Accepting Madame la ministre.

Henry Samuel reports on a slight budging on the part of the preservers of French linguistic tradition:

For centuries, members of the hallowed Académie Française – created in 1635 to “fix the French language, giving it rules, rendering it pure and comprehensible by all” – had refused to accept that words such as “professeur” (teacher) or ingénieur (engineer) be made “professeure” or “ingénieure” for women.

“The Immortals”, as académiciens are known, had repeatedly argued that to add an “e” to such male titles would “end up with proposals that are contrary to the spirit of the language”.

The cause appeared lost when Hélène Carrère d’Encausse became the Académie’s first ever female perpetual secretary in 1999 and announced she would be referred to as “Madame le secrétaire perpetuel”, in the masculine form. She also opposed “la ministre” (a female minister), preferring “Madame le ministre”. The argument was that gender had nothing to do with job title.

But the institution, which has faced recent accusations of linguistic sexism, has changed tack after placing its entire dictionary online for the first time this month.

Since then, Ms Carrère d’Encaisse has already given some ground, telling Le Figaro: “There are things that enter usage, such as ‘Madame la ministre’. ‘La ministre’ is not a problem.” However, she said she drew the line at “écrivaine” (a female writer) on the grounds that “it’s very ugly”.

But according to l’Express, the Académie will announce on February 28 its intention to include “feminised” versions of such occupations alongside the longstanding masculine nouns.

They even quote an actual linguist, Bernard Cerquiglini, to the effect that the Académie”s position had become “untenable.” (Thanks, Martin!)

Comments

  1. David Eddyshaw says:

    Sapristi!

  2. This move (if it’s a move) seems several decades too late. (I suppose to be expected for the A.F.)

    WeThe Politically Correct are now into gender-neutral language. ‘Actor’ is to cover both male and female (Oscar awards notwithstanding). So it should remain “professeur” to cover whatever gender preference or sexual orientation, etc, etc.

    Oh, except for the dratted pronouns and articles and adjective agreement. What to do in a language that’s lost its neuter?

    Is there a groundswell for gender-neutral pronouns etc? Why not skip forward to that and miss out the “professeure” altogether?

  3. I still haven’t got used to actresses being called actors. Been out of the country too long, I guess. Of course “actress” is discriminatory, because it tends to (although does not necessarily) suggest eye candy. But eliminating all distinctions between the sexes in language doesn’t, it seems to me, eliminate the problem… The masses (that’s us) glamourise their stars for whatever reason and pretending they like them only because they are technically very good ‘actors’ looks like another kind of reality slip.

    Incidentally, one of the ‘actors’ I have always disliked most was Meryl Streep, not because she’s unattractive (which she is) but because she always looks like Meryl Streep trying, and failing, to be someone else.

  4. Gender-neutral “actor” is not recent. OED has an “He and fellow actor Mary Steenburgen” from 1980, as well as “Italy is the only country where women actors are better than men” from 1966.

    I myself am perfectly fine with actress going the way of poetess.

  5. @Y: The OED citations for poetess are rather interesting. There are some straight uses, but there are also a number of instances of women objecting to the term, from Henrietta Knight back in 1748 up through Maya Angelou in 1993. There are also a couple references to Sappho specifically (e.g. “Among the ancients Sappho enjoyed a unique renown. She was called ‘the poetess’, as Homer was called ‘the poet’”). Several other citations seem to be intentionally ironic. The most recent citation that does not seem to be using the term self consciously is from Benjamin Franklin in 1773.

    The only place I have ever seen “poetess” in actual use was on the television sitcom Cheers, where it was Diane’s absurdly affected way of referring to herself, using a word that does not seem to have been “in good standing” since early Modern English.

  6. écrivaine

    as ugly as ‘writeress’

  7. I of course don’t have a French linguistic sensibility but I think [ekʁiven] is a rather nice-sounding word.

  8. [ekʁivɛn], more like – or, according to Wiktionary, [e.kʁi.vɛn].

  9. Gender-neutral “actor” is not recent. OED has … from 1980, … from 1966.

    Eh? “not recent” I expect to be followed by an example from Shakespeare or at latest Jane Austen. Anything well within my lifetime like that clearly is — precisely — ‘recent’.

    (I’m not objecting to it; I have to admit to needing a double-take for female actor; but I’m sure I’ll get over that.)

    How does it go with acteur/actrice? To my BrE ears, the latter sounds awful. Are there still aviatrixes/-trices?

  10. Stu Clayton says:

    The French book-reviewing classes are obsessive peevers. In between bouts of reading Sérotonine, I checked a few reviews. They are full of condemnation for verbal improrieties – declining occire , writing ceci dit. Both of these occur in the indirect speech of his characters. So what anyway.

    There is much to learn there, for example that you can end a sentence with c’est selon = it all depends.

  11. Not recent, as in not belonging to the present-day drive for gender-neutrality. Second-wave vs. fourth-wave feminism.

  12. Are there still aviatrixes/-trices?

    Had suddenly a great idea for a comic.

    Gallic names ending with *rix are female. Gauls in Gallic Wars were led by a bunch of Amazon women with suitably female names like Ambiorix, Dumnorix and Vercingetorix.

    That Asterix fellow is a chick too – they need to redraw her.

  13. I think there’s a legible argument that within-language consistency on gender is desirable – e.g. disfavoring gendered professional nouns in English because they’re anomalies in our largely genderless nominal system, while also disfavoring masculine professional nouns for women because they’re anomalies in the “semi-biological” gender system of French.

    On actor/actress, I don’t have really strong feelings, although actress is the one that I natively use. My impression has been that female actor seems largely confined to showbiz people themselves, giving it a similar “industry vibe” to something like the anarthrous agency names used by Beltway folk.

    And I do wonder if a too-hard push to ax actress might imperil gendered acting award categories – which, on the one hand, do seem a bit unegalitarian (there’s no Oscar for best female editor), but which, on the other hand, I don’t think many people would really want to see abolished.

  14. the Oscar for best editor of actors in a female role goes to…

    In your analogy, it’s not for the sex of the editor themself. A man could theoretically win Best Actress.

    Robe: not because she’s unattractive (which she is)
    How dare you! Meryl is God.

    but because she always looks like Meryl Streep trying, and failing, to be someone else.
    I’d like to see anyone else play Julia Child. Next she’s reprising Hitler in Der Untergang (Meryl is).

  15. Anyway, Pepys (1666): “Doll Common doing Abigail most excellently, and Knipp the Widow very well (and will be an excellent actor I think).” But “Doll Common”, aka Katherine Corey, wrote of herself that she “was the first and is the last of all the actresses that were constituted by King Charles the Second at His Restauration.”

    OED expounds: “Women did not appear on stage in public in England until after the Restoration of 1660, following which the terms actor and actress were both used to describe female performers. Later, actor was often restricted to men, with actress as the usual term for women. Although actress remains in general use, actor is increasingly preferred for performers of both sexes as a gender-neutral term.”

  16. Annoyingly absent in the article is a description of what most French people actually say. I mean, that does count for something, doesn’t it? Although I think one could defend a prescriptive position if it were less discriminatory than the descriptive reality…

  17. Last week I had the pleasure of hearing a member of the Accademia della Crusca speak to a group of Italian literary translators about changes underway in the language, and one of the first things he did was to present everyone with a series of recommended female forms of traditionally male professions (l’avvocata, la presidente, la sindaca, etc.). It’s amazing how quickly they start sounding normal once they’re used in the press; just ten years ago everyone made fun of “sindaca” and now it’s pretty much standard, because of the mayors of Rome and Turin. I do wish they’d do something about “medico,” though: “medica” remains unusable except in the privacy of one’s own home (which he admitted to doing, but he’s a member of the Crusca and can get away with more than the average person, let alone the average foreigner). Even after twenty years of using Italian as my everyday language, I continue to find the workaround with “dottoressa” uncomfortable, and I hear native speakers fumble with it sometimes, too.
    Weirdly, to my mind, he saw no reason to use “la poeta” as opposed to “la poetessa,” even though he recommended “la pilota”; he saw “poetessa” as being like “studentessa,” a form so well established in the language that it isn’t marked anymore. About half the women poets I know find “poetessa” condescending (it’s not as marked as “poetess” in English, but still has a nuance of that) and the other half find “la poeta” too ideological, so I’m never sure what to do.

  18. David Marjanović says:

    Why not skip forward to that and miss out the “professeure” altogether?

    In German the trend is going in the opposite direction: “make women visible” instead of hiding them behind the “generic masculine”.

    The neuter is not an option because it’s used to dehumanize people.

  19. But there are 63 genders out there – someone certainly will be left out!

  20. Studentessa

    I see that “co-ed” (US usage — never heard it in Australia) is going out of fashion. I always thought it was horribly sexist. Not marked as female but used for females only, as though they were in universities on sufferance, good to have around because they were cute or sexy (or something) but not capable of serious study. Logically, of course, “co-ed” should have been expanded to include men in coeducational institutions, but that wouldn’t have done, would it?

    Meryl is God

    Surely you mean “Godess” (not that I agree).

  21. Annoyingly absent in the article is a description of what most French people actually say. I mean, that does count for something, doesn’t it?

    It’s absent, and sure, it would be nice to have, but I’m not sure why it’s “annoyingly” absent; you can hardly expect them to do extensive research to dig up facts that aren’t directly germane to the article (which is about the Académie changing its rules). Newspapers are not scholarly journals.

  22. On the question of the new forms seeming weird and unacceptable (which of course all new things do at first), I agree with Biscia: It’s amazing how quickly they start sounding normal once you see and hear them being used. I remember finding “actor” odd for women, but now I’m completely used to it. I have to think that clinging to the sense of weirdness after frequent exposure to the new indicates ideological stubbornness more than anything else.

  23. I don’t think I’ve heard “coed” for at least forty years. Even in my grad school days it was a geezer-professor word.

  24. I should have written “has gone out of fashion”. Forty years ago sounds like yesterday…

  25. My somewhat curmudgeonly view is that for both actor and gods gender is what is technically called in the U.S. a “bona fide occupational qualification” (more usually BFOQ), notwithstanding Shakespearean boys, Sarah Bernhardt’s Hamlet, and Robin Williams’s Mrs. Doubtfire. So I will stick with actress and goddess. Hell, the Greco-Roman god of love is not even the same person as the goddess of love, though he is said to be her son or something.

    (Y’know, looking at “Robin Williams’s Mrs. Doubtfire”, it occurs to me that if you didn’t know who Robin Williams was, you’d certainly assume from that phrase in isolation that an actress is meant.)

    Gallic names ending with *rix are female.

    Fortunately or unfortunately, the word for ‘queen’ in Gaulish is attested: it’s rigani. It’s unclear whether this is an Italo-Celtic innovation (Latin regina), or whether just possibly it’s the IE word and rex, rix are back-formations.

  26. J. W. Brewer says:

    Rule One: Don’t mark femaleness when someone will say you shouldn’t. Rule Two: Don’t fail to mark femaleness when someone will say you should.

  27. I remember finding “actor” odd for women, but now I’m completely used to it

    Actor is a word which can be used to describe anything and everything – even mathematical abstractions.

  28. @Bathrobe: The headline for this story: “BU Coed Hospitalized After Drinking at Frat” provoked an angry outcry from one of the The Tech‘s night editors. He (sarcastically) said that “wench” would be preferable to “coed.” I was the news editor on duty that issue, so I probably wrote the hed, and I remember discussing it around the newsroom. Nobody like “coed,” but finding something that fit the space available was tricky. (If you look closely at the page image, you can see that the hed had to kerned* quite a bit to fit.)

    * The correct sense of the verb kern, meaning to alter the spacing between the letters in type, is not in the OED. The entry does not appear to have been touched since 1901, long before the advent of desktop publishing in, when “kerning in” (decreasing space between letters) became as easy as “kerning out,” which was accomplished by adding extra spacers to movable type or hot metal type.

  29. John Cowan says:

    ideological stubbornness

    Stubbornness in my case, certainly, but not ideological. I don’t peeve when others use it, but I just prefer my old mumpsimus, as you yourself have said about various half a dozen times on this blog. Particularly since actress is not actually an error, unlike mumpsimus.

    I suppose this makes me like one of those old farts who still say colored people because that was the polite expression in their youth.

  30. Shots for Tots

    The roommate reported that
    Figueredo had consumed seven
    shots of liquor in half an hour.
    The Boston police later cited
    Theta Chi for serving alcohol
    to a minor…

  31. “I still haven’t got used to actresses being called actors.”

    Because what they are doing is called acting. Or do you propose we need “actressing”?

    What should we call a male “seamstress”? A sewman…a sewer….or worse

  32. John Cowan says:

    No, certainly not. My point is not that actors and actresses do different things, it’s just that they are not interchangeable at will, unlike poets or programmers. If this be ideology, make the most of it.

  33. What should we call a male “seamstress”?

    A seamster. Actually this one seems like a very good candidate for de-gendering, so I think I’d prefer to call them both that.

    Also, one case that’s always puzzled me is fisherman: if German makes do just fine with Fischer, and English as well with weaver, baker and the like, then why is the -man there at all?

  34. As a bonus, seamster also suggests the very manly teamster.

  35. “And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

  36. Stu Clayton says:

    Also, one case that’s always puzzled me is fisherman: if German makes do just fine with Fischer

    Fisherman is someone who fishes for a living, but I think fisher is also used in this sense. Otherwise, fisher or angler is someone who fishes as a hobby. However, the plural of (hobby) fisher appears to be (hobby) fishermen.

    Fischer in German is either the proper name of half a dead tenor, or the job description of a professional (deep-sea) fisherman. A hobby fisher is an Angler, not a Fischer – in the Rheinland at any rate.

  37. John Cowan says:

    The OED says fisher is now archaic; the last non-poetic citation it has is 1758. It is still current as the name of Pekania pennanti, a kind of weasel native to North America. By contrast, the Big Dict first finds fisherman in the Tyndale Bible.

    Both terms are sometimes used for fishing boats rather than their occupants, and Henry David Thoreau uses fisher for a boat in 1862. The only citation for this sense the OED has.

  38. Stu Clayton says:

    What is the job-description word for a man (or woman!) who works the high seas hauling in king crab and tuna, if not fisher(wo?)man ? Catcher ?

  39. This discussion forces you to consider why you feel compelled to mention somebody’s sex, even when there’s no real reason to. Without the pressure of a deadline, and with 20 more years experience in dealing with issues like this, one wonders why one would use the headline in the MIT Tech story to focus it on the sex or affiliation of the student at all. They’re both mentioned in the lede anyway. The fraternity was in trouble for allowing underage drinking, not for allowing a BU woman into the dorm. From the headline, I’m set up to think that the problem that night in the frat house stemmed from the facts that the person drinking was (1) a BU student, (2) a young women, and, therefore — what? ditzy? — I might have written the same headline then as well, but “Minor Hospitalized After Drinking at Frat” would have been stronger. (What would the headline have said if the BU student had been male? “Terrier Hospitalized”? — That would have gotten my attention.)

    — I think “coed dorm” is still used now and then, with a completely altered meaning from what would have been understood fifty or sixty years ago — “a dorm for both sexes” rather than “a dorm for women.” — Sort of like the evolution of the word “kern,” from a time when, because of the technology involved, adjusting the size of the kern could only mean to increase it, to the present, when it can be adjusted either way. —

    There are several women who are professional actors living in my building. They call themselves actors, emphasizing their profession and their craft, not their sex. It goes without saying that their sex is a factor in what roles they get, but they get accepted or turned down for roles because of their physical attributes all the time — height or weight or hair color or tone of voice. Those other physical attributes do not define their craft, and neither does their sex. We don’t feel the need to have a single word meaning “tall-actor” or “fat-actor” or “brunette-actor” — why do we need the word actress? What are we implying when we think we need it? — I grew up using the word actress without a second thought, and it sounded funny the first time I used the word actor referring to a woman, but again, just as once one thought one needed to call people “coeds,” and it turned out one does not — what’s important is that they’re students, not women-students — it turns out you don’t need the word “actress” either.

    I’ve not had a conversation with any goddesses, and can’t report on their opinions on the issue.

    Latinx is another interesting phenomenon, but that’s enough for now.

  40. Off-top. I went to see a co-ed headline that Brett created and ended up looking through the whole issue of The Tech (from 1997, remember). On the second page, there are 2 reprints from LAT and WaPo. The first entitled “Netanyahu warns against unilateral moves by Palestinians” and the second “Gore decides to go to Japan for global warming meeting”. We are doomed. Even Palestinians are not making any moves anymore, unilateral or otherwise.

  41. I know co-ed only in the meaning of “having students of both genders”, so I’m quite confused what “a coed” is supposed to refer to. A student with two genders? Any student?

    In Sweden most occupations use the male form, and it’s considered gender neutral. For example, the speaker of the parliament is “talmannen”, even if the speaker is a woman. (Similar to how actor is considered suitable for actors/actresses of any gender, while actress is only used for women.) In a few instances the male form and the female form refers to different occupations: en sjuksköterska is a licensed nurse with a bachelor’s degree, while en sjukskötare is a nurse without license and degree. In Finland, on the other hand, “sjukskötare” is a licensed nurse with a bachelor’s degree. That’s confusing! Another example is “kassörska” and “kassör”. Kassörska is a cashier, for example in a supermarket, but kassör is a treasurer, usually in a non-profit organization. For male cashiers people prefer to use another word, such as kassapersonal, but kassör is used for men and women alike.

    As mentioned above, in Germany the opposite method is prefered. An author writes for the male readers and the female readers (Leser und Leserinnen), and the university welcomes the male students and the female students (Studenten und Studentinnen). If only the male version is used, the female half of the population feel ignored.

    I’m not sure what to think. From an ideological standpoint, it’s quite sexist to consider the male forms (actor, talman) to be gender neutral, on the other hand it feels quite cumbersome to come up with new words for every occupation that has a male or female ending. If we follow the German example we then exclude gender neutral people.

  42. @Moa: In colloquial AmEng, “coed” as a noun means a female college/university student. It’s really a terrible usage that has no business still existing, but you do still occasionally hear it. (Especially in the context of smut – e.g. “sexy coeds”.)

  43. @Lazar
    Thanks for explaining!

  44. David Marjanović says:

    If we follow the German example we then exclude gender neutral people.

    The solutions Student*innen and Student_innen have been proposed, and are in use that is, however, marked as politically to the left of the Social Democrats.

    More often, you’ll find Studierende, the participle “studying ones”, which happens not to mark gender in the plural; but this trick works for this particular meaning and not most others.

  45. “Nurse” is another curly one. Nursing used to be a completely feminine profession (thanks, Florence), so that “nurse” came to be understood as referring exclusively to women. When men started doing it people felt the need to differentiate them as “male nurses”. And I don’t think this one has gone away. And yes, it’s sexist.

  46. 1-On this side of the Atlantic Montrealers elected their first female mayor just over a year ago, and whereas in France “Madame la maire” seems more common, here “Madame la mairesse” seems to be preferred. Ironically, the former, but not the latter, has been condemned as incorrect by l’Académie française:

    https://www.accentformation.ca/blogue/2017/-madame-la-maire-madame-le-maire-ou-mairesse-

    2-To this native speaker “écrivaine” (which is indeed realized /ekʁivɛn/) sounds quite nice and normal, and I am a little surprised that some L1 francophones can object to the term.

    3-The decline of “actress” and the rise of ambigeneric “actor” is a change I find very odd, but I think that’s my L1 interfering: whereas in French “acteur/actrice” is a banal example of a regular pattern involving plenty of other nouns in everyday use (“directeur/directrice”, “lecteur/lectrice” -some Hatters may be familiar with the 1988 French movie “LA LECTRICE”). By contract, English “actor/actress” is much more isolated, indeed anomalous within the language: if a “diver”, “driver” or “shooter” is a person (male or female) who (respectively) dives, drives and shoots, why shouldn’t an “actor” be someone (male or female) who acts?

  47. One other oddity in English is that some terms like mayoress and ambassadress used to refer to the wife of the (always male) office holder.

  48. David Marjanović says:

    That’s not an oddity – it happened a lot in German well into the 20th century.

  49. True – on reflection I’d guess that they probably did that in a lot of languages.

  50. Very sexist — wives judged on the status of their husbands. But perhaps a social reality.

  51. That was standard in 19th century Russian as well – generalsha (general’s wife), gubernatorsha (governor’s wife).

    Female generals and governors in modern Russian are referred to in male form – gubernator Valentina Matvienko, general armii Tatiana Shevtsova.

  52. David Eddyshaw says:

    I have read that the highly-capable Empress Wu was referred to in Chinese as “Emperor”, on account of there being no word for a regnant empress (as opposed to emperor’s consort.)

  53. During War of Austrian Succession, Maria Theresa appealed to the Hungarian nobility for help and twenty thousand Hungarian knights shouted “Moriamur pro rege nostro Maria Theresia” (We shall die for our king Maria Theresa).

    Apparently Hungarian Constitution lacked provisions for a reigning queen, so head of state in the kingdom always had to be king – regardless of actual gender.

  54. I happen to have a female dentist, and this discussion made me think that I can’t think of anyone ever using a special word for a female dentist.There doesn’t seems to be one for -ist words. Yet in German I suppose I would have to call her a Zahnarztin.

    Interestingly, in French we have le dentiste and in Spanish el dentista. I guess you can also say la dentista as appropriate,

  55. I know co-ed only in the meaning of “having students of both genders”, so I’m quite confused what “a coed” is supposed to refer to. A student with two genders? Any student?

    Historically in the U.S., co-education referred mostly to the admission of women to formerly all-male tertiary institutions, and only rarely to the reverse, which historically came much later. A coed therefore was a term for such a woman student. The AHD says it “carries a connotation of frivolity” and is therefore discouraged nowadays. The few dozen surviving all-female colleges are now beginning to admit men on economic grounds — they can’t survive on just half the population, and fewer and fewer women are interested in attending male-free institutions. Others have broadened their mission from the education of women to the education of other gender-disadvantaged minorities, including transwomen, non-binaries, and even transmen.

    A New York magazine called The Independent (1848-1928) printed a telling remark about the word as long ago as 1903 that is quoted by the OED: “Any college where the girls are commonly called ‘co-eds’ is not a truly co-educational institution.”

  56. @SFReader: And from what I’ve read, Lizzy is referred to as “Duke”, not “Duchess”, in the Channel Islands.

  57. Stu Clayton says:

    Zahnarztin

    Zahnärztin

    la dentista

    There’s a dental practice in Berlin with that name, see la-dentista de. The RAE says

    # 1. m. y f. Especialista en odontología. #

  58. Stu Clayton says:

    I happen to have a female dentist, and this discussion made me think that I can’t think of anyone ever using a special word for a female dentist.There doesn’t seems to be one for -ist words.

    How about dentess ? Artist -> artess, pianist -> pianess, internist -> interness …

  59. Kate Bunting says:

    ‘That’s not an oddity – it happened a lot in German well into the 20th century.’

    And in French too.

  60. It says in Wiki, Dukes in the UK is the section, that “duchess is the title of a woman who holds a dukedom in her own right, referred to as a duchess suo jure”, but the queen is an exception. She is duke of Lancaster and anywhere else, not duchess. It’s not clear to me whether she’s duchess of Edinburgh when her husband is the duke. Apparently Anne Boleyn was created Marchioness of Pembroke just before her marriage. She is the only marchioness in her own right.

  61. David Marjanović says:

    Very sexist — wives judged on the status of their husbands. But perhaps a social reality.

    Exactly.

    duke of Lancaster and anywhere else

    Also Lord of Mann.

  62. “Vel ny partanyn snaue?”
    “Are the crabs crawling?”

    When Man becomes the capital of the UK, let’s say in 2035, the official and only language of the UK parliament will be Manks.

    Man used to be part of the Norwegian empire.

  63. Trond Engen says:

    David M.: That’s not an oddity – it happened a lot in German well into the 20th century.

    Kate Bunting: And in French too.

    When my wife’s paternal grandmother (b. around 1910) sent Christmas cards and other post to her son’s family, she adressed it formally to her daughter-in-law:

    Fru arkitekt [Husband’s full name]
    [Address]
    [Postal code] [City]

    If she had lived only a few years longer, she would have continued that tradition into the 21st century. And as the use of postal code shows, it’s not like she wasn’t able to adapt to new ways.

  64. In Lithuanian, surnames have different forms for males, married, and unmarried females, eg:
    Gimbutas, Gimbutienė, Gimbutite.
    So Marija Gimbutas feels a huge misnomer. (The same goes for Birutė Galdikas.)

  65. The few dozen surviving all-female colleges are now beginning to admit men on economic grounds — they can’t survive on just half the population, and fewer and fewer women are interested in attending male-free institutions.

    You’re being too general. You should say “Some of the…” The two near where I live, Smith and Mount Holyoke, are not admitting men and have no plans to (though the transgender issue muddies the waters).

  66. I just had to look into origins of Holyoke.

    Not Algonquian, but old English – apparently ancestors of Holyoke family (one of them settled in Massachusetts in 1630s) lived near some holy oak worshiped by pagan Anglo-Saxons.

    By the way, it’s really strange to see a few actual Algonquian place names next to the rest of Massachusetts place names coming straight from Old England.

  67. By the way, it’s really strange to see a few actual Algonquian place names next to the rest of Massachusetts place names coming straight from Old England.

    That is exactly what Australian place names are like. Lots of good old English names right next to names derived from indigenous languages. It does vary from area to area, though.

  68. Yeah, look at the map of North Sydney with names like Ermington, Rydalmere, Epping, Cheltenham – very South England feel – and right next to them utterly alien names from another planet – Parramatta, Toongabbie, Girraween…

  69. a few actual Algonquian place names

    Including of course the name of the state. But in Wikipedia’s list of the 351 municipalities, I see only Acushnet, Agawam, Aquinnah, Chicopee, Cohasset, Mashpee, Mattapoisett, Merrimac, Saugus, Scituate, Seekonk jumping out at me as native (I might have missed some). There are some others of non-English origin, like Carlisle, Florida, Lenox, Methuen, Orleans, Salem, Peru, Rehoboth. The name Dracut looked distinctly odd, but it turns out to be a misspelling of Dreycott (as Lenox is a misspelling of Scottish Lennox).

  70. @John Cowan: There are a lot more than those dotting the landscape, though, as names for hills, lakes, sub-municipal areas and the like.

  71. Carlisle being Gælic, if that’s what you mean, but it’s in England and so English. Draycott Avenue is a well-known (to me) street in Chelsea.

  72. On the topic of simplified spellings, Plimoth was apparently preferred early on (and is used by the Plimoth Plantation historical park), even though the town is Plymouth nowadays.

  73. The OED lists only two examples of -istess words: artistess (1770, 1924, 1980), and the ever-popular casuistess (1865).

    1924, W. R. Smith, In Southern Seas, xiv. 167: “We do not see why a woman should be called an authoress, or a poetess, or an artistess (unless it is that the grammars were all written by men).”

  74. Linguistess.

  75. I don’t think I have ever heard anyone use “co-ed” in a serious sense in my lifetime, but one example is in the song “The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi”:
    Each sweet coed, like a rainbow trail
    Fades in the afterglow.

    Composed in 1911, Top Ten hit in 1927.

  76. I don’t think I’ve never heard co-ed but I did read it many times when I was *cough* younger. I think I mainly saw it in newsmagazines (think Newsweek).

  77. Yes, it was very common in the newspapers and magazines of the ’60s, though by the time I entered college in ’68 nobody used it in speech that I recall.

  78. The Google ngram results look like nothing what I would have expected — a sharp peak in the 1970s, followed by a drop off, and then a resurgence after 2000. I would have expected a peak in the 1950s — there was a small one, but nothing like the later ones. I can’t think of any good explanation — I don’t think it all can be ascribed to headline writers.

  79. I think it peaked in the 1970s. That’s where I remember it from — yeah, 40 years ago. The uptick after 2000 could be caused by the use of “co-ed” in the sense of “co-educational institution” rather than “female student”.

  80. In Australia, a co-ed is used when describing schools, rather than persons. That is, a coed school is one where there are boy and girl students.

  81. A few supplements to John Cowan’s list, above, of Native American town names in Massachusetts: Nahant, Natick, and Swampscott.

  82. I have been meaning to comment further on this for a while, but I got caught up yesterday in an all-day role-playing game session. Several members of our party had earlier made pacts with a lesser Old One, which enabled the party members to be resurrected, but the second time they came back from the dead, it was as “bags if worms” under the Old One’s control. Our gamemaster is emphatic about major actions having major consequences, and so our former companions showed up at the city where we had been recuperating with an undead army. We spent about three hours planning and preparing our defense, but, to quote Ryan Phillipe’s character (real name never revealed) in The Way of the Gun (2000), “A plan is just a list of things that don’t happen.”
    Our plans went awry imediately, although not all the unexpected developments were unfavorable. (An evil demigoddess showed up to help us, and my character had previously only weaseled out of swearing fealty to her because he bore a hereditary curse of extreme body odor. Since the curse has been unexpectedly cured in the meantime, my character, King Rancid, thirteenth of that name, is going to have to have an awkward conversation with the demigoddess next session.) After almost six hours of mass combat, we emerged victorious, but by that time I was too tired to write a cogent response.

    I will reply further below.

  83. I suspect several commenters here of being bags of worms.

  84. Regarding my choice of “coed” in the headline: Our (or at least my) view was that it was better for a headline to be tacky than unclear. And “coed” was deemed to be merely tacky. If “student” had fit, I would have used that; really, the sex of the student who had been hospitalized was not particularly relevant. (Moreover, to our readership, it would also have been obvious. It was well known that nale students from other Boston-area colleges did not get drunk at MIT fraternities.) What was not irrelevant was that the student came from another university. If we had just said that a “student,” or “woman,” or whatever had been hospitalized after drinking at a frat, the default assumption (especially if we said “student”) would have been that it had been an MIT student. If anybody else can devise a two column (tabloid-sized), two-deck head in italic Times New Roman 33 point that conveys as much information was mine, I will take off my hat to you.

    “Coed” was, at the time I wrote that hed, comprehensible but, as I said, tacky sounding. Personally, I have always considered coed to be I’ll formed. It was a back formation for coeducational, erroneously interpreting “coeducational” as meaning “including female students,” rather than the transparently correct meaning of “including students of both sexes.” There were, of course, pragmatic cultural reasons why that misreading occurred, but I personally dislike the term. That headline must be the only time I have used it in writing.

    The night (meaning layout) editor who objected to “coed” was a bit older than most of us, and he was probably extremely well informed about usage on other college campuses. The reason was that, after serving as president if his fraternity (Alpha Delta Pi, a “second-world” fraternity at MIT; I don’t know how commonplace the terminology was at other college, but at MIT, the “first-world” frats were the ones with large endowments and egregiously heavy drinking; “third-world” living groups were smaller and usually unconventional; the issue link I posted noted how the first-world frat Phi Gamma Delta, or “Fiji,” lost its housing license after killing a pledge during a hazing incident, the first time that had happened at MIT since the 1950s), he had worked for three years as a “professional frat boy,” an inspector who visited local chapters in behalf of ADP’s national organization. So I have to concede a certain respect for his opinion that “coed” was not appropriate.

  85. Finally, a note on coed colleges (in America, “universities” is a subset of colleges). Until the late 1960s, many if the best American colleges admitted only men to their undergraduate programs. One if my father’s friends (and eventually, one of my own academic siblings, meaning we had the same Ph.D. advisor; and although our advisor, Roman Jackiw, was in physics, we were both applied mathematics students), a man named “Andrea,” initially had his application rejected by Princeton, since they thought he was a woman. Many of the men’s colleges had female equivalents, like Harvard and Radcliffe*.

    MIT, in contrast, had always admitted women. However, while the Ivy League schools had been inundated with female applicants as soon as they were allowed, MIT remainef male dominated much longer. My own graduating class (1999) was the first that was over 40% female. At that time, all if the historically male dorms also housed women, although there were a few floors/entries/sections that we’re still all male. My own floor (second east) was the last in the East Campus dorms to house women, starting my freshman year.

    In contrast, McCormick, the all-female dorm, which originally housed all the female undergtads (after the previous Back Bay brownstone had become too small), will probably remain all women forever. There was also an all-female graduate student dorm when I was there, but it was so small as to be meaningless, since it was just the former campus infirmary. Graduate student dorms are weird anyway. The largest one at MIT was for first-year grad students only; after that, they were expected to find housing off campus.**

    * When I was working at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, I had to walk back and forth from Harvard Square on the way to and from work, since I was commuting by bus from Sullivan Square in Charlestown, when I lived. This meant walking past the Radcliffe Institute (the only surviving form of Radcliffe, which had finally been eliminated as a fictitiously independent college a few years earlier), which was situated in a quad along the way. One day, I saw a group of three women, including future Harvard president Drew Faust, come out of the gate of the Institute. One of the women was a very elderly visiting scholar, and as they turned onto the sidewalk, the wind caught a handkerchief she had been carrying and blew out of her purse without her noticing. I rushed to pick it up and then caught up with her and returned it. What followed was a brief but hillarious discussion of how we had just replayed a scene from a chivilric romance.

    ** Continuing to tell my weird personal stories, that grad dorm has a strange emotional valance for me. I only set foot inside it once, at the end of the going-away party for the closest friend I made I my first year of graduate school. As things were winding down, she asked me up to her room, knowing full well that I would almost certainly decline, since I was already engaged to my wife. And I did, of course, say no. Still, I feel bad that she dropped out of graduate school, which she probably would not have done if I had been available. Her other closest friend (female) dropped out if the program after another year, which was also sad.

  86. Brett’s description of the role-playing game and college arrangements were roughly of equal comprehensibility to me. Both were full of in-language specific to those worlds that can be hard to understand for outsiders.

  87. John Woldemar Cowan says:

    bags of worms

    Bags of water, rather.

  88. David Marjanović says:

    UGLY!

    UGLY BAGS OF MOSTLY WATER!

  89. Jonathan D says:

    Parramatta and Toongabbie are actually local names, while Girraween (place of flowers) is from somewhere in northern New South Wales, one of those words that featured in a popular publication and was then used as a generic “Aboriginal name” in quite a few places.

    If I’m not it Parramatta or Girraween, I’m probably in between in Pendle Hill, a name whose interesting story belongs in cotton-milling Lancashire. Nearby Wentworthville and Seven Hills give a feel for names of more recent origin.

  90. @Brett: “BUer,” no? It would have conveyed the essential information, saved you a few characters, and avoided sounding horribly sexist. Plus, Buer is a D&D demon!

  91. John Woldemar Cowan says:

    UGLY BAGS OF MOSTLY WATER!

    Looking that up led from the crystalline life form to the amorphous-silicon life form, the Horta (one of whose children features in Diane Duane’s excellent Rihannsu Treknovels as a Starfleet officer, with a communicator/translator strapped to his back and his rank-stripes painted on him), to HORTA, a Real World inertial navigation system used in mines (where GPS is useless) to provide location information for vehicles and devices such as drills.

  92. J.W. Brewer says:

    On the archaism of “co-ed” (as noun in the AmEng sense): as a matter of raw statistics once upon a time a few generations back the default/median/prototypical US college student was male, making females the “marked” exception that might plausibly need/generate a word of its own. In 1960, when both of my parents received their bachelor’s degrees, the M:F ratio in bachelor’s degrees awarded in the US was approx 2:1. But that is decidedly no longer the case – parity was briefly achieved sometime in I believe the 1980’s followed almost immediately by overshoot in the other direction, such that the ratio is now approaching 2:3. Male undergraduates are certainly not (yet) as statistically unusual as male nurses, and do not thus far have their own conventional AmEng noun on NP, but it seems plausible to me that the decrease in rarity of female undergrads (not to mention the receding in historical memory of the period when a given institution might have had an all-male student body, which is a related but separate factor) reduced the felt need for a specific noun. If the ratio had stayed the same, I’m imagining the euphemism treadmill might have eventually replaced “co-ed” with some brand new synonym with a “progressive” political vibe and without accumulated negative baggage, but there still would have been more of a market for a specific term.

    Obviously in a literal sense “co-ed” makes no sense as applied to a student at an all-female school like Mt Holyoke or whatever, but I am now idly curious whether back in its heyday it had become enough of a fixed idiom for “female college student” regardless of institutional setting as to be used in practice in that context.

  93. Hmm. As I say, I wasn’t in college during its heyday, but I grew up with it as a familiar term, and my guess is no, people wouldn’t have talked about “Smith coeds” but rather “Smith women” (or more likely, sadly, “Smith girls”).

  94. J.W. Brewer says:

    Or just school-specific nouns, not marked for gender, like “Smithie” or “Cliffie” or “[Bryn] Mawrter.” Although I’m not sure if all Seven of the Sisters had such a noun? If there were corresponding terms for young ladies enrolled at e.g. Barnard or Vassar, I don’t know them.

  95. Checked Smith College. Not very impressed frankly, don’t see what’s so special about them to still keep the boys out.

    However, I am very glad to discover neighboring Northhampton High School – it’s Technology Department is simply unbelievable.

    How can a bunch of high school students produce so much professional quality television?

  96. Northhampton ought to be one the most unexciting English place names ever, but in Massachussetts they have ways to make it amusing.

    There are four neighboring towns there, named – you guessed it! – Westhampton, Northhampton, Easthampton and Southhampton.

  97. I suddenly noticed that America has both a Smith college and a Brown college. It turns out that each of the ten most common surnames in America*:
    1. Smith
    2. Johnson
    3. Williams
    4. Jones
    5. Brown
    6. Davis
    7. Miller
    8. Wilson
    9. Moore
    10. Taylor
    has a college-slash and or-university named for it. A couple are fake-sounding (to me) theological colleges. Even so, I’m sure there are all sorts of conclusions waiting to be drawn.

    *OK, even if they aren’t the commonist (not too many languages besides English & Spanish in this list) they’re probably fairly common.

  98. four neighboring towns there, named – you guessed it

    England has all those plus Uphampton (it’s near Boreley) and Yuge’ampton.

  99. David Marjanović says:

    HORTA, a Real World inertial navigation system used in mines (where GPS is useless) to provide location information for vehicles and devices such as drills

    I have no words.

  100. January First-of-May says:

    Northhampton [sic] ought to be one the most unexciting English place names ever

    It is, of course, Northampton (and Southampton), with only one H (each), just like the original English town(s), though etymologically it is indeed North-hampton (and South-hampton).

    Unfortunately, I don’t know whether it is pronounced Nort-hampton, North-ampton, or even North-hampton – though I would not be very surprised if they do it differently in New England and old England (and/or for Northampton and Southampton).
    That said, for what it’s worth, the Russian name of the English town, Нортгемптон, implies the “Nort-hampton” pronunciation (…on second thought, “North-hampton” would likely have given the same result).

    In principle, the intersyllabic /θh/ cluster can, in fact, be spelled with two Hs, as in (some pronunciations of) withhold, which does make me suspect that what’s going on with “Northampton” is not just an orthographical simplification. But I don’t know remotely near enough about the subject to say much more than that.

    [EDIT: Wiktionary has /nɔːˈθæmptən/, i.e. “North-ampton”, without distinction. Wikipedia has /nɔːrˈθæmptən/ (also “North-ampton”, but rhotic) for the English town and /nɔːrθˈhæmptən/ (i.e. “North-hampton”) for the Massachusetts city.]

  101. For what it’s worth, I pronounce North & South hamptons just like I do with-hold.

  102. J.W. Brewer says:

    One can avoid the Smith girl/woman conundrum with “Smithie,” which is not even marked for gender (compare “Aggie” for “Texas A&M student,” which goes back to the era when that was an all-male school). “Cliffie” for “young woman attending Radcliffe” is now presumably obsolete as the institution has been obliterated by merger, but “Mawrter” for “young woman attending Bryn Mawr” is still current. I’m not sure if the other four of the onetime Seven Sisters had or have comparable demonyms.

    All five of the still-all-female (with some fussing about the definitional boundaries of “female” in some quarters) Sisters remain relatively high-prestige in standard US college rankings, and I doubt even the ones that have perhaps slid a bit prestigewise compared to the old days (because they no longer have as large a “captive audience” of high-achieving potential applicants) would improve rather than degrade their current perceived prestige if they were to start admitting boys — they would get rid of what makes them distinctive without much offsetting advantage. But it is certainly true that farther down the prestige hierarchy (which is complicated in the U.S. but we do have something on the order of 3000 different places you can earn a bachelor’s degree so there are lots of ways to stratify that universe) quite a number of formerly all-female colleges have gone co-ed.

  103. There are four neighboring towns there, named – you guessed it! – Westhampton, Northhampton, Easthampton and Southhampton.

    As January First-of-May says, it’s Northampton, with only one h, in spelling, but the h is kept in pronunciation: /nɔːrθˈhæmptən/. (As Songdog said in a long-ago thread, the h has been stolen from Amherst, which is pronounced as if written Ammerst.)

  104. J.W. Brewer says:

    AJP must have been using an outdated source: the top 10 surnames in the US per the 2010 Census (stand by for the 2020 results …) were Smith, Johnson, Williams, Brown, Jones, Garcia, Miller, Davis, Rodriguez, & Martinez. It’s not just that the Spanishly-surnamed percentage of the population has been increasing fairly rapidly in recent decades, it’s that surnames are more highly concentrated (in terms of what percentage of total individuals bear one of the X most common surnames) than they are for most other common ethnicities in US society. By contrast, Italian surnames are unusually widely diffused, so the significant percentage of Italianly-surnamed Americans tends to be underrepresented or completely missing in lists of the X most common US surnames. Miller, FWIW, is what you might call a crypto-ethnic name because in addition to descendants of English immigrants with that surname it includes quite a lot of descendants of non-WASP immigrants originally surnamed Müller, who Americanized the name by calquing it.

  105. John Woldemar Cowan says:

    “You’re calling him John?? Every Tom, Dick, and Harry is named John!”

  106. J.W. Brewer says:

    Separately just on the “actress” -> “actor” shift in vogue in some quarters, while there has been parallel increasing dislike in similar quarters of “waitress” as gratuitously gendered (and maybe better-justified dislike since there’s less of an obvious BFOQ issue), no one really seems to think the solution is to expand the semantic scope of “waiter” to include the quondam waitresses, as opposed to finding a brand-new unisex alternative (typically, “server,” although it’s hard to track any substitution via usual corpus techniques since the computer sense of “server” has boomed in popularity over the same time period you’d want to examine). Why making “waiter” equally applicable to both sexes is not felt the appropriate solution presumably has to do with the fact that it frankly does not carry much of an aura of prestige, power, or other numinosity.

  107. David Eddyshaw says:

    “Waitron” always strikes me as unacceptable because it’s obviously not epicene but neuter. Trouble is, kids these days don’t do Greek.

    Come to think of it “actron” has something of a ring to it, though. I’m sure Tom Cruise is an actron.

  108. Why making “waiter” equally applicable to both sexes is not felt the appropriate solution presumably has to do with the fact that it frankly does not carry much of an aura of prestige, power, or other numinosity.

    That reminds me of the now-common practice of replacing “employee” with “associate”, and “customer” with “guest” – which I find insufferable.

  109. Étienne mentioned this earlier but it is both interesting and amusing to hear about these goings-on at the Académie from the perspective of Canadian French where “Madame la Ministre” and feminine titles like “écrivaine”, “professeure” and indeed “Gouverneure générale du Canada” have been the norm for quite some time now.

  110. J.W. Brewer says:

    The jargony mass noun “waitstaff” is epicene, but, like “cattle,” lacks an epicene singulative.

  111. OK — BU Teen Hospitalized After Drinking at Frat

    This leaves BU in the headline. I’m still not convinced that the person’s school is so essential that it needs to be put in the headline, but even though I’ve never been affiliated with any of the many institutions of higher learning in the Greater Boston area, I know how much people identify with their school, and that they have various firm opinions about rival ones — though the idea that a BU man would never drink in an MIT frat is new to me — so I can see how an MIT school newspaper editor might want to make it clear right off the top that the person who drank too much was from BU. — But the example here had to do with gender and language, and how hard it is to fight with language in dealing with it — even to the level of being an editor with a deadline fighting with point-size —

    Separately — American (and other Anglophone?) actors, restaurant servers, and flight attendants are dealing with issues of gender by finding gender-neutral vocabulary. That’s a much heavier lift in German or French, so women there seem to be emphasizing gender distinctions to emphasize parity. Is there a clearer example of how the structures of languages can lead to different strategies to achieve a common social goal?

    And — does it make a difference in game-play if it’s an evil demigod rather than a demigoddess who comes to your aid?

    // When I was very small — four? five? — I got to visit my much older cousin at her college. When we got to her women’s dorm, my mother and aunt went upstairs to her floor, but I had to wait in the vestibule because males were not allowed inside. I would not remember the visit except for that. “Boy Waits Bored in Co-Ed Dorm Lobby” would have been the headline in the school paper the next day.

  112. J.W. Brewer says:

    Given the general dynamics of excess alcohol consumption at frat parties and the various associated risks and problems, I daresay that the sex of the person who drank to excess remains a salient enough detail to try to work into the headline even several decades after Brett’s headline-writing days. “Girl gets way too drunk” may well be in context a different genre of common storyline than “guy gets way too drunk.” If the excess-alcohol-consumer had been male, it might also be salient enough to specify in the headline whether he was a member, a pledge, or just a random guest.

  113. > A salient enough detail — probably salient, but the frat was getting into trouble because of her age, not her sex. In the headline it might have been better to stress what led to that issue being discussed in the narrative of the article. If the article had stressed the culture of getting women drunk, and if the MIT administration had been more concerned about that particular issue, then “Woman Hospitalized” would be appropriate.

  114. @J.W. Brewer: “waitron”.

  115. J.W. Brewer says:

    Maybe taking what the authorities said at face value the drunk BU chick’s sex was irrelevant (I think “chick” is less archaic than “coed” but YMMV and frankly I’ve been away from undergraduate culture long enough that my native-speaker intuitions may not be useful), but if you really take what authorities say at face value, you probably shouldn’t be doing journalism, even engineering-school student journalism. But this is a difference of perspective, and who’s to say who’s right? That is, to try to shift the discussion back towards linguistics, one of the recurrent problems here. Even if we were to have a new social norm that language should not specify or otherwise implicitly call attention to a person’s sex (or gender, or what have you) unless it’s specifically relevant/salient to the situation being discussed, it turns out that we will not always have consensus on when it is or isn’t relevant/salient. And we are maybe from lack of charity sometimes more likely to think the other person in the discussion is gratuitously violating that norm than we are to think that we and the other person just have differing empirical judgments about the salience/relevance question that the norm is supposed to explicitly take into account.

  116. @J.W. Brewer: That’s a thoughtful post, and you’re absolutely right.

    It’s a difficult issue. We can never tell how people might read something we write, and we certainly can’t tell how people might read it in twenty years. I don’t think anyone here was gratuitously violating any norms. A person is in a tight situation, has to make a judgement about wording, and then twenty years later norms have changed, and a mildly tacky wording can now be interpreted to say that a ditzy girl lacked the judgement to know when to stop drinking. I don’t think the person who wrote the headline twenty years ago can be blamed for the fact that as he was wrestling with the wording he didn’t have twenty years to contemplate what it eventually might imply, and I don’t think one can fault him for anything on that point. — But our prejudices are deeply embedded in our language, and people with those prejudices often resort to language-peevishness rather than deal with them, as the perpetual secretary of the French Academy discovered. One way to deal with them is to take a close look at outmoded language and see what it’s actually telling us now. That was my point.

  117. J.W. Brewer says:

    One further point. Headlinese, not least because of the recurrent need (at least in the old hard-copy days) for super-short words that would not be used in other prose genres, often ends up being in an informal register. Sometimes an informal register is just informal; other times, especially in politically-loaded contexts, an informal tone may be interpreted by some as a disrespectful tone.

  118. David Marjanović says:

    “You’re calling him John?? Every Tom, Dick, and Harry is named John!”

    Well, there’s a rather prominent Donald who is named John…

    *ducks*

  119. I never knew Donald Duck had a middle name.

  120. January First-of-May says:

    I never knew Donald Duck had a middle name.

    He does, but it’s not John – it’s Fauntleroy.

  121. @J.W. Brewer: With regard to the question of believing what we are told by figures in authority, there was another ongoing problem at MIT at the time that issue came out. In fact, in the issue I posted, there was an editorial about the suvject. Rereading the editorial now, I can still determine pretty easily which parts I wrote and which were written, in what I thought was a rather mealy-mouthed tone, by the editor-in-chief and opinion editor.

    As noted in the 1A story, erlier that year, a pledge had died at Phi Gamma Delta. They apparently watched Animal House, and then each pledge had been encouraged to chug a whole fifth of spiced rum. I was also the news editor on duty the night he died, and I remember we stayed late, holding the issue until we knew whether or not he would make it through the night.

    This death naturally brought the Boston and Cambridge authorities down on MIT, and the fraternity system in particular (I refuse to call it the “Greek system,” out of respect for the actual Greek people), like a ton of bricks. Honestly, this was needed, as the alcohol in the system was totally out of control. One of The Tech‘s reporters got the former president of the Interfraternity Council on the record, saying that expecting to have a fraternity system “not based on alcohol” was simply unrealistic. Previously, the frats were more worried about being penalized by the IFC for serving alcohol to freshmen during Rush Week than they were about serving minors being illegal.

    When suddenly there were lots of law enforcement actions at the MIT frats, another simmering issue with the campus police came to the fore. The campus police were supposed to publish yearly crime statistics, according to federal law. However, they claimed that the fraternities were not legally “on campus,” which was false. That on its own might have been a genuine (albeit self-serving) mistake. However, the campus police also routinely claimed that various crimes (including, the previous year, a shooting) just happened to occur on sections of sidewalk that were owned by MIT but not technically “on campus.” Again, this was not consistent with the definition they were supposed to use.

    This was in the background as we were reporting on further alcohol incidents at the frats. It did not so much affect the headlines, but we at The Tech were making sure to get certain facts published, to see how the campus police would respond. So our articles at this point served a secondary purpose of helping to pressure the Institute to provide accurate on-campus crime stats.

  122. > it would be nice to have, but I’m not sure why it’s “annoyingly” absent; you can hardly expect them to do extensive research to dig up facts that aren’t directly germane to the article (which is about the Académie changing its rules). Newspapers are not scholarly journals.

    Oh, I wasn’t being clear, I wan’t expecting the newspaper to do the research, I was expecting the newspaper to ask the Académie about it, and the Académie to have done the research and provide it as part of the rationale for its choices. Instead we have “spirit of the language” and “ugly”, which, frankly, make me shake my head. Of course, I don’t know if this is how the Académie generally justifies its choices, or it’s just the newspaper cherry-picking, but the result is unfortunate.

  123. each pledge had been encouraged to chug a whole fifth of spiced rum

    750 ml of 35% alcohol?

    Drinking this over several hours with healthy amounts of food should have been perfectly safe.

    But I guess these youngsters had no idea how to drink safely.

  124. Replacing “customer” with “guest”…,

    British Rail (and Australian railways in imitation) have replaced “passenger” with “customer” — not sure why, does it have to do with privatisation? That is, “you are now our paying customers, not just commodities”. I guess the next step is to start calling them “guests”. Paying guests, of course.

  125. David Marjanović says:

    But I guess these youngsters had no idea how to drink safely.

    There’s no way to tell. The whole idea of the ritual was to drink unsafely on a dare: “chug” means “drink nonstop”.

  126. When I was very small — four? five? — … I had to wait in the vestibule because males were not allowed inside.
    When I was that age my mother used to bring me into the Ladies. I suppose the alternative was waiting for her between the inner & outer doors (there’s no word for Schleuse in English), which might have seemed foolhardy even back in the late ’50s. I liked the Ladies. It was a lot more convivial than the Gents; almost like a pub, I later discovered.

    Brewer: the significant percentage of Italianly-surnamed Americans tends to be underrepresented or completely missing in lists of the most common US surnames
    I suppose Columbia counts, sort of, as an Italian-surnamed college.

    In my research, I came across the Boston law firm of Nutter, McClennen & Fish. Perhaps that’s not so funny in the US; in Britain a nutter is a dangerous lunatic.

  127. per incuriam says:

    Henry Samuel reports

    The real news here is that the dictionary is now online.

    But as ever, the British press is to be commended for its assiduous reporting of developments in French style guidance. catering no doubt to a readership proficient in French and eager to keep up with the latest language etiquette across the channel.

    The reporter fails his public though by omitting to mention that in France (as in Canada) the proper mode of address for female office-holders has been settled for many years now and that what the “Immortals” prescribe is neither a sword nor even a shield, as demonstrated in the case of Vaucluse deputy Julien Aubert.

    South of the Pyrenees, meanwhile, Spain is grappling with the same issue and the Real Academia has been asked by the (now outgoing) government of the left to consider how the language of the 1978 constitution might be made more inclusive. Going by the initial response, any such changes will be over the dead bodies of Spanish Immortals.

    @Lazar
    Lizzy is referred to as “Duke”, not “Duchess”, in the Channel Islands
    And addressed in the other official language as Madame le Duc? The Immortals at Debrett’s are silent on the matter.

    “sexy coeds”
    That link’s not working.

  128. David Marjanović says:

    de:WP:Schleuse links to en:WP:Lock (water navigation). In German the usage is often extended to any aisle with a pair of doors where you close the one behind you before you open the other one in front of you, often to avoid contamination of various kinds.

  129. In English you have to call it an airlock, which I hate because it’s describing a volume of air rather than a space or place (I come to this through architecture). There’s a word in Norway sluse, but English sluice can’t be used for the airlock only for the water channel.

    I’ve been drawing this to the world’s attention for years but despite the duplication of so many words in English no one has come up with a word for Schleuse the airlock.

  130. John Cowan says:

    My building has two front doors in that style, and vestibule is the word we use for the space between. Indeed, this is the first definition of that word in various dictionaries. I would have no hesitation to extending it to a double-doored entrance to (or exit from) any room.

    I’m told the main purpose of it is to keep warm air in during the winter (the building is not air-conditioned), rather than to keep anything out. The doors have the same lock, so it’s not a matter of security.

  131. Vestibule is good but limited because it doesn’t describe what it does (exclude cold or polluted air). So it works for your apt building but not for, say, the Scheuse between a parking garage and the public spaces of an office building.

  132. Do you really use airlock that way? The main usage the OED finds is in the sense ‘small chamber to keep air in and water out’ (first found in1840 and concerning a submarine), and there are no citations for ‘air in such a chamber’. There’s also a more abstract sense, ‘stoppage of fluid flow in a tube due to an air bubble’, a synonym of embolism, but again it doesn’t refer to the bubble itself. Surgeons and anatomists call the bubble an embolus, or gas embolus to differentiate it from a fat embolus, but I have never heard the air or water in an airlock called anything in particular.

    I would definitely call the Scheuse you describe a vestibule, maybe with a qualifier to distinguish it from the vestibule at the main building entrance. In a sense, the four chambers of a revolving door are very small vestibules, or vestibulules.

  133. Do you really use airlock that way? The main usage the OED…

    I do. It’s not abnormal. You’re looking in the wrong place. It’s under lock:

    lock, n.2
    10.II.10 Engineering. More fully {air-lock}. An ante-chamber giving access to a chamber in which work is carried on in compressed air; also, a similar chamber used between air at atmospheric pressure and either water (e.g. outside a submarine) or a vacuum (e.g. outside a spacecraft).
    1874 Knight Dict. Mech. I. 49 Air-lock.    Ibid. 421 s.v. Caisson.    1894 Westm. Gaz. 16 Oct. 3/1 Entrance is obtained by means of a couple of ‘locks’, tubular chambers about 6 ft. in diameter.    1899 Allbutt’s Syst. Med. VII. 41 Perhaps the most frequent exciting cause [of caisson disease] is too rapid a reduction of the pressure in ‘locking out’, that is, in passing from the caisson to the open air through the lock or ante-chamber.    1914 S. F. Walker Submarine Engin. iii. 35 The air lock‥is a chamber with doors at each end, arranged so that only a small quantity of air or water can enter each time the lock is opened.    1959 ‘Wyndham’ & Parker Outward Urge ii. 66 The duty-man operated the lock, and presently Troon was outside.    1961 E. Leyland Crash Dive viii. 91 Taking the place of the Twill Trunk‥came the Escape Chamber method, a permanent chamber or lock entered by way of a watertight door.

    Revolving doors provide the same function in an air-conditioned office building. They limit the amount of costly cold air that escapes and warm, sweaty air that enters.

    I think vestibule is the best suggestion so far. Anteroom might work for the rest. Mudroom is a very good American domestic word but it’s not suitable for public buildings. I don’t know why it’s not used in the British Isles. They’re familiar with mud.

      

      

     

  134. Stu Clayton says:

    SchLeuse.

  135. It looks like we are in violent agreement about airlock: it’s a chamber with two doors separating different environments, whether warm/cold, high/low pressure, air/water, air/vacuum, or whatever (oxygen-breather/chlorine-breather air?)

    I had never heard mudroom until my wife used it as something Florida houses have (she lived there for a decade or so). When I heard it, I thought of a room with a mud bath in it, but no. My family’s house in New Jersey definitely had a vestibule, though muddy or snowy boots were indeed left there.

  136. per incuriam says:

    Henry Samuel reports

    The real news here is that the dictionary is now online.

    But as ever, the British press is to be commended for its assiduous reporting of developments in French style guidance, catering no doubt to a readership proficient in French and eager to keep up with the latest language trends and etiquette across the channel.

    The reporter fails his public though by omitting to mention that in France (as in Canada) the proper mode of address for female office-holders has been settled for many years now and that what the “Immortals” prescribe is neither a sword nor even a shield, as was made clear to Vaucluse deputy Julien Aubert (in particular from about 1:07)

    South of the border, meanwhile, Spain is grappling with the same issue and the Real Academia has been asked by the (now outgoing) government of the left to consider how the language of the 1978 constitution might be made more inclusive. Going by the initial response, any such changes will be over the dead bodies of Spanish Immortals.

    @Lazar
    Lizzy is referred to as “Duke”, not “Duchess”, in the Channel Islands
    And addressed in the other official language as Madame le Duc? The Immortals at Debrett’s are silent on the matter.

    “sexy coeds”
    That link’s not working.

  137. John Cowan says:

    No. She may be spoken of as notre Duc, especially in the loyal toast (if anyone is so retro as to give it) but her titles are “The Queen in the right of Guernsey/Jersey” (there is no legal connection between the two). The Queen’s predecessors surrendered the title “Duke of Normandy” forever in 1259.

    By the way, the UK Supreme Court said in 2014 that the UK Parliament has power to legislate for the islands, but the remark is obviously dictum, and I continue to disbelieve it, if by power is meant legitimate power. In any case, as Lady Hale continues, “Acts of Parliament do not extend to the Islands automatically, but only by express mention or necessary implication. The more common practice is for an Act of Parliament to give power to extend its application to the Islands by Order in Council. It is the practice to consult the Islands before any UK legislation is extended to them.”

    Such Orders in Council usually say that registration by the Guernsey or Jersey legislature, as the case may be, is not necessary for it to come into effect, but as of 2010 at least the matter was still open in the view of the States of Jersey. “It is sufficient to say,” as Sir William Anson said over a hundred years ago, “that the rights of the Crown are asserted, and that they are contested except as regards the prerogative of mercy.” And of course if the Crown cannot legislate for the Bailiwicks without their consent, how much less so the UK Parliament?

  138. “A New York magazine called The Independent (1848-1928) printed a telling remark about the word as long ago as 1903 that is quoted by the OED: “Any college where the girls are commonly called ‘co-eds’ is not a truly co-educational institution.”

    There is less telling than meets the fine print as regards a disparaging connotation in one of the thousands of “magazines” published in the late 20th century. A solitary remark does not a pejorative make.

    My guess is that campus satirists, gin-soaked fraternity men and autre fois sexists were responsible for the good name of primarily earnest young women being reduced to the stuff of adolescent derision and pulp culture that resonates nowadays.

  139. Re “Vestibule” —

    In New York State, at least, “a space within an apartment or suite of rooms used as an entrance hall directly from a public hall” is technically a “foyer” — NYS Multiple Dwelling Law, Sec. 4.20.

    “Vestibule” is used for various public areas, such as the area required facing elevators. Some vestibules are required for fire-stopping reasons, so some of the Schleusen described by AJP might be called vestibules here — e.g. the space required between parking areas and the rest of a building. I’ll quote a portion of Sec. 60.2.d. of the same Multiple Dwelling Law just so readers who normally might have no occasion to read such documents can appreciate its style:

    “Such storage space” (they mean parking) “shall have no opening into any other part of the dwelling except through a fireproof vestibule. Any such vestibule shall have a minimum superficial floor area of fifty square feet and its maximum area shall not exceed seventy-five square feet. It shall be enclosed with incombustible partitions having a fire-resistive rating of three hours. The floor and ceiling of such vestibule shall also be of incombustible material having a fire-resistive rating of at least three hours. There shall be two doors to provide access from the dwelling to the car storage space. Each such door shall have a fire-resistive rating of one and one-half hours and shall be provided with a device to prevent the opening of one door until the other door is entirely closed. One of these doors shall swing into the vestibule from the dwelling and the other shall swing from the vestibule into the car storage space.”

    I don’t think anyone in New York State who has no occasion to read such documents would maintain this distinction between foyer and vestibule.

  140. As a quondam New Yorker, I’m pretty sure I rarely if ever had occasion to use “vestibule” — we talked about foyers.

  141. John Cowan says:

    That would reflect a building with an actual lobby, not just a bare space 3 by 5 feet between the two doors and the stairs only about 10-15 feet past the inner door (there are ground-floor apartment doors on both sides of the hall leading to the stairs). Foyer would be impossibly grand for either of those spaces. Certainly none of our apartments have any sort of internal foyer either: the apartment doors open directly into the main room.

  142. J.W. Brewer says:

    I think the key distinction between a “lock” and some of these other things is that it’s supposed to be specifically rigged so that you can only open the second door (in whichever direction you’re traveling) after the first one has been closed. That may happen in the ordinary course of things with a vestibule but if e.g. multiple people are passing through at once or one door has been propped open or what have you there is no safety/security feature requiring that only-one-open-at-a-time outcome. In the canal context (possibly the original one?), it is easy to understand how having both ends of the lock open simultaneously will immediately lead to an undesired waterfall and/or downstream flood. I have encountered such a security “lock” when entering an office suite in NYC’s diamond district, i.e. you first go from the hallway off the building’s elevator through a door into a little holding pen and then that first door clicks shut behind you while someone looking at you through (bulletproof?) glass decides whether to buzz you into the inner sanctum.

  143. per incuriam says:

    No. She may be spoken of as

    The question was “addressed as”. It was not an entirely serious question…

  144. Yes, what Brewer said. Whether you call it a foyer or vestibule doesn’t matter if it doesn’t work as a Schleuse.

  145. > Certainly none of our apartments have any sort of internal foyer either: the apartment doors open directly into the main room.

    This was one thing I always noticed in American TV shows like Cosby, Roseanne or Family Ties when I was a kid. The front door opens right into the living room. That would have been pretty much unthinkable in Denmark or Japan, which were the countries I was familiar with. I think I associated it partly with the culture of wearing shoes indoors (so you have less need for a room for shoe boxes etc). I might also have wondered if it had something to do with warmer temperatures, although I do remember watching episodes where the door opened and there would be a snowstorm outside.

    >Schleuse

    Being more of a cyclist than a sailor, I mostly associate the Danish word ‘sluse’ with an arrangement designed to slow cyclists down by being just wide enough to allow the bicycle through, but forcing one to follow an S-like path.

  146. John Cowan says:

    you first go from the hallway off the building’s elevator through a door into a little holding pen and then that first door clicks shut behind you while someone looking at you through (bulletproof?) glass decides whether to buzz you into the inner sanctum.

    Doors to bank branches often behave like that, but more surreptitiously: as long as everything is normal, both doors will open, but if a robbery is in progress, the inner door will open from inside but not from outside and the outer door will open from outside but not from inside, trapping the robbers in the vestibule until the police arrive.

  147. in American TV shows the front door opens right into the living room

    The 1960s “Honey, I’m home!” moment. To me it would be horrible-scary, but except for lofts & apartments (eg in Friends and Seinfeld) it has more to do with television & stage design than with real houses. Notice also how the armchairs & sofas are all turned to face the fourth wall instead of the usual focus (coffee table plus opposite-facing seating, or the fireplace or a television).

  148. To me it would be horrible-scary, but except for lofts & apartments (eg in Friends and Seinfeld) it has more to do with television & stage design than with real houses.

    Every house I’ve lived in has been like that (walk straight from the front door into the actual house) except for the one in Pittsfield, where there was a tiny mudroom/vestibule/whatever that had barely enough room to turn around in and didn’t have a separate inner door — it was just a place to take your shoes off before entering the living room.

  149. John Cowan says:

    it has more to do with television & stage design than with real houses

    My country house (admittedly designed by my mother, not a professional) has a sliding glass door opening into the living room. The other door on that level (there is also a basement door, as the house is built on a hill with one end of the basement at ground level and the other end underground) opens directly into the corner of an L-shaped corridor with the kitchen at one end and the living room at the other. You can walk round and round the house, living room to dining room to kitchen to hall to living room, without ever encountering a door. (The bedrooms are on the outside of this loop, the bathroom on the inside; both have doors.)

  150. Someone’s always got anecdotal when I make the sweeping generalisations. It’s probably more common than I realised. I’ve never lived in a house like that and maybe that’s why I’d find it uncomfortable. And I only mean front door. Off the kitchen is something else.

    just a place to take your shoes off
    Wood & decorated glass, with a coconut mat floor. Very common in 19C houses all over.

    Vindfang is the Norwegian name for these sluse spaces. Et bislag (from German Bislach) is a porch. There’s also an oddity, a 2-storey version that occurs only in Østerdalen called a barfrøstue. It has a vindfang on the ground floor and a clothes-closet upstairs. Useful, except that rainwater from the main roof makes it rot easily. So anyway, it’s translated as a “barley seed” (no “-room”), but barley in Norwegian is bygg… which also means “building”. So I’m totally confused and I need Trond to get me out of this philological mess.

  151. Sounds great, John! Do you have pics?

  152. Lars (the original one) says:

    @AJP, you only need to scroll down to the last graf on the first link to see the putative etymology — ultimately PG *bergaz-frithu (high safe place), but by which path of transmission is anybody’s guess. (It was known as beffroy during its sojourn in France).

    ODS has

    Barfred […] (glda. d. s.; fra mnt. berchvrede, jf. mht. ber(c)vrit, bervride, ty. bergfried; fra ty. stammer mlat. ber(e)fridus, belfredus, hvoraf fr. beffroi, eng. belfry; sidste led er mht. vride, fred, i bet. “indhegnet, sikkert sted”, første led vist af mht. bergen, beskytte, forsvare (jf. bjærge og I. bare); grundbet. “beskyttet, sikkert sted”; foræld.)

  153. J.W. Brewer says:

    I have lived over the course of my life-to-date in three different freestanding houses in the US (excluding periods of my life when I lived in various dorm rooms, apartments, and condos …). One of the three had the front door opening directly into the living room; the other two had it opening into more of a … well a little entrance hallway kind of thingie, although I can’t say we ever called it a “foyer” or “vestibule” or anything like that. The entrance area in both instances did not actually have a second door you needed to open in order to get into the rest of the house. FWIW even on an inflation-adjusted basis the house where the front door went straight into the living room was the least expensive of the three (bought by my parents when I was a newborn and sold the summer I turned 12). It was a classic mid-1950’s suburban house of the sort where an erstwhile cornfield had been turned into a “subdivision” and all built out by the developer in one fell swoop with houses that all had essentially the same floorplan with only minor variations. So maybe the lack of an entrance area was a corner-cutting sign of cheapness or efficiency, or was just more in vogue at some time periods than others. I do agree fwiw that the ubiquity of that sort of frontdoor on sitcoms has to do with camera angles rather than being true to life — but it’s maybe significant that it’s true enough to life, i.e. it’s not a thing that you would never expect in an actual house.

  154. O. Lars: you only need to scroll down to the last graf on the first link to see the putative etymology
    I saw that, and belfry. I want to know what barley has to do with it or whether barley is just a computer-translating quirk.

    Brewer: it’s maybe significant that it’s true enough to life, i.e. it’s not a thing that you would never expect in an actual house
    That’s a good argument. And I’m sure you’re right that if you can convince buyers that it’s acceptable (perhaps optional) it’s an effective cost cutter for the developer.

  155. J.W. Brewer says:

    I should perhaps amend my prior comment to note that my boyhood house where the front door opened directly into the living room did have what you might call a micro-vestibule. Just a little bit (probably at least 3 or 4 inches but no more than 6 or 8?) past the opening-inwards front door was a storm door (spring-loaded to close by itself if not held open), swapped out in summertime for a screen door. There wasn’t enough space for a human, even a child, in between the two if they were both fully closed, but e.g. the paperboy would stick the newspaper in between the two around sunrise, so when you awoke and came downstairs you could open the front door to retrieve it w/o letting in (depending on the season) cold air or bugs.

  156. Television sitcom houses are atypical in other ways too. As John Cowan describes, most free-standing houses have living room, dining room, kitchen, and maybe one other room all arranged in a circuit, which is definitely not a convenient arrangement for shooting with fixed cameras.

  157. Screen doors are VERY important.

    If I remember right the Dick van Dyke Show and other ’60s shows made use of sunken living rooms to vary the scenery a bit. That was in style at the time. I’m not sure we ever saw a kitchen. Nowadays, well, Friends etc, I guess that’s the ’90s, they have loftlike arrangements with a combined open kitchen and living space and doors to the stairs and to bedrooms leading off the set. Perhaps in a couple of decades we’ll get to see a toilet.

  158. Trond Engen says:

    I don’t think there’s anything special with barley here except that it’s an unusually intriguing Google translate error. I have no idea how GT contrived it, but surely the homonyms bygg “building” and bygg “barley” must have something to to with it. There’s also the barley /belfry pair, but that’s even more contrived.

    I din’t know that bislag could be translated with ‘porch’. The ones I’ve known have been small side buildings leaning on to the main building. In this photo only the one to the right is a bislag for me — and for the museum, apparently.

    The etymology of barfrø was new to me. Thanks for that. It’s a strange and specialized word to find all over Germanic — and beyond — but I think it could have been imported as military terminology, or especially to Østerdalen by German miners from the 16th century on.

  159. Lars (the original one) says:

    @AJP, sorry, I missed that you were talking about translation, for some reason I thought it was some sort of folk etymology that claimed a connection to barley seeds. Where did you see the translation? I am still confused.

  160. John Cowan says:

    No pix, AJP. The whole house is shaped like a stubby-armed cross, with the loop I described occupying the center and two opposing arms. A third arm is the two bedrooms I mentioned, and the fourth arm is a deck onto which the sliding glass door opens. In the center is the bathroom, as mentioned, along with the fireplace, which opens into the living room.

  161. David Marjanović says:

    I din’t know that bislag could be translated with ‘porch’. The ones I’ve known have been small side buildings leaning on to the main building.

    That makes sense of the *bei- part of *Beischlag – a word and concept I did not know; for “porch” I only know Veranda, and porches are not common hereabouts.

  162. You cannot be “gender-neutral” in French, it’s a grammatical impossibility.

    Nouns and pronouns must be either masculine or feminine; they cannot be both and they cannot be neither.

  163. A delightfully snarky NY Times article by Adam Nossiter about the difficulty the Académie is having in choosing new members:

    Of the inability to move forward, Dominique Bona, a novelist and one of the few women to sit among the immortals, said, “I’m a little bit astonished.”

    “We’ve had some remarkable candidates, real choices,” Ms. Bona said. “I’m personally disappointed that the academy is giving them the cold shoulder. Is this a French malaise? The bad mood around us, is it communicating itself to the academy?” […]

    Their custom-made robes cost in the neighborhood of $50,000, members said, and the swords that are de rigueur for members are not cheap, either. Mr. Maalouf said he had to raise nearly $230,000 for the costs associated with his induction.

    I know I’m being prototypically American here, but I don’t understand this obsession with expensive formality and the idea of guardianship of language/literature/culture. Let people write what they want and read what they want, and the hell with the $50,000 robes!

  164. David Marjanović says:

    I don’t understand it either.

    Do American highschool students have to pay for their doctor hats when they graduate? I mean, they can’t cost 50 kilobucks…

  165. SFReader says:

    I like the swords.

    If anybody is out there abusing the French language, the Immortals with swords will make them sorry.

  166. No clothing (unless it literally has gems sewn into it, or perhaps Faberge eggs) actually costs that much to make. At $50,000, it’s just pure Veblen pricing. For example, in the Pierce Brosnan 007 movies, they nominally went through about $1 million worth of suits per film, but the actual cost to the label supplying Bond’s suits as product placement was several nepers lower.

  167. dainichi says:

    > I don’t understand this obsession with […] the idea of guardianship of language […].

    I think there’s a value to having standards. Not as in “everything else is inferior” but as in “let’s agree on something reasonable”.

    > Let people write what they want and read what they want

    Unfortunately, we see far too often that “no rules” means “the strongest ones decide the rules”. Not thereby to say that a self-electing body of elites should decide. But I think there are languages out there that have reasonable Language Councils.

  168. Lars (the original one) says:

    Well, things like the gala uniform of a full colonel can be $10.000 in material and work costs — those are one-offs, individually tailored from specially woven and dyed woollen fabric (and real silk lining), with real gold braid and gold-plated buttons. Price may or may not include the sabre. (At one point I got drunk in the company of the Master of Ceremonies of the Royal Danish Court, when he had just paid for one out of his own pocket).

    Getting one made in Hong Kong just. won’t. do.

    But $50.000 sounds excessive.

  169. @Lars: Yeah, $10,000 to $15,000, or even $20,000 for something as voluminous as a set of robes is plausible, but not $50,000. The markup on these kinds of ultra-high-end goods is really remarkable, and it is typically even greater for women’s dresses than for men’s suits. I wonder whether the maker of the Academy robes charges extra for making them in a women’s cut.

  170. Is that even a question? To not charge women extra would be to go against the entire history of pricing.

  171. Found another weird Massachusetts quadruplet – four neighboring towns named Westborough, Southborough, Northborough and Marlborough.

    Strangely enough, Westborough is located in the south, Southborough in the east, Northborough in the west and Marlborough in the north.

    I want to know what happened to Eastborough and how Marlborough got there and why there is such perfect chaos in geographical positioning of these towns.

  172. Just across the river from here, Easthampton is southwest of Northampton.

  173. OK, WP explained how it came about.

    First there was town of Marlborough and then some of the town inhabitants settled nearby in the “west borough” of Marlborough to form town of Westborough.

    Then another group split off from Marlborough and formed Southborough.

    Finally, the last group in the “north borough” of Westborough became town of Northborough.

    There was no Eastborough because Marlborough was settled from the east and there was simply no space there.

    That neatly explains everything – Northborough is north, because initially was just a northern part of Westborough and Southborough is south, because it’s south to the town of Marlborough, not to Westborough or Northborough.

    {thinking} logically, all the confusion could be avoided if the towns were named Marlborough, Northwest Marlborough, West Marlborough and South Marlborough.

  174. John Cowan says:

    Sussex County occupies the northernmost tip of New Jersey, where it won’t be druv into New York State. Fortunately for sanity’s sake, Essex is actually in the east and Middlesex south of it, though the southern part of Essex County was split off in 1857 to form Union County, the last of my native state’s 21 counties to be established.

    Essex County, New York, is a different case. Though it is in the east, it is very far to the north, though Clinton County separates it from the Canadian border. (“Where is the Hungarian border today, Johnny?” “In the park with my aunt, and my mother doesn’t like it!”)

    I mention for completeness Essex County, Massachusetts (the northeast corner); Essex County, Vermont (again the northeast corner); Essex County, Virginia (in the eastern part of the state, but not on the border); Middlesex County, Connecticut (sacrilegiously along the southern coast, though more or less in the middle of it); Middlesex County, Massachusetts (immediately west of Essex County, bizarrely); Middlesex County, Virginia (adjacent to but southeast of Essex County); Sussex County, Delaware (the entire southern third of the state); and Sussex County, Virginia (in the south, but easterly). I will go into the homes of the Northfolk and the Southfolk across the Sundering Sea another day.

  175. Obviously, Essex County, New York was settled by East Saxons and Middlesex County, Virginia by Middle Saxons.

    And Kent county, Delaware was colonized by the Jutes.

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