Anne Holloway's complaint {Free for All, Dec. 19} about James Kilpatrick's use of the term "girls" in his piece about the INF Treaty seems to reflect ignorance on several points.

First, Holloway is obviously an urbanite, with no exposure to chicken yards or barnyards. In a chicken yard, the flock consists of one rooster and a number of hens. It is quite common for a hen to become alarmed by a perceived threat, real in the case of a chicken hawk but usually without basis. She begins to run around cackling to draw attention to the perceived threat. This sets off most of the flock to do the same until the threat or the perception has passed. The rooster is not likely to react unless the threat is real.

Second, the Henny-Penny fable draws on this behavior in the animal kingdom to draw a lesson regarding human behavior. The use of that kingdom to instruct or to make a political point is an ancient and honorable literary tradition. Kilpatrick's well-considered and pleasantly literate article follows in the footsteps of Aristophanes and Aesop through Chaucer and LaFontaine to George Ade in more recent days. The Henny-Penny analogy was very apt.

Third, women themselves frequently (although perhaps not in Holloway's feminist circles) refer to themselves as girls, regardless of their age. My wife confirms that this is usual, as in a church group of women mostly over 80.

The term "girl" or "boy" is not in itself pejorative. It depends on the context. Going out with "the boys" is not. Addressing a black male as "boy" is either demeaning or pejorative -- e.g., "pardon me, boy, is this the Chattanooga choo-choo?).

Boy, what a relief to get this off my chest.

Jacques J. Reinstein