Archive for the ‘Language and gender’ Category

Briefly: exocentric V + N

September 20, 2022

(Warning: a vulgar term for the primary female sexual anatomy will end up playing a big role in this posting.)

Where this is going: to an alternative name for an American President (#45, aka TFG); and to an alternative name for a classic American novel (by J.D. Salinger) — both names being exocentric V + N compound nouns, the first in English, the second in French. (I’ll call them exoVerNs for short.)

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Extended cisgender

June 19, 2022

A physician writes to the NYT Magazine‘s ethicist about a patient who used a racist slur (the N-word) to his Black nursing staff and a homophobic slur (probably the queer F-word, but maybe the queer D-word) to his receptionist, and contemplated ways to support these staff members as an outsider, explaining in the letter that he’s “a Hispanic, cisgender male”.

The first identifier, Hispanic, is a racial / ethnic identifier, counterposed to Black, White, API, Indigenous, etc. The second identifier, cisgender, is clearly intended to be counterposed to homosexual / gay / queer, terms that refer to same-sex (rather than other-sex) sexual orientation; but that looks like some kind of category mistake, since the standard usage of cisgender (with the prefix cis– ‘on this side of’, opposed to trans– ‘on the other side of’) is for a sexual identity that aligns with birth sex (and so is opposed to transgender) — a matter that’s orthogonal to sexuality / sexual orientation. Indeed, most same-sex-oriented people are cisgender; I myself am a cisgender queer, one of millions, though we’re hugely outnumbered by the cisgender straights, who are all over the place. And while some transgender people are sexually oriented towards their own sex, some are oriented towards the other sex. (more…)

Vote for me!

May 13, 2022

From yesterday’s posting “Three responsibilities”:

I voted today in Palo Alto — in the primary election whose official date is 6/7; official results are to be reported by 7/15, and then the top two candidates in each contest will stand opposed in the general election whose official date is 11/8.

… As it happens, my grandchild Opal is about to vote for the first time, and they have been astounded by the candidates’ statements in our [Santa Clara County] voter information guide

Now, about the statements (and the way candidates have had themselves listed on the ballot), focusing on the language used in the statements and the way the candidates present themselves there as gendered.

I’ll do this page by page, picking out highlights and adding my own comments as I go.

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A masculinity meze: face men

April 27, 2022

(This has turned out to be quite a large meze, but it’s only about one idiomatic slang expression. Well, men and masculinity come into the thing, and you know what can happen then.)

Reflecting a couple days ago on my Princeton days (1958-62) and the tangle of the attitudes of the (all-male) students at the time towards (among things) masculinity, male affiliation (as systematized in a pervasive system of male bands, the eating clubs of the time), women, homosexuals, race, and social class. The topic is vast, also deeply distressing to me personally, and I suspect that I’ll never manage to write about the bad parts of it in any detail — note: there were some stunningly good parts — but in all of that I retrieved one lexical item of some sociolinguistic interest (and entertainment value), one slang nugget: the idiomatic N1 + N2 compound noun face man / faceman / face-man.

A common noun frequently used among my friends, which was then also deployed as a proper noun nicknaming one of our classmates, a young man notable for his facial male beauty: everybody had to have a nickname (mine was Zot, for the Z of my name and the cartoon anteater), so we called him Face Man because he was a face man.

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Three cartoons for 4/12/22

April 12, 2022

(Warning: as is my way, a soupçon of smart-ass street talk.)

Two on gendered topics, plus another cartoon that’s incomprehensible unless you recognize one of its elements (and only incidentally has a gendered bit in that element).

Masculine identity for young teens in a One Big Happy (a re-play from 4/26/10 in my comics feed today); a display of femininity in today’s Rhymes With Orange; and then, in today’s Wayno / Piraro Bizarro, on the equipment needed for a night lighthouse (with an incidental display of maleness).

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The effeminate elephant

March 29, 2022

Effeminacy in the animal world, first in yesterday’s (3/28) Wayno/Piraro Bizarro:


(#1) Not only elephant effeminacy, but also a cosmetic anagram, a rouge and peasant salve (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 5 in this strip — see this Page.)

And in one of my academic collages, with mice in the lab:


(#2) Continuing the theme of makeup for males

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Half-assing things

March 20, 2022

(It’s all about some English expressions using the bodypart-term ass, but without any reference to human buttocks. The verb fuck (up), figuratively ‘mishandle, damage, ruin’, puts in a cameo appearance at the beginning. But: no actual bodyparts, no sexual acts, presented either verbally or visually.)

Advertised in my Facebook feed yesterday, this t-shirt, available from many sources (this via Amazon, in five colors):


The verb half-ass, here ‘do (something) incompletely or incompetently’ — as opposed to totally messing it up

We start with the racy slang verb half-ass and work back from there.

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Death Strikes the Adorable

January 19, 2022

One is a hardboiled, coke-addled Fed from the mean streets of the City, the other a sleek lutrine kid from the pristine snow slopes of Otter, Montana. They both have literary pretensions but sadly lack the schooling to tell a sonnet from a double dactyl or the skill to fashion either of them. After a chance encounter, they fall, enjambed, into the coils of a tragic desire. Inevitably, it ends in blood gushing onto dirty snow.

It’s a bad dream, a nightmare mash-up of a pulp noir fantasy, bad poetry, and cute images of animals disporting themselves in the snow. It comes with its own poem:

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Tell me that you love me

October 21, 2021

Two very different occurrences from my experience.

The Fillmore plea. From the late 1960s, Chuck (Charles J.) Fillmore, tapped (as senior member of the linguistics department at Ohio State) to serve as acting chair of the department while Ilse Lehiste was on leave, hesitantly addressing the first faculty meeting of the year (I was one of those faculty):

(CJF) I can do this job if you all tell me, often, that you love me.

The Transue plea. From ca. 1990, my guy — my husband-equivalent — Jacques Transue, with some visible anxiety, pulling me aside for a moment of serious couple-talk, holding my hand, gazing into my eyes:

(JHT) I need you to tell me more often that you love me.

Two clearly different senses of the verb love (but both, of course, capable of different shadings in different contexts).

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No offense (intended)

October 15, 2020

From the American tv series Emergency! S7 E11 “The Convention” (from 7/3/79), a tv movie following the regular series. Two women end up serving as a paramedic team together — female paramedics were a new thing at the time, only grudgingly accepted, and they were normally paired with a male partner — so a male paramedic tells them the watch commander wouldn’t approve of the women teaming up. One of the women good-naturedly but pointedly snaps back at him:

(1a) How would you like a thick lip, to go with your thick head? No offense.

With the idiomatic tag No offense — a shorter version of No offense intended — literally meaning something like ‘I intend/mean you no offense by saying this’, but almost always conveying something more complex than that.

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