Bookfessional: Offensive Terminology in Books

Posted February 16, 2018 by Jessica in Bookfessional, Jessica / 2 Comments

Bookfessional: I have ovaries, thankyouverymuch

Ten years ago, maybe even as few as two years ago, it took a lot to get me riled up when reading a book. Having a mentally disabled cousin, I’ve always been put-off by authors (or anyone, really) using “retarded” as an adjective. But that was my only real “trigger” word.


Recently, with all the shenanigans going on the world, in the White House, in Hollywood, in the music industry, in publishing, basically every-damn-where, I’ve become a bit less passive.

Words and phrases that didn’t make me blink a year ago, are suddenly less innocuous, more sinister.

Words like “hysterical.”


1. of, relating to, or characterized by hysteria.

2. uncontrollably emotional.

3. irrational from fear, emotion, or an emotional shock.

Did you know “hysteria” originates from the Greek word for uterus? B/c it does.

“Hysterical” literally means “suffering in the womb.”

Greek philosophers attributed Crazy in all its various forms to being female, you see, specifically to having a uterus, which is why having your uterus removed is called a “hysterectomy.”

No uterus = no crazy.

I call bullshit.

But I’m not the first person to call bullshit on this ridiculously offensive term. Urban Dictionary has had a listing for this alternative to hysterical since 2010:


Behaving crazed or unreasonably because of excessive levels of testosterone. Over reacting in an angry or jealous way.

Can I get an amen?

Something else I find myself objecting to is any reference to someone being badass, hardcore, etc. as “having balls.”

This one has always made me cringe a little, if only for the imagery it inspires. But now, I’m also annoyed that anything pertaining to bravery, boldness, fortitude, etc. is being reduced to a strictly male provenance.

I repeat, I call bullshit.

One of the most troubling things about this is that it’s not limited to people who can be considered ignorant. I don’t only stumble across “hysterical” characters in independently published works that don’t have the benefit of an editor to keep the author in check. In some cases I’m well acquainted with the author and their works. Well enough to know that they aren’t sexist. They aren’t intentionally being offensive.

It just doesn’t occur to them that saying a female who’s done something super impressive has huge balls is a bad call.

B/c most people don’t think it is.

But I’m starting to disagree. I think it’s one of a multitude of small, seemingly insignificant ways we enable gender bias.

What about you? Do you think it’s not a big deal? If you do agree, what are your trigger words?

Jessica Signature

PS – If you haven’t already watched the SNL sketch “Welcome to Hell,” do it, do it NOW. It’s both hilarious and relevant:

My name is Jessica and I live in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I’m trying my hand at writing, but mostly I read. My favorite genres are Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, and the YA versions of those genres, but if there is a book of a different color getting lots of buzz, I’ll read it too, just to be informed. If I’m not reading or writing, I’m probably on Goodreads or Pinterest or baking blueberry pies because I love them.



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2 responses to “Bookfessional: Offensive Terminology in Books

  1. That video *is* hilarious!! I appreciate this post, Jessica. I can’t think of any trigger words right off the top of my head but being female AND having two daughters, yeah, I can be…um…sensitive about words. I like what you said about it not being intentional because it isn’t for the most part. It’s just that it’s accepted…just like the video showed. Maybe someday we’ll live in a world of equality. *sigh*
    Bookworm Brandee recently posted…#COYER Review ~ Sparrow ~ L.J. Shen #ShelfLove