From the NYT Book Review of last Sunday (May 10th), bits from two reviews that caught my eye: Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts reviewed by Jennifer Szalai; and Speak Now by Kenji Yoshino (a memoir combined with analysis of the same-sex marriage case) reviewed by Lincoln Caplan. I haven’t read either book (though I’ve read and posted about other things by Yoshino). But I was intrigued by the reviewers’ comments.
Archive for the ‘Language and gender’ Category
A while back, a friend complained about people who referred to a man as a blonde: blonde is a French word, my friend said, and in French it can be used only for women. So He’s a blonde is a vulgar error. (Similarly for brunette.)
But we’re talking about English here, not quoting from French, so there’s no reason why English has to be used as if it were French. And there are good reasons not to use it that way, though the matter is very complex indeed.
Yesterday’s Dinosaur Comics, on remembering names:
The feminine counterpart to the name Peter is Petra, both ultimately from Greek πέτρος (petros) ‘stone, rock’, but there are also women called Pete — and some called Peter.
In the NYT Sunday Review 5/3/15, in “What Black Moms Know” by Yvonda Gault Caviness:
Thankfully, I am a black mom. Like many of my fellow sisters, I don’t have time for all that foolishness [about child-rearing].
I stumbled a bit on fellow sisters, though I understood that it was in no way contradictory; fellow here does not refer to a man or men, but to someone “sharing a particular activity, quality, or condition with someone or something: they urged the troops not to fire on their fellow citizens” (NOAD2). Still, the noun fellow is surely most frequently used for informal reference to a man or boy (there’s a fellow at the door), and this use can interfere with the (gender-neutral) ‘someone sharing an attribute’ use.
Just went past me on television: an ad for Magnum Ice Cream Bars:
(from the Magnum Ice Cream site; “Magnum Ice Cream Bars are made with creamy Ice Cream and Belgian Chocolate”). The bars are big in size and big in flavor. The ads tend to feature (female) models with bars in their mouths: both oral and phallic. Here’s model Lucy Wolfert in one ad:
Magnum things are all about size and masculinity.
Today’s Dilbert has Alice exploding at the mansplainers in her department:
The pointy-headed boss can’t help mansplaining mansplaining.
Frank Bruni in an NYT opinion piece, “Too Much Prayer in Politics: Republicans, the Religious Right and Evolution” on February 15th:
Faith and government shouldn’t be as cozy as they are in this country. Politicians in general, and Republicans in particular, shouldn’t genuflect as slavishly as they do, not in public. They’re vying to be senators and presidents. They’re not auditioning to be ministers and missionaries.
… Mike Huckabee, who is an ordained minister in the Southern Baptist church, put God in the title of a new book that he wrote and just released on the cusp of what may be another presidential bid. He ran previously in 2008, when he won the Iowa caucuses.
The book is called “God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy.” These are a few of his favorite things.
During a recent appearance on a Christian TV program, he explained that he was mulling a 2016 campaign because America had lost sight of its identity as a “God-centered nation that understands that our laws do not come from man, they come from God.” The way he talks, the Constitution is a set of tablets hauled down from a mountaintop by a bearded prophet.
The notion that God’s law is above man’s law is widespread these days, especially among politicians. This is disturbing, especially since it comes from people who claim to know the mind of God. Certainly it wasn’t what the Founding Fathers had in mind.