Archive for Gender

Sex, lies, and childishness; and insomnia

It's a bit early for Language Log to do any analysis of the presidential debate last night. Where I live, it came on after 2 a.m., and where Mark lives it is still only 5:15 a.m. right now. But Vox has already analysed the interruption rate, a well-known index of gender in speech style. Trump interrupted Clinton exactly three times as often as she interrupted him. I think Language Log can confidently affirm that here we have convincing linguistic evidence that Trump is male and Clinton is female.

But one other thing I noticed, as I struggled to stay awake in the darkness of the middle of the night here in Edinburgh, with the bedside radio softly relaying the debate via the BBC World Service, was the astonishingly childish nature of many of Trump's interruptions.

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The love organ of many names

British comedian Richard Herring is the author of a 2003 book entitled Talking Cock: A Celebration of Man and his Manhood, so he naturally seized upon the republicization opportunity provided by the recent story of the world's first successful penis transplant. He made it the topic of his weekly humor column in The Metro, the trashy free newspaper that I sometimes reluctantly peruse in my constant search for linguistic developments that might be of interest to Language Log readers.

In a bravura display of diversity of lexical choice, Herring contrived to use a different euphemism for the anatomical organ every time he could find an excuse for mentioning it, which, believe me, was a lot. And he left me pondering a serious lexicographical question: just how many euphemisms are there for the appendage in question?

[Unusually, this post is restricted to adult males. Please click "Read the rest of this entry" to confirm that you are male and over 18.]

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The language of sexual minorities

Nathan Hopson writes from a conference at Nagoya, Japan:

One of the discussants just mentioned that the words tóngqī 同妻・ tóngfū 同夫 are recently being used in China to refer respectively to a "wife with a homosexual husband" and a "husband with a homosexual wife".

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Women's words

In Wired (2/1/16), Liz Stinson has an article titled "This Little Red Book Confronts Sexism in the Chinese Language" (the text is accompanied by a total of 8 slides).

It begins:

Activism can take many forms. In the case of Women’s Words, it takes the form of a little red dictionary. The tiny book is the work of Karmen Hui, Tan Sueh Li, and Tan Zi Hao of Malaysian design collective TypoKaki. On its pages you’ll find made-up words and phrases—Chinese characters that, through their unusual arrangement and alteration, subvert the sexism ingrained in Mandarin.

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Misogyny as reflected in Chinese characters

Speaking of getting schlonged….

It is well-known that many Chinese characters with a female radical (nǚ 女) have pejorative or negative meanings:

Joe, "Sexist Chinese Characters Discriminate Against Women " (chinaSMACK, 1/28/10)

Koichi, "Kanji Hates The Ladies " (Tofugu, 6/05/12)

Dali Tan, "Sexism in the Chinese Language", NWSA Journal, 2.4 (Autumn, 1990), 635-639

David Moser, "Covert Sexism in Mandarin Chinese," Sino-Platonic Papers, 74 (January, 1997), 1-23.

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Annals of singular 'they': another case with known sex

Karen Thomson, a Sanskritist and antiquarian bookseller living in Oxford, wrote to me to point out the following very significant example of singular they in a Financial Times interview with TV writer and director Jill Soloway:

People will recognise that just because somebody is masculine, it doesn't mean they have a penis. Just because somebody's feminine, it doesn't mean they have a vagina. That's going to be the evolution over the next five years.

You see what makes this not just a dramatic claim in terms of sexual politics but a linguistically very revealing example?

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Gender bending

There's a guy with brown hair who has worked as a checkout person at a store I go to regularly.  He's been there for about five years.  Of the 20 or so checkout persons at the store, all of the others except one are female, mostly between 18 and 25.

Over the course of the last year or so, I noticed that this fellow became increasingly girllike.  Finally, last week when I went to the store, there was a new checkout girl with straight, long blonde hair.  It turned out that I was next in line to go to her counter.  She was wearing a name tag that said "Karen".  I really didn't know this person, but when she spoke to me I realized it was that guy, though his / her (–> their) voice was much higher, and manner even more feminine than before, and he / she (–> they) was (–> were) wearing a skirt.  I really didn't know what to do or say.  My overall reaction was to accept her as a new hire.

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"Éditeur extraordinaire" ou "éditrice extraordinaire"

I want to dedicate a book to a female editor and decided to refer to her in French as "éditeur extraordinaire",  but then had second thoughts because I was afraid I might have the gender wrong.  On the other hand, I was concerned that "éditrice" might have the same sort of connotations as "poetess" or "authoress" in English.   So I asked a number of French friends and American colleagues with native French fluency who have lived in France for many years what they thought it should be.  Here are the results:

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