than a third of you did appear in groups, often indistinguishable from your besties — and in a few cases, there were no actual shots of you by yourself. We know you think that it’s easy to tell which of you is you and which is your adult daughter… oh, wait… maybe that’s the point.

As a side study, we were curious about selfies. Our casual observation was that a great many ladies love to take bathroom shots, possibly because there’s a good mirror there. So, we counted bathroom vs. car selfies — with surprising results.

Turns out only 3 percent of the profiles offered obvious bathroom shots, but 21 percent showed car selfies.

What’s the deal with that?

Is that where you’re putting on your makeup? Are you all of a sudden thinking, “Hmm…I look my best behind the wheel with my seat belt on”?

(To be fair, we also attempted a sidekick study of men’s profiles but could only manage a small sample size. That said, we found 83 percent of men appeared alone with no groupies. There was only one bathroom selfie and no car selfies — apparently guys prefer to stand shirtless in front of their Harleys.)

So, if the idea is to April Fool us into thinking you and your adult daughter are “OMG, like, twins!” or that there’s a “complementary attraction” effect, consider that the male brain has enough trouble figuring out what you mean by “spiritual” and “no serial daters.”

In short, save the group shots for your Instagram’s. It’s not working on your Bumbles.

Need a guy’s perspective? Jot a note to Male Call at For more words, ideas and whimsy, visit

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Male Call: What Shivers Your Timbers?


Click to read more about James Roberts.

 By James Roberts

It doesn’t take a Robert Mueller to mull out what happened with your last relationship: All we need to do is look at what your dating profile says you don’t want.

What the Male Call Advisory Board™ has discovered, ladies, through extensive, organic, non-GMO research consisting of about 30 minutes tracking you through Bumble and Tinder is that your dating profile often tells more about your last relationship than about what you really like to do (besides laughing, loving life, traveling and showing club selfies of you and your besties).

Here are some real-life samples:

“I want someone who is slow to anger”

“I have my life in order and so should you”

“No drama”

“No games”

“I want someone who will have my back”

“Must love to laugh”

“I’m financially stable…and you should be too”

“No ex-girlfriends calling you”

“Respect is a must”

“No felons!” (this may have been a joke)

“Please just be normal”

See, all these phrases are red flags — and not the Valentine kind — announcing the things that went wrong last couple times.

(Apparently you also get a lot of requests for hook-ups, but it doesn’t really help to call off the one-night hopefuls, much less the scammers, that’d be like posting a “no ants allowed” sign at your picnic.)

So, fascinating as your prior relationships may have been, as Valentine’s Day approaches, how about proclaiming what makes your heart shiver with delight, not shrivel with distaste.

Need a guy’s perspective? Jot a note to Male Call at For more words, ideas and whimsy, visit

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Male Call: Twelfth Day of Christmas


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 By James Roberts

What a lovely surprise to find this delightful ditty being crooned outside the Male Call office the other night by a duo calling themselves the ‘Two Loves.’ We can’t say their poetic meter is particularly proficient but it’s at least as good as my dear cousin’s annual holiday versification — and their grasp of online dating spots is spot-on.

Feel free to sing along.

On the twelfth day of Christmas my two loves sent to me:

Twelve zooskers Zoosking (whatever that is)

Eleven bees a’Bumblin’

Ten Tinders swiping

Nine e-ladies Harmonizin’

Eight Cupids OK’ing

Seven Singles Silvering

Six Plenties o’Fishin’

Five anonymous Anomo’ers…

Four Matchers machinating

Three Ashleys Madison’ing

Two Christians Mingling

…and a Farmer Only in a tree.

We can hardly wait to see what they come up with for New Year’s Eve.

Need a guy’s perspective? Jot a note to Male Call at or check out the Male Call archives at

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Male Call: Will You Be My ‘Partner in Crime?’


By James Roberts  

We are sometimes accused…OK, we admit…that some of the info we provide has no particular basis in reality outside the Male Call Advisory Board’s™ fevered imagination.

But this month, we swipe a look at your favorite dating apps and present cold, hard data!

First, Bumble, which bills itself as a location-based dating app where women make the first move: “We’re leveling the playing field.”

We looked at 82 profiles (at which point, some of them started repeating). Of these, 55 gave some kind of descriptive profile info. Amazingly, 27, that is, one-third, gave absolutely nothing other than screen name, age, city and calculated distance from you.

We had been advised that a lot of people use the same exact terms to describe themselves — to the extent that basically many profiles, are simply a collection of clichés and stock phrases that give no hint about the person’s individuality. The mission we set was to document the specific “most used” terms.

Some of these include “partner in crime” (which, as a dating cliché, goes back at least 16–20 years); “looking for my best friend;” “someone who has my back;” and “last first date.” Another popular phrase group, “Loves life,” actually dates back more than 40 years! Clearly, folks are simply snagging phrases here and there from 10-year-old profiles. These were not necessarily the most frequent, but they were disturbingly prevalent.

And now, the most-used terms among our sample of women over 50:

  1. “travel/traveling” (about 80 percent of women use this) — not including “road trips”
  2. “sense of humor/laughing/love to laugh/smiling”
  3. “movies” (tied with “humor”)
  4. “music/concerts”
  5. “hiking”
  6. “cooking” (tied with “hiking”) — not including “food” or “restaurants”
  7. “family and friends” — we actually recorded these separately, but they typically go together so this is probably the real #2.

Some negative terms, like “no drama,” “no hook-ups” or “no smokers” were also prevalent, often with the clichéd instruction to “swipe left.”

Interestingly, a number of profiles are written in third-person style: “loves animals and working out.”

Now, let’s look at Tinder, another “swipe left/right” dating app.

It seems that Tinder has a hook-up vibe because there are an awful lot more phrases from women bidding that you swipe left (“no”) if that’s what you’re looking for. Although no one asks you to swipe right for that, the photos might imply it.

We counted 70 non-repeating profiles of which 20 (29 percent) had no description other than screen name and distance.

Here, “sense of humor” and “travel” switch places, but that could just be a statistical anomaly. “Friends/family” came in third with “Music/concerts” and “no hook ups” (including “no scammers”) close behind.

There’s the usual collection of “hiking”, “adventure,” “love animals,” “beaches” and “outdoors” so the two services are pretty similar in use of those stock phrases.

Demographically, Tinder skews somewhat younger than Bumble but both allow you to specify the distance you’ll accept (up to 100 miles).

The takeaway from all this, as we’re fond of saying, is that if you want to sound exactly like everyone else, go ahead and plagiarize your old Match, Plenty of Fish, Mingle or back-of-the newspaper Personals write-ups. (And don’t forget the bathroom or car selfie.)

But, ladies and gents, if you wish to stand out from the competition — and make no mistake, they’re vying for your next partner — how about not just informing us that you’re classy, or that your friends say you’re funny: say something classy, be funny, tell us if you’re a first-class or coach-and-bus ride traveler…and maybe drop a hint as to what kind of farcical “crime” you’d like to partner-up for.

Need a guy’s perspective? Jot a note to Male Call at or check out the Male Call archives at

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Male Call: Your Photo Toolkit


By James Roberts –

Ladies: We’ve talked before about plagiarizing phrases from other peoples’ 15-year old dating profiles (“looking for a partner in crime,” “looking for my best friend”) and your current obsession with pointless warnings (“no hook-ups,” “must have sense of humor”).

Apparently, you haven’t been paying attention to our photo advice though, so the Male Call Advisory Board ™ has created a photo toolkit for you.

First, let’s get rid of some of those tiresome problems:

  • No children in your photo gallery — especially, and it’s sad that we even have to point this out, your grown children posed on their own, without you even in the shot.
  • No clubgirl pals, hottie friends or bridal shower pix…unless you’re offering them as part of the deal
  • No bathroom selfies.
  • In fact…no selfies, period — this starts to look like no one has ever taken a picture of you, except yourself. You couldn’t even get a stranger to hold up your cell cam as you stand in the bathroom? OK, don’t answer that.
  • No duckface shots…that’s sooooo Kardashian.

In short, this is not a Facebook-like vacation travelogue for your friends and family.

Now, our toolkit:

  • Your gallery should include at least one head shot, and . . .
  • one full-figure shot, or at least one that gives a general impression.
  • At least one smiling shot, though a fish gape is all right if you can pull it off. No grumpy faces, ever. Unbelievably, that’s the lead photo in many profiles!
  • No pix without you — and it’s got to be obvious which one is you. See, with guys our hair pretty much stays the same color and style from day to day (not that the men don’t have their sneaky ways of disguising themselves from one pic to the next) but we don’t totally transform our “look” from week to week.
  • One shot of you doing something interesting.

This last one is actually the keystone, the bedrock, the pièce de résistance of your entire profile — the all-important conversation starter. Following the time-honored screenwriter’s maxim, “show don’t tell,” you need at least one pic where you’re doing something that the guys can react to, hopefully in a positive manner. It could be a shot of you ziplining, golfing or just wearing something amusing. See, guys really want to open up the dialogue but if all you have is a selfie of your bathroom supplies or standing in a lineup with your besties, you don’t give them anything to work with.

Don’t just say you’re a “classy lady” — show yourself being classy. Don’t just say you love movies — get a shot of yourself in front of a theatre marquee (maybe even Deadpool 2 if you want to get a particular kind of guy’s interest).

Our extensive research shows that people (and this goes for guys as well) are looking for some conversational hook to open with. Your mission is to open the door to a conversation.

Otherwise, you’re doomed to a litany of “Hey there,” “Hey, what’s up?” or even “‘Sup?”

As for the guys: you’re hopeless. Put your shirts on and stop lying about your height.

Need a guy’s perspective? Jot a note to Male Call at or check out the Male Call archives at

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Male Call: Call Me By…A Name


By James Roberts –

This month we tackle a subject that is bound to get us in trouble. But that’s how we roll!

The question is: What to call adult persons of the “XX” DNA persuasion, also known technically as the homogametic sex or, if you want to go all Jane Austen on us, the distaff side?

Let’s start out gently, with a simple academic distinction that causes grief mostly to headline writers: Are women candidates winning more in 2018…or are female candidates? Was Hillary the first female presidential nominee from a major party or the first woman nominee?

Our go-to source for these kinds of wonky distinctions is usually Mignon Fogarty, aka “Grammar Girl,” and she says that since ‘woman’ and ‘man’ are primarily used as nouns, to say someone is a woman nominee is placing ‘woman’ in an adjective position. (OK, that doesn’t sound too woke but that’s how she says it.). However, she goes on, nowadays the most common use of the word female as a noun is to refer to lower animals: “The female apes gathered to defend against attackers.”

Although Grammar Girl votes in favor of “female” for the candidate question, we found pretty much equal usage in our Google search.

Now on to trickier stuff.

The Male Call Advisory Board™ (MCAD) has been querying women…er, ladies…er persons, for several years on the question of the various terms they like and dislike.

“Ma’am” — universally disliked. “Don’t you dare ma’am me unless you want a kick in the shins,” we were advised once. Occasionally, OK, though, if used in a respectful tone by a sales clerk, especially in the South.

“Lady” — much disliked by women in our surveys, but apparently more by younger ones, in the, say, 20-50 age group. Oddly, the 13-year-old club volleyball female team players that I used to coach, regularly referred to themselves with this term. “OK, ladies, let’s step up our defense!” (Tip to guys: Never say “Hey, lady…!” or “This lady tried to cut in line…”). Still acceptable for bathrooms though.

“Girl” — Only women are allowed to call themselves this (and rightly so), as in “girls’ night out” or “The girls are getting together later for their Chat ‘n Craft.” Exception: In mixed-doubles tennis, when there’s mismatch of too many men, one of the guys may be designated “a girl” for purposes of, well, whatever. Also, women can self-designate themselves as Grammar Girl, That CAD Girl, Science Babe (but don’t get us started on that term).

“Gal” — We found a surprising, if mild, dislike for this term among the…persons. The MCAD has always thought this was a perfectly reasonable complementary term to “guys” — which no one objects to. Go figure.

“Ms.” — always suitable, except for wedding invitations, as an honorific for both unmarried and married women — a suitable equivalent of “Mr.”

“Mx.” — an honorific that does not indicate gender, though we have yet to find a person of any persuasion that actually likes or uses this. We have to admit it does fill a grammatical need for “non-binary” people; nevertheless, we’re not predicting a rousing success for the term. Maybe once letter-writing goes completely out of style, we won’t need any of the standard honorifics.

So there you have it, guys…er…gents.

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Photo by Photographing Travis on / CC BY
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