Call me old-fashioned, but I like the word “classy,” even though I never gave it much thought before reading this blog last week.
Katy Waldman, in slate.com’s language blog, makes the case that there are more precise and less offensive alternatives. I’m still wrapping my head around the “offensive” part, but the other adjectives she suggests strike me as less precise, not more.
The great thing about the word “classy” is that it can combine meanings of proposed substitutes like “elegant” and “courteous.” When it’s used admiringly to describe someone’s behaviour, both style and intent are implicit.
But some people find the word classist and offensive, because its origin lies in a description of the upper class. I confess that – much as I dislike stereotyping – I have trouble seeing it. I believe that wealth and access to education aren’t necessarily correlated with class, and that lack of money and education don’t preclude it.
I don’t think “classic” means the same thing. But language evolves, and I may think differently in the future.
“Classy” has yet to fall into disuse. I’m sad to think that it might. What do you think?