man in the street

  • foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    If you're talking about the "average guy," the anonymous but representative person whose opinion pollsters are always quoting-- then you need the definite article.

    "I'm the man in the street." If you talk about a man in the street, you're referring to a literal case of some person, and "in the street" would be a little unidiomatic.

    We have a similar expression that does use the indefinite article-- "a face in the crowd."
    .
     

    coconutpalm

    Senior Member
    Chinese,China
    One more question: if I want to describe myself as having regular features, not beautiful nor plain-looking, can I say I'm a face in the crowd, or the man in the street?
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    I would not adivse you to use these phrases to do the job of descibing yourself as a regular looking person. I don't think your meaning would be very clear since idioms like this are often quite narrow in their application. It sounds odd if people try to push idioms to fit in different contexts.
     

    maxiogee

    Banned
    English
    I think I would modify it, to "I'm just a man in the street." if you wish to imply that your opinions are not backed by special knowledge.
    However, if you want to describe your features I'd suggest "I'm just the guy next-door." as most people don't have the most handsome of neighbours.
     

    french4beth

    Senior Member
    US-English
    In addition to the above, you could also say "I'm just an average citizen."

    Usually, when I hear the phrase 'man in the street, it's on a news report when the reporter is getting a reaction to a common problem or a recent occurrence from a passer-by; I don't recall hearing anyone describe himself/herself with this phrase. Perhaps "I'm just an average Joe" could be used in this context.
     

    emma42

    Senior Member
    British English
    Yes, I think "I'm just an average Joe" is good if translating to AE. that phrase isn't used much in BE. Here, we would say something like I'm just your average bloke. or Looks-wise, I'm Mr Average.
    Bloke is quite colloquial.
     

    maxiogee

    Banned
    English
    Why not - men are "the boys" or "the lads" well into middle- to old-age. What's wrong with "I'm just one of the girls"?
     

    emma42

    Senior Member
    British English
    It does depend on the context and on who is using the word, but, basically it's because of sexism. When you have to suffer crap day in and day out just because of your gender, language becomes even more important. But, as I have said, it does depend on the context.
     

    french4beth

    Senior Member
    US-English
    Generally, emma, I would agree that women shouldn't be referred to as 'girls'; however, "woman next door" sounds awkward, and after all, we did use "boy next door"...
     

    jdenson

    Senior Member
    USA / English
    emma42 said:
    It does depend on the context and on who is using the word, but, basically it's because of sexism. When you have to suffer crap day in and day out just because of your gender, language becomes even more important. But, as I have said, it does depend on the context.
    Every woman I know would say "we're having a girls' night out", never a "women's night out". Doesn't sound sexist to me.
    JD
     

    emma42

    Senior Member
    British English
    Well it wouldn't, would it?

    Seriously though, I know "girls' night out" is a bit of a set phrase. If no one else thinks there is any sexism in the language, I must be wrong.
     

    GenJen54

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    emma42 said:
    "girl-next-door". But I don't like grown women referring to themselves as "girl".

    I don't have a problem with it in certain contexts. Certainly, in the workplace it is inappropriate. In other scenarios, on the other hand, I'm not bothered by it at all, and in now less than a year, I'll turn #@&*%!

    As for "girl next door," in the U.S. I believe there is a certain nuance (Hollywood-created) that speaks to the "girl next door" as being all sweetness and light. The girl next door is pretty, and has a certain innocence about her. She's not necessarily sophisticated or beautiful, yet she's well above-average at the same time.

    I'd just say "I'm your average Jane," or "I'm fairly average."

    Edit: This reminds me of the song "I Enjoy Being a Girl" from the musical "Flower Drum Song." Here are a few sample lines:

    I'm a girl, and by me that's only great!
    I am proud that my silhouette is curvy,
    That I walk with a sweet and girlish gait
    With my hips kind of swivelly and swervy.
     

    GenJen54

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    emma42 said:
    I have been informed that a Mod will be moving this thread to the Cultural Forum very soon.
    Just part of the thread, Emma. The jist of Coconut Palm's original question and all answers to her question shall remain firmly planted here.

    Those answers that delved into "sexism" in language, particularly about the use of "girl" for adults will make fine Culture fodder. :)
     
    coconutpalm said:
    Well, I am a girl. I'm 19. I may not call myself a girl when I'm 25;)
    Thanks for your replies. I think I'm clearer about this problem.:)



    Of course you can Coconut Palm. You'll still be just a baby compared with an old matron like me.

    But I still consider myself to be "one of the girls".

    "There's many a good tune played on an old fiddle," as we say. :D




    LRV
     

    Joelline

    Senior Member
    American English
    I wonder if the sexism issue is why, in my neck of the woods (East coast), "gal" has gained popularity in the last 20 years? Twenty years ago, if I heard "gal," I assumed a southern or western speaker, but not today.
     
    One of the few American imports I used to enjoy (when I watched television rather more than I do nowadays) was the sitcom "The Golden Girls".

    Their humour was great! :D

    Dorothy: Hi, ma. Where are you going?
    Sophia: To the boardwalk. I like to watch the old guys rearrange themselves when they come out of the water.

    I suppose they were called "the golden girls" because of their mature years - real "golden oldies".




    LRV
     

    Joelline

    Senior Member
    American English
    la reine victoria said:
    One of the few American imports I used to enjoy (when I watched television rather more than I do nowadays) was the sitcom "The Golden Girls".

    Their humour was great! :D

    Dorothy: Hi, ma. Where are you going?
    Sophia: To the boardwalk. I like to watch the old guys rearrange themselves when they come out of the water.

    I suppose they were called "the golden girls" because of their mature years - real "golden oldies".
    LRV


    LRV,

    Now, that's funny!

    Joelline
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    coconutpalm said:
    I know the meaning of this phrase. I'm just wondering how to use it properly.
    I'm a man in the street.
    Is it right?

    I don't think people use the phrase 'man in the street' of themself, or of other people that they know. It is usually used of a hypothetical typical person. If someone really thinks of themself as an average person (and I'm not sure anyone does), they might call themselves 'ordinary'.
     
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