The prestigious group of savants over at Language Log have created an award named for Goropius Becanus, a 16th-century Dutch humanist who “theorized that Antwerpian Flemish, or Brabantic, spoken in the region between the Scheldt and Meuse Rivers, was the original language spoken in Paradise.” (I’m proud to say the very first LH post was about him.) The award goes to “people or organizations who have made outstanding contributions to linguistic misinformation,” and Geoff Nunberg announced the winner today on Fresh Air:
But by a unanimous vote, this year’s Becky goes to the psychiatrist Louann Brizendine, whose bestselling book The Female Brain argues that most of the cognitive and social differences between the sexes are due to differences in brain structure. It’s a controversial thesis. The New York Times’s David Brooks and others have hailed the book as a challenge to feminist dogma, and Brizendine herself has charged that her critics are angry because her conclusions aren’t politically correct. Actually, though, you can leave out the “politically” part. The reviewers for the British science journal Nature described the book as “riddled with scientific errors.” And in newspaper commentaries and posts on the LanguageLog blog, the University of Pennsylvania linguist Mark Liberman has been meticulously debunking Brizendine’s claims about men’s and women’s language.
Brizendine claims that “differences between men’s and women’s brains make women more talkative than men, and goes on to say that women on average use 20,000 words a day while men use only 7000” and that “women on average speak twice as fast as men do.” Both these claims are utterly and provably wrong (see the Log and the Nunberg link for details). Congratulations, Louann, and I look forward to your rapidly delivered, many-worded acceptance speech!