In a rare win for activists, the “offensive word Essex Girl is to be withdrawn from an edition of the Oxford dictionary.
The Oxford University Press (OUP) publishes the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary for people who are predominantly second language learners of English.
The dictionary defines “Essex girl” as a “name used to refer to a type of young woman who is not intelligent, dresses badly, talks loud and ugly and is very willing to have sex, especially in-jokes.”
A campaign group led by novelist Syd Moore says a bad impression is generated by the word, and particularly the concept that accuses Essex women of promiscuity.
Another party, Snapping the Stiletto, the National Lottery Heritage Sponsored initiative, has added its voice to calls for the reappraisal of the Essex Girl stereotype.
Generally, the OUP does not delete terms from dictionaries, preferring to tweak the meanings in accordance with modern sensibilities instead.
The Oxford English Dictionary, the main Oxford dictionary, will maintain the word, describing it as “derogatory” and a (humorously) contemptuous term applied to a type of young woman, supposed to be found in and around Essex, and characterized as unintelligent, promiscuous, and materialistic in various ways.”
The stereotype developed during the Thatcher era’s economic boom, usually involving big hair, small clothing, and whiter-than-white teeth, but became a national fixture when the Only Way Is Essex hit show was launched in 2010.
And now the famous Essex Girl concept is international. Syd Moore says that when she spoke at an International Women’s Day conference, she first realized things had to improve.
“All of them laughed,” she said. “The Congo women had learned about the Essex girl. I thought: it’s time, once and for all to get rid of this.
Snapping project manager Kayleigh Boyle of the Stiletto says that although her party, sponsored by popular Essex Girls such as Dame Helen Mirren and Penny Lancaster, hoped to banish the stereotype that they were not tied to make people feel ashamed of being Essex Girls.
“If they’re proud to be a girl from Essex, then they’re welcome to continue using it she said.