Saturday, April 22, 2006

Girls, Grrls, Grrrls, Grrrrls, Grrrrrls, etc., etc.

Inspired by a book title in Scott McLemee's interview with the author of a book on pin-ups, I wondered if there was a standard spelling for the non-vowel, assertive, fourth-wave(?) feminist spelling of "girl." Being fundamentally lazy -- if terminally geeky -- I went to Google:
girls, girl1.25 billion
gurls, gurl19 million
gril, grils6.1 million
grrl, grrls2 million
grrrls, grrrl2.3 million
grrrrl, grrrrls142 thousand
grrrrrls, grrrrrl42 thousand
grrrrrrl, grrrrrrls14.3 thousand
grrrrrrrls, grrrrrrrl1.1 thousand
grrrrrrrrls, grrrrrrrrl2.8 thousand
grrrrrrrrrl, grrrrrrrrrlsunder 700
At this point I gave up keeping track and just wanted to know how many 'r's I could add before the search returned zero results: 45 for the singular and 30 for the plural.

Clearly there's still uncertainty as to whether two or three will become the standardized version of this slang (though it may be that the two will take on two different shadings, as well, and both remain in place).

update: prompted by elementaryhistoryteacher's comment, I added two lines: "gril, grils" for the most common uncorrected typo (which seems to be deliberate in some cases) and "gurl, gurls" which is by far the most popular variant. Now, someone has to figure out what it means, and that someone isn't me.


elementaryhistoryteacher said...

One year every single one of my students misspelled "girls" everytime they had to use it. They kept spelling it "grils". We went over it and over it and a few eventually corrected what had obviously become a habit but some just kept on misspelling it. Another frequent misspelled word that year was "false" which was mangled into "flase". I cringe as I type it.

Ahistoricality said...

Sometimes these misspellings become a sort of standard of their own. I'm still not sure why "teh" is funny as a misspelling for "the" but there are people out there who consider it a shortcut to hilarity....

You reminded me, I forgot to look for "gurl": I'll update the table.

100 word minimum said...

When I was teeny tiny, I mispronounced "girl" as "gril." I never spelled it that way (I wasn't writing yet), but I remember my parents correcting me. Maybe some little girls' parents don't correct them?

When I taught English in Japan to a little girl, I tried to teach her to say "girl" but the juxtaposed r and l were too much for her. She said "gurlrlrl ..." till she dissolved into giggles and so ended the lesson. Not that this has anything to do with grrls, but anyway.

Jamie said...

We mean it, maaaaaaaaaaaaan.

Feminist Editor said...

I believe that the grrrrrl (or however rrr's you want to use) is the only one of these that is intentionally feminist and is often used when referring to adult females in a friendly way (or in self-idenfication). It may be derivative of the way "girl" is used in the African American community. And I'm not sure that "grrrl" was started by 4th(?) wave feminists, as the first time I saw it used was by 2nd or 3rd wave (in other words, current adults) on the internet. The point in this use is the grrrrr--to show strength rather than the prettiness or sweetness that the term "girl" implies, especially when referring to adult females. I believe the others are either misspellings, or intentionally alternate spellings (which are common on the 'net), but not necessarily meant to be feminist statements.