Breasts Or “Boobs”?
Posted by Clem Bastow on November 29, 2008
A little ‘think piece’ for the feminist grammar freaks/etymology fans/word nerds out there: am I the only person who prefers my colloquialisms and neologisms and my “proper” language, at least in the context of journalism, kept separate?
Consider this news.com.au story about a German court’s ruling that medical insurance funds shouldn’t have to cover elective breast reduction surgeries (in cases of back pain and hindrance of movement, the denial of which is arguably fodder for another whole Chorus entry). Watch what happens to the wording about halfway through:
A COURT has ruled that insurance companies do not need to cover the cost of breast reduction surgery.
The court ruled ruled that having a large bust is not a medical problem and as such insurers will only have to pay to correct breasts which are deformed.
The case was brought by a 38-year-old woman who suffered orthopaedic and physical problems due to the weight of her boobs, bild.com reports.
Yes, “boobs”. The term is used a handful more times in the piece, and let’s not ignore the headline:
German court rules big boobs are not a medical problem
Shonky journalism or something deeper? Or no big deal?
It’s possibly due to the fact that “boobs” has never been one of my favourite euphemisms for breasts (it seems too hard a word, like “tits”), but I question its appropriateness in this context (i.e. a news story, which should as such be straight “reportage”).
True, certain words do enter the vernacular – witness the rise of the (in my view, insipid and infuriating) “vajayjay” – and boobs is certainly not new, and its usage is obviously widespread. But just because it’s in common usage, as is the aforementioned “vajayjay”, doesn’t mean it should necessarily be freely used in this context. After all, imagine a report about, say, increasing amounts of labiaplasty operations saying, “The number of women electing to have cosmetic procedures on their vajayjays has increased by 17% in the past five years.”
What do you think? And how do you feel about the supposed uncomfortableness of the word “vagina” (and I guess to a lesser extent, “breasts”) that leads to the apparent need for nonthreatening euphemisms?