Archive for the ‘Language and gender’ Category


September 8, 2017

Hurricane Irma works its way through the Caribbean, now aiming at Florida. There’s nothing useful I can do at this distance, so I’ve been frittering away my time recalling the famous Irmas of my world — your list might well be different — namely Irma S. Rombauer, the Irma of Irma la Douce, and, top of the list, the Irma of My Friend Irma, the apotheosis, oh alas, of the Dumb Blonde stereotype in American popular culture.


Sea foam

September 4, 2017

The Zits from August 31st:


About color naming, and its association with sex/gender. The stereotype is that males use only a small number of color names, but that females draw on a much more diverse collection of names, and that this difference follows from differences — perhaps learned, but perhaps inborn — in the interests and inclinations of the sexes, with females engaged in fashion and interior decoration (where a rich color vocabulary is useful) in a way that males are not.


Revisiting 1: Will McPhail

August 25, 2017

Cartoons by Will McPhail, last seen here in three cartoons on 4/15/17, in particular a wordless cartoon (in which God slam-dunks in an angel’s halo). Now from the August 28th New Yorker, this complex exercise in cartoon understanding, drawing on several pieces of very specific cultural knowledge:



Brewster Rockit to the rescue

July 15, 2017

[revised version]

From David Preston, yesterday’s Brewster Rockit comic strip, in a male character attempts to mansplain mansplaining to Pamela Mae Snap (aka Irritable Belle):

(#1) (Note strategic use of speech bubbles in the third panel.)



June 29, 2017

A Dilbert from 9/7/91 (passed on by Tom Limoncelli):

Betty balks at the title fellow — because she thinks of only one of the three lexical items fellow, informal ‘man, boy’. But there are two others, and the one she’s thinking of is the most recent.


Conjunct order in the comics

May 5, 2017

Today’s Rhymes With Orange.on love and conjunct order:

So: in coordinated pairs of names, which comes first, and why?

In the case at hand, whoever creates the coordination (here, carving it into a tree) will almost always put their own name first; people are strongly inclined to take themselves to be the measure of all things. Similarly, if you’re referring to a couple of people and one of them is a friend of yours while the other is someone you know mostly through your friend, you’ll probably put your friend’s name first. But beyond that, there’s a complex set of factors that tend to favor one order of names over the other. It seems that these factors conspire in (now well-studied) ways to favor — wait for it… — Guys First.


Annals of interruption

April 30, 2017

Some well-known phenomena: ceteris paribus, in conversations between men and women, (a) men speak significantly more than women, and (b) men interrupt women significantly more than vice versa. The effects carry over (not surprisingly) to argument between justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, and there they are augmented by another effect, that conservatives interrupt liberals significantly more often than vice versa. (These results from a study now in press for the Virginia Law Review.)

These effects can be seen as instances of a larger phenomenon: a tendency of those who are, or believe themselves to be, more dominant in an interaction to feel free to impose themselves on their partners and a corresponding tendency of those who are, or believe themselves to be, less dominant in an interaction to avoid imposing themselves on their partners.

The story came to me in the NYT on the 18th, in a piece by Adam Liptak. Well, in print in the national edition on the 18th, under the title “Let Me Finish, Please: Conservative Men Dominate the Debate’ — and on-line on the 17th, under the title “Why Gorsuch May Not Be So Genteel on the Bench”:


Women’s jobs, men’s jobs, feminine language, masculine language

March 2, 2017

Another item from my blog backlog, this time a 2/17 piece by Claire Cain Miller in the NYT,  (in print) “Job Disconnect: Male Applicants, Feminine Language”, (on-line) “Job Listings That Are Too ‘Feminine’ for Men”. On the one hand, we have jobs that are widely considered to be the province of one sex rather than the other (and so are dominated by that sex). On the other hand, we have lexical items that have associations with one gender rather than the other. Meanwhile, there’s a need to attract more men into what have traditionally been “women’s jobs” — because that’s where the action is.

The article reports on research about how things might be jiggled in a positive direction via the way job ads are phrased. This can be only a small piece of a solution, but it’s a possible piece.


Language Sunday in the comics

December 12, 2016

Four in my comics feed Sunday morning: a One Big Happy with the derived adjective quotatious; a Zippy on pangrams; a Mother Goose and Grimm with an ambiguity in marine biologist; and a Doonesbury nominally about pronoun choices, but about much more.


Color-coordinating college

November 30, 2016

Yesterday’s Zits:

Some other orange schools: Florida, Princeton, Univ. of Miami, Oregon State, Idaho State, Oklahoma State. There’s also a bunch of schools with gold — but that’s yellow-orange, not straightforwardly orange. As for teal: Eckerd College, UNC-Wilmington, Coastal Carolina. Scripps has sea-foam green, which is very close to teal. (In any case, teal isn’t a basic color word in English, while orange is, so there’s a big imbalance here.)

There’s a suggestion in the strip that choosing a college on the basis of the school colors is silly, frivolous, inconsequential — the sort of thing an air-headed girl would do. I don’t see that it’s any more frivolous than choosing a college on the basis of the current fortunes of the football and basketball teams. (Please don’t just baldly assert that sports are important, serious, and fashion isn’t.)