Nigella Lawson and Matt Le Tissier are not names you would usually put together in the same sentence. But, in the space of a few days, the TV cook and former footballer and TV pundit applied the word ‘feisty’ to their respective areas of expertise.
A marinade concocted by Lawson exuded a “feisty fragrance”, while Le Tissier described how things were “getting feisty” on the pitch during a televised game.
What’s wrong with that, you may ask. Absolutely nothing. Feisty, which derives from the German word for ‘fist’ means fiery, excitable, spirited, bold and lively. Both Lawson and Le Tissier used the adjective in its proper context.
Unfortunately it’s been hijacked by the media to describe women who are strong and forthright. But it has patronising overtones in the “I like a woman with spirit” kind of way. A man is never described as feisty.
Earlier this year, actress Helen Mirren complained that words like ‘feisty’ and ‘sassy’ were part of a belittling vocabulary attached to powerful women.
“Only women are feisty. It just makes me gag,” she said. “We need new words for female power and funniness and smartness.”
Feisty is a great word. But it is not and shouldn’t be a feminine adjective.