First on the front page and then in the lede of its obituary this morning, the NYT described legendary television actress Bea Arthur as a "battle-ax."
The page-one headline reads: "Bea Arthur, TV Battle-Ax, Dies." The lede of Bruce Weber's otherwise respectful obit tempers the description somewhat, calling Arthur an "endearing battle-ax."
For those playing NYTPicker at home, the Urban Dictionary defines "battle-ax" as "a very aggressive and bad tempered (old) woman." From dictionary.com comes this interpretation: "Slang. a domineering, aggressive, sharp-tempered person, esp. a woman."
We get it. Bea Arthur didn't exactly play shrinking violets. But hey, didn't anyone at the NYT ever watch "The Golden Girls"? Dorothy had a sharp wit and used it for humor, like lots of women on television all the way back to Audrey Meadows's Alice Kramden on "The Honeymooners." Was Alice a battle-ax, too? To the NYT, probably.
It seems sad to see the NYT reduce the career of a brilliant actress like Bea Arthur to a harsh slang metaphor that seems synonymous with "bitch," especially on page one. Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, we know. But she deserved better.