Hey Laaaaady

Can you spot the laydeez?

Can you spot the laydeez?

I’ve spoken before of my love of the Ship Tavern in Holborn, and I visited there yesterday.  The celebrations of Cask Ale Week were definitely on: a Theakston Mild and Bitter being the most significant and tasty offerings. After a day of checking out dead things in jars at the Hunterian Museum, nothing satisfies like a lovely pint of bitter!

Two American friends were visiting and were drinking the mild. I tried to explain the philosophy behind Cask Ale Week but it was difficult.  While perusing the official website, I had little luck figuring out how to find a participating pub, or even what events were on, (don’t get me started on the picture of the well groomed college students on the site’s homepage.  It’s just odd.) I was guessing when I explained it was a way to celebrate a distinctive national beverage that has been coded as unfashionable.

In the US, the microbrewery revolution has changed the kind of beer most people I know drink.  The offerings at most stores are quite varied now. Many Brits who have never been to America think it’s still the land of Bud and Coors, but in metropolitan places this is not the case.  My friends ordered pints of mild without having to be coaxed to do it, and one of them was…wait for it…a woman.  That cask ale is associated with old bearded men was impossible to convey to them as we were sitting in the lively Ship, surrounded by all kinds of people who were drinking ale.  (It’s true the women were mostly drinking, you guessed it, white wine.)

My friend Laura picked up a flyer announcing the events of Cask Ale Week at the pub, one of which headlined with the pun, “femALE” day.  It addressed us as Ladies, and my friend said, “See, they’ve gone wrong right there.  Ladies?”  To an American ear the word lady is an insult.  It’s something Jerry Lewis yells.  No one wants to be addressed as a lady– which either means you are a granny, a member of the Christian Right or the recipient of some stranger’s anger.   Here it’s perfectly normal, and even polite, to refer to a woman as a lady.  I still vaguely resent it, and all the ideas that come packaged in that word–which is probably why I engage in such unladylike activities like beer blogging.

The flyer suggested we try some cask ale for £1 on the 15th of April, technically two days after Cask Ale Week is over.   Presumably we don’t have to wear a hat and gloves to partake of our cheeky half, just a pair of XX chromosomes.

14 Responses

  1. And what a lovely pair of XX chromosomes they are, dahlin’. Phwoar!

    • Haha! They’re real!

  2. You’re right that the word ‘lady’ does not have the associations in England that it has in America, but in certain circumstances it can be seen as patronising, especially in the phrase ‘little ladies’. On balance, it’s probably best left for small children. In pubs, I’ve known the phrase ‘lady’s glass’ to raise some women’s hackles.

    • Rednev, I’m relieved to hear this– that it’s also patronizing here. When I first started working here people in the office called me the “new lady” and I don’t think they meant it badly but it was really strange to hear it!

      Is a “lady’s glass” a half pint?

  3. …and it’s ladies night tonight at the Palace Hotel Ballroom. 😀

    • It gives new meaning to Cheez ploughmans.

  4. Ah- yes…”hello bitches” say thee, followers of Chas. Bukowski.

    • Indeed, there are so many options. Ah, the grand panoply of misogyny!

  5. I don’t know whether it’s just a Northern thing, but in many pubs, if you order a half with a pint, you may be asked, “Is it for a lady?” If yes, they will produce a lady’s glass, which is usually a shapely half-pint glass with a stem.

    In the context of your workplace, I’m sure it was meant as a courtesy, as – believe it or not – even the term woman can sometimes be seen as being faintly discourteous, although that is very old-fashioned now. It’s a minefield, isn’t it?

    • Hi Rednev–

      Wow–the whole “ladies’ glass-with-a-stem” thing is something beer marketers are proposing for women. I guess in the North they are already hip to that.

      I realized that “woman” is a vaguely insulting term when I asked at the office why they didn’t just call women, women? They looked at me like I was crazy. It seems so old fashioned, as you say.

  6. I have to tell you that I don’t approve of those yuppies on their flyer. Pub ads should always show guys with big mustaches sitting in wasted clothes on wooden stools and chairs with a few bawdy ladies in the corner with a crowd admiring the 3 inches of bare skin peeking through 87 layers of dress fabric. Seriously, modern life is a redundancy.

    • So, you’ve been to my local? har har.

      I think the flyer would be much improved by some non-ironic mustaches and more lady-bawd.

  7. “and a crowd”…too many with’s!

    • The two withs make it all sound kind of breathless and obsessive. Always a good stylistic approach.

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