Flumble wrote:By the way, dictionaries list catcalling as far broader than 'harasses women' —are they outdated or is it an american thing or is it a temporary focus?
Ok so I'm confused about terminology now.
Wikipedia says about Wolf-whistling:
Wolf-whistling or finger whistling is a type of whistling in which fingers are inserted in the mouth to produce a louder and more penetrating tone.
A wolf-whistle is a two-toned sound (like 'whip-woo') commonly made using the above technique to show high interest or approval of something or someone (originally a young girl or woman thought to be physically/sexually attractive). Today, in English-speaking countries, wolf-whistling is considered a form of sexual harassment.
This confuses me on many levels. The technique of whistling with two fingers in your mouth is in my experience most often used in concerts and other such events, as a sign of approval. A form of cheering basically. There's nothing at all sexual in it. The two-toned whistle that wikipedia describes above exists, and is (almost exclusively) used to sexually harass women, but in my experience it's always done without fingers, so as a normal whistle. This could be a local thing, perhaps, but I have consumed enough US media to know that wolf-whistling during concerts is common over there as well.
Wikipedia doesn't have an entry on cat-calling. But google, Wiktionary, Meriam-Webster and the Oxford Dictionary all give the more generic definition. Of these, only wiktionary lists the narrower definition of 'A shout, whistle, or comment of a sexual nature, usually made toward women' at all.
Language is always fuzzy and different people use words differently, so that's not surprising. But I wonder at the cultural angle here. If you wolf-whistle at someone to get their attention (something that's not at all remarkable over here), is that likely to be misconstrued as having a sexual meaning (and thus sexual harassment) in the US?
*edit* off-topic, but amusingly the wikipedia entry on 'street harassment' (where 'catcall' gets redirected to) is self-contradicting on the meaning of these terms. I guess language really is hard sometimes.