From the OED:
Ball: 1. A globe or globular body. 4. A globular body to play with, which is thrown, kicked, knocked, or batted about, in various games, as hand-ball, foot-ball, tennis, gold, cricket, croquet, billiards, etc. 14. a. A spherical or rounded part of the body, now chiefly applied to those at the base of the thumb and great toe, formerly, also a callosity on the hand or foot. 14 d. plur Courage, determination; (manly) power or strength, masculinity, Cf. BALLSY a. and COHONES. (chiefly U.S.) [1928 D. H. L=Lawrence Lady Chatterley’s Lover xiv. 236 You say a man’s got no brains, when he’s a fool . . . And when he’s got none of that spunky wild bit of a man in him, you say he’s got no balls. 1958 in Wentworth and Flexner Dict. Amer. Slang (1968), That copy is too week. Rewrite it and put balls on it . . .
The American usage is apparently borrowed from the Spanish word Cajones, or as the OED would put it “cahones.” And I will admit, the use of the word “balls” consistent with OED definition 14d, meaning manly, gutsy, or strong is something that I try to avoid in normal speech. I much prefer to use the word “guts” instead. Still, I have never considered it a major issue in my life, or in anyone’s life, until
Mr. Dr. Ron Lindsay, PhD enlightened me the other day. Mr. Dr. Lindsay is the President and CEO of that august organization, the Center for Inquiry, which has the lofty goal to be your one stop shop for all things secular, humanistic, atheistic, and skeptical. He writes a blog on the CFI website tracking important issues of the day in the areas in which his organization seeks world domination. For instance, in past entries his blog has dealt with the difference between coming out as gay and coming out as atheist, a discussion of whether Edwina Rogers is the right choice to lead the Secular Coalition of America, and contraception and religious liberty. Heady stuff, no?
Imagine my surprise, indeed my chagrin, when I innocently opened Google Reader this morning and saw the latest topic to be discussed by this distinguished luminary: Condemning The Use Of The World “Balls” in the freethought/secular/atheist/skeptic community(ies). This apparently is a problem. An issue. Something that needs addressing. A crisis.
Mr. Dr. Linsday, in response I will use the immortal word sent by (then) Brig. Gen when confronted by a German surrender demand during the battle of the bulge: NUTS!
I will be clear, I think that using the word “balls” should be confined to locker rooms, tap rooms, and billiard halls. I don’t really think it has much of a place in polite company. But it is, oh how do I put it
Mr. Dr. Lindsay, part of the English Fucking Language, or at least the North American dialect of the English Fucking Language. If anything, it is coarse term used in impolite society. It is not a societal problem, any more than calling a weak willed man a “pussy” is. Is it sexist? Absolutely. Is it inappropriate under many circumstances? Of course. Is it a problem in the secular/freethought/secular/atheist/skeptic communitiy(ies)? No fucking way.
But, you must be saying: “SA, surely Old Ronnie Boy must have cited some evidence to show that this is a problem worthy of discussion.” One would think so. Alas, it is not the case. He cites nothing. Nothing. Again, nothing. Just that he (correctly) thinks that the term is sexist and that people the people who read his blog, and who are assumed to thus agree with him on
every issue as his orginziation expects people to agree 100% in lockstep or you are persona non grata stuff, should agree and stop using this offensive word forthwith.
It seems to me that Ronnie wants to jump on the bandwagon that Becky Watson started with her “I will not go to TAM this year” rant, i.e. that sexism in the community is the meme of the day, and that he was desperate to find some way, any way, to get on that bandwagon before it breaks down. Because, after all, what use is a bandwagon if you can’t hitch a ride. But it doesn’t work. It is transparent. It is idiotic. It is meaningless. It makes Ron sound like a nincompoop.
You might as well write a blog post about the following problems in the community: littering; speeding; shoplifting; swearing in general, et cetera, et cetera. It is not a problem associated with skeptics, freethinkers, etc. It just isn’t. Please, Ron, stop trying to make it one.