What does ''grow a pair'' mean exactly? Is it offensive? Does it bring a man to a level of a girl/woman? Is it more offensive when a woman says it?

Thank you for the answers, especially from women. :)

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    We are not going to be able to answer your question in terms of how offensive it is. We might be able to suggest why some people might find it offensive and we can tell you, as @BraddSzonye does, what it means – virmaior Jan 29 '14 at 9:06
  • I think I might use the phrase: "grow a pair of boobs" the next time a man annoys me :) (Bradd Szonye's definition is the correct one) – Mari-Lou A Jan 29 '14 at 9:07
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    @Mari-LouA: are you implying that women are commonly perceived as not being annoying? That would be a bold statement :P – oerkelens Jan 29 '14 at 9:16
  • @oerkelens Everyone knows we are adorable, loveable and utterly illogical and incomprehensible. :)) – Mari-Lou A Jan 29 '14 at 9:19
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    @KristinaLopez Man(Boy)friend tells me I'm not like most woman, in that I tend to make sense when I voice my opinions. Funnily enough, he says that only whenever I agree with him. Hmm... :) – Mari-Lou A Jan 30 '14 at 22:34

It is definitely offensive, as it means the man that is addressed should grow a pair of testicles, implying that he lacks masculinity at the moment this "advice" is offered.

How offensive it is depends entirely on the situation, of course. Between friends, it might not be perceived as offensive at all ("come on, we all did that jump. Grow a pair and jump!")

However, I would never use this to a stranger!

Depending on the cultural environment, this insult may indeed carry more impact when said by a woman, as in some cultures masculinity is very highly valued (e.g. machismo) and a male can be much more offended when a woman questions his masculinity than when a man does the same.

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  • I was looking for another example something being more offensive when said by a woman, but I agree I did not come up with the best example :) I have removed it. – oerkelens Jan 29 '14 at 9:13
  • Thank you for the answers. So at the moment of using it, it is implied a man in question is girl-like, so to speak? And by giving this 'advice', he's meant to return to his manly state? – user63871 Jan 29 '14 at 9:24
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    Return to, or actually for the first time reach that state, yes. The testicles he is supposed to grow are symbolizing just about everything possibly manly in a person. (Actually, I have heard it being said about certain women that that had a big pair of balls when they did something very courageous or bold. Whether they would be offended by that notion or not I have not checked :) ) – oerkelens Jan 29 '14 at 9:27
  • Okay, so the person who insults does not consider the person being insulted to be the man at that moment, that's why a demand to literally grow manhood. – user63871 Jan 29 '14 at 9:48
  • Yes, that is the exact implication. Of course, not in all cases will the speaker actually literally mean that - the expression can be used to simply mean "be brave" without the speaker meaning any actual reference to the victim's manhood :) It depends on the situation. – oerkelens Jan 29 '14 at 9:57

It means “grow a pair of testicles” and insinuates that the target is unmanly, perhaps cowardly or lacking assertiveness. It's mildly to highly offensive, depending on context. The degree of offensiveness depends more on tone and the relationship of the speaker than on gender.

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  • I like the answer overall, but the genders of speaker and listener define part of the texture of the relationship, so I don't like the separation of that element as non-dispositive regarding offensiveness. – virmaior Jan 29 '14 at 9:27
  • I think the speaker's gender does matter, but it's secondary to other factors, especially intent. A lot depends on cultural factors too, like how much the target is invested in machismo. – Bradd Szonye Jan 29 '14 at 20:44
  • Fair enough but my nit is about the phrasing depends more on ... the relationship of the speaker than on gender. Specifically, my point is that gender composes in large part the relationship of the speaker and recipient. – virmaior Jan 30 '14 at 0:31
  • It certainly can, which is why I chose to phrase it that way. – Bradd Szonye Jan 30 '14 at 0:41
  • I don't understand your response. My nit is that (1) you say it depends on A and B and not generally C. But in fact (2) B is partially composed by C. Thus to say B but not generally C is nonsense. Where C = gender of the persons involved, B = relationship, and A = tone. – virmaior Jan 30 '14 at 0:51

As others have already clarified, this phrase conveys the opinion that the person to whom it is directed is lacking in testicular fortitude. In my experience, this phrase can be said by anyone, to anyone, regardless of the gender of the speaker or the recipient.

Generally speaking (clearly there are no absolutes), it is offensive to male recipients because of the implicit questioning of their courage as a specific expected quality of masculinity; conversely it is offensive to both female recipients and any female who hears it because it perpetuates the idea that courage is a male trait and that the solution to lacking bravery is to be more like a man - to literally develop male genitalia.

Personally it resides within the group of phrases I'm perfectly comfortable using with people whom I trust - I walk a fairly blunt line with friends - but I would certainly think twice before using it with a stranger. In its literal sense it is both demeaning and misogynistic, but even colloquially it is rather offensive.

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  • "Sir, you are lacking in testicular fortitude." This is almost Pythonesque in its grandeur. – Mari-Lou A Jan 29 '14 at 9:39
  • "group of phrases I'm perfectly comfortable using with people whom I trust ". I think everybody need this group :P – Vinicius Monteiro Dec 11 '15 at 13:56

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