Monday, August 10, 2009

Liber Gallus Domesticus

One of the sub-species of fowl is known as chicken, Gallus domesticus in Latin. But, as is common for all living species, chickens are also known by two names which indicate their sex: a female chicken is a hen, and a male chicken is called a rooster or cock. Also common when discussing a species is a name for the young of that species. Young chickens are called a chick (male or female), pullet (young hen), or cockerel (young rooster).

A slang idiom in common usage is "chick lit." Now, idioms should not be read literally. "Chick lit" is not books written for baby chickens. What the idiom vaguely refers to is literature with some relationship to females. According to The Dictionary of Slang, a chick is "a female. The term is considered offensive by many females." (Note on the offensive: Yes, I find it offensive. If you're going to categorize a female as some type of chicken could you at least make that an adult chicken?!!!) In common usage the term is not used to describe an infant, nor to describe a clearly older/elderly woman. It is reserved for those in the late teen through 30s group.

In actual usage, "chick lit" is applied to a specific type of literature as well as being used as a derogatory term for literature that is not mainstream or literature that is sub-standard. When used as referring to a specific type of literature it "denotes genre fiction written for and marketed to young women, especially single, working women in their twenties and thirties. Chick lit features hip, stylish female protagonists, usually in their twenties and thirties, in urban settings (usually London or Manhattan), and follows their love lives and struggles in business (often in the publishing, advertising, public relations or fashion industry). The books usually feature an airy, irreverent tone and frank sexual themes." A NY Times reviewer gave an example of "chick lit," although he referenced a television show as the example. He said that the show "Sex and the City," had it been a novel instead of a tv show, would be the perfect example of "chick lit."

A while back, on one of the shidduch blogs, a posting and subsequent comments were centered around the idea of "chick lit." And what was primarily thrown around as an example of a book that is "chick lit"? Anything and everything written by Jane Austen and the Brontes. Aaaargh!!!! Since none of these works fit the straight definition of what "chick lit" is as far as content and style goes, I can only assume that the term was being used to denigrate the works as being sub-standard literature, literature fit only for "hens," as opposed to "real" people. You know, "girly" books. What is more macabre is that the author of the post and some of the commenters were and are English majors, female English majors.

It is hard enough today to get people to read anything at all, never mind good literature. The cause is not helped by tossing around the slang term "chick lit." What's logically next? A type of literature known as "Cockerel Crowings"? Or maybe "Testosterone Tomes"?


Anonymous said...

Umm, it already exists. It's called "dick lit." Not joking:"dick+lit"

Mike said...

Good topic sentences, not too wordy, good start and conclusion. Written very well....

Anonymous said...

Heh. I plead guilty. Only, if you notice, the definition of chick lit is kind of modern. But if you look at Austen in her time, it would be the equivalent of chick lit in her day. And it still appeals to those too aidel for modern chick lit, with its frank, sexual themes.

The definition of chick lit that I'm working with is the kind of story that is about relationships and guys with some discourse on style, which only seems to appeal to females. Sex and the City, The Devil Wears Prada, and Pride and Prejudice all fall into that category.

This is something I never argued with anyone who was going to give me a grade, but I firmly maintain that Austen is girly literature.

There ought to be a category called Cockerel Crowing for nasties like Robinson Crusoe and the modern Hardy Boys.

SaraK said...

Sex and the City is a novel, the show is based on the book. The NY Times reviewers don't do fact checking?