Social Question

JLeslie's avatar

Ladies: do you still use girlfriend to describe a close friend who is female?

Asked by JLeslie (55359points) August 10th, 2011

My niece would always say; well sort of ask with a smirk; “girlfriend?” When I would talk about my dearest, closest, girlfriends. I thought maybe the younger generation is not using the term anymore, leaving it for romantic relationships only.

Or, maybe it is a regional thing? NY and the tri-state area uses it, the west and south don’t. Or, some other sort of regional lines drawn

What’s the scoop?

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41 Answers

tranquilsea's avatar

I just call my friends (even the best ones) friends.

redfeather's avatar

No. I feel like I typically see older (older to me, 35–40+) saying it.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

I honestly have no clue. Probably, if their gender is important to the story. The only term I’m consciously aware of changing is to ‘housemate’ vs. ‘roommate’. When I shared a house with a male that I was not in a romantic relationship with, Mom was adamant that I refer to him that way. She also was mortified when her elderly friend asked what I was doing for a living, and the response was, “I get paid by a large corporation to sleep around.” I was a hotel inspector at the time. :)

martianspringtime's avatar

I never have. I don’t not say it for any specific reason, it’s just never been a term I use. I just say ‘friend’ whether referring to a guy friend or a girl friend.
I’m from Florida and I’m 19. Most of my family is from New York (and are 35+) and I’ve heard them use the term occasionally.

Aethelflaed's avatar

Not since I was 13. Female, mid-twenties, in the southwest.

Sunny2's avatar

What @Aethelflaed said. I’ve never used the term girlfriend to refer to my friends who were girls. nor did I refer to any boys as boyfriends unless they were more than just friends.

JLeslie's avatar

@martianspringtime My niece lives in FL. My family is mostly from NY. Italianprincess just used the term, she is in her early 20’s I think, and she lives in NY. Maybe it is more of a NY thing? I can’t remember what my midwestern friends use.

linguaphile's avatar

I used to use it in high school and maybe early college, but haven’t for years because I know the connotation’s changed. I’m in the midwest, but from the South, +30 :D

JLeslie's avatar

@linguaphile Do you think it changed because now women use it if they are lesbians? I don’t here many lesbians use it actually. But, I guess they do?

Aethelflaed's avatar

@JLeslie I use “girlfriend” to mean a woman I’m dating, same as “boyfriend”. So that was part of the change, but only a smaller part.

Actually, my mother uses it, though not in reference to her female friends, just my female friends. I think it’s that thing where older people try (and fail) to use “younger lingo” in an attempt to be cool and open a dialogue, but then it only ostracizes them.

I have noticed that the more likely a woman is to watch (and celebrate) Sex And The City, the more likely she is to use the term girlfriends in the sense you’re talking about.

SpatzieLover's avatar

Midwest: I say girlfriends.

linguaphile's avatar

@JLeslie I’m really not sure why or how it happened. I’m very sensitive to language variations and adapt pretty quickly to the lingo of whatever region I’m living in at the time. I didn’t really think about it until I read “The Girls from Ames” and realized I no longer used ‘girlfriends’ or ‘my girls.’

JLeslie's avatar

@Aethelflaed I didn’t realize Sex and the City used it. That would make sense for both NY and the generation who is now 35+.I don’t think your mom used it because it was lingo she thought your generation uses. But, maybe because when she was little she played with her girlfriends. That’s what we did.

@SpatzieLover Interesting. I’m going to have to ask my college friends. Ask if they use it and if their daughters use it. I’m going to send this to Wilma.

JLeslie's avatar

@linguaphile Wait, you’re a girl? I figured you were a man with speedy as your avatar.

linguaphile's avatar

@JLeslie LMAO… I’m all girl, yeah :D :D :D Speedy is from one of the threads in April where the OP asked which cartoon character you’re most like, and I’m most like Speedy.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@JLeslie Sex and the City used it some, but more than anything, the media (blogs, puff-pieces in newspapers, promo ads for radio djs, etc) about Sex and the City would use it. Sort of a valley girl, cosmos and brunch, girl power, shoes are the best thing in the world and omg men suck so bad kind of culture.

JLeslie's avatar

@Aethelflaed Hmmm…I don’t relate it to Valley Girl at all. Those four women were girlfriends in my mind, if it was realand not just a show. Friends is not enough, because women use friend very casually. We can meet someone a few days ago, and they can be a new friend. But, a girlfriend is in the inner circle I guess? Very similar to best friends.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@JLeslie I mean, not everyone who uses the term is part of that culture. It just seems to be more prevalent in that culture than in others. I know friends alone doesn’t really signal how close we are, so I use “close friend” or “really close friend” or “friend I share all my secrets with” or something instead. When I hear “girlfriends”, I think of it as bonding over female things, when most of my friendships don’t have anything to do with our respective genders.

linguaphile's avatar

@JLeslie This avatar won’t last long… just proof I’m a girl and a mommy.
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Aethelwine's avatar

I have few very close friends who are female. Those who are the closest are called best friends, anyone else is a friend.

(age 40, with first 20 yrs spent on the west coast and last 20 years spent in Midwest)

JLeslie's avatar

I think maybe there is no rhyme or reason to it. Doesn’t seem like we can necessarily generalize.

Incoherency_'s avatar

I think Oprah (female?, mid 60’s, Chicago area) uses it.

In honor of this antiquated tradition, I’m going to start calling my male friends “boyfriend”. :-D

JLeslie's avatar

@Incoherency_Central It doesn’t work for boys silly.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I’m 29, and I do call them my girlfriends.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

I call them girlfriends but sometimes get funny looks by teens. My little brother, who is 10 years younger than me, would scrunch up his face and say ”girlfriend”? But most adults in NY use it.

wilma's avatar

I usually call them “friends”.
When a bunch of us took a vacation trip recently, I would tell people that I was taking a trip with “my women friends”, or that the trip was going to be “all girls”, or “just the girls”.
I don’t think that I ever really call them “girlfriends”.
I’m over 50 and always have lived in Michigan.

Cupcake's avatar

New Yorker: I’ve never used it and neither do my friends.

Seelix's avatar

I’m 31, from Ontario. I’ve never used the term, except very occasionally. I don’t hear it often, either, used by women my age or older. I refer to all my friends, male and female, as friends.

JLeslie's avatar

@Cupcake NYC?

It really seems like there is no rhyme or reason after all.

Unless it is more cultural. Maybe Jews and Italians use it? Really it seems very random after seeing all these answers. Interesting.

Cupcake's avatar

@JLeslie Nope… up on Lake Ontario.

JLeslie's avatar

@Cupcake Oh, almost like being in a different state. Hell province. Hahaha. I love upstate NY.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I was trying to edit my response last night when Fluther crashed, and I was going to add that: I technically live in the Midwest, but if I moved 15 miles east I would be in the Northeast, just in case region factors in.

JLeslie's avatar

@ANef_is_Enuf Thanks for coming back. It seems totally random actually. I thought there would be regional differences, but it varies all over the place.

OpryLeigh's avatar

You don’t hear that very much over here in England and when I first heard it on an American show when I was very young (it was probably something on Nickelodian) I remember thinking that whoever said it was gay and had a girlfriend rather than meaning a friend who is a girl. I probably smirked like your neice too!

Londongirl's avatar

When you say ‘girlfriend’ it is someone you are dating and going out with romantically.

When you say ‘friend’ doesn’t matter male or female, they are just friends no romantic involvement.

JLeslie's avatar

They just used girlfriend how I do on Happily Divorced, the new Fran Drescher show.

Londongirl's avatar

@JLeslie Wow, used girlfriend? So you used them and now finished with them???

SpatzieLover's avatar

In the midwest @JLeslie to describe a girlfriend as a SO, people say “partner”. I’ve never heard anyone mistake “girlfriend” to mean SO here if it’s a woman talking about a friend. I forgot to say above, my sis 14yrs older also says “girlfriends”. My mom says “girlfriends” or the “girls” to mean friends.

JLeslie's avatar

@SpatzieLover I use the girls also, which I actually out ina second category. It seems some women are very offended by being called a girl, although I would guess being called a girlfriend as we use it would not be offensive? Maybe I am wrong about that? I can see at work not wanting to be addressed as a girl, or maybe even by someone you don’t know. But, in close relationships I see it as a familiar term (should that be familial?).

smilingheart1's avatar

Yes, never have thought about why.

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