SOME LANGUAGE LINKS.

Arnold Zwicky has “assembled a huge list of web resources. Far from exhaustive, and focused almost entirely on blogs and reference resources in English, but here it is.” I’ll be adding it to my sidebar, but I wanted to call attention to it in a post; it’s an amazingly comprehensive list.
Mark Liberman has compiled a list of some past Language Log posts that address the frequent allegation that linguists believe “there is no such thing as a ‘wrong’ usage, only nonstandard ones.”
Stan Carey of Sentence first has a post featuring Christine Collins’s “λ♥[love] (Linguistics Love Song),” with video (music only), lyrics, and explanatory links; it’s quite delightful. As John Cowan says in the comments, though: “I was jolted, though, by the singer’s pronunciation of denotation. I have always had FLEECE in the first syllable, and OED2, ODO, and m-w.com all agree; however, she makes it DRESS. Anybody else say ‘den-otation’ rather than ‘dee-notation’?” I second the question.
Finally, English Language and Usage (Stack Exchange) is “a collaboratively edited question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts.” Their About page says, “What’s so special about this? Well, nothing, really. The only unusual thing we do is synthesize aspects of Wikis, Blogs, Forums, and Digg/Reddit in a way that we think is original.” Take a look, and if it’s the kind of thing that appeals to you, well, there it is.


Not language-related, but just because it’s neat: Old Moscow Photos Reappear.
Addendum. I had meant to include William Grimes’s NY Times obituary for “Kate Swift, a writer and editor who in two groundbreaking books — Words and Women and The Handbook of Nonsexist Writing — brought attention to the sexual discrimination embedded in ordinary English usage.” Sure, her suggestion of “‘tey,’ ‘ter’ and ‘tem’ as sex-neutral substitutes for ‘he/she,’ ‘his/her’ and ‘him/her’” was silly, but everyone is entitled to their hobbyhorses, and the tremendous work she did in forcing everyone to think about the “implicit biases in spoken and written English” was heroic and much needed; if people don’t much talk about “all men” (meaning “people in general”) or “our fathers” (when they mean “ancestors”), it’s in good part thanks to her efforts. I remember my own stubborn resistance to such ideas, and I’m sure some of you are even now grumbling about “political correctness.” I sympathize—a revolution is not a dinner party, as somebody said, and habits are stubborn—but as Ms. Swift would have told you, you’re wrong. Equality, in this case, trumps tradition.

Comments

  1. Zwicky’s list is very helpful. I intend to go through it carefully when I have more time, and see what’s new to me.
    Regarding John’s (and your) question on pronunciation, the comments on Language Log include a couple of votes for ‘den-otation’.

  2. Huh. In that thread, Ray Dillinger writes, “My observation is that Englishmen and West-coast Americans have been heard saying Den-otation and Midwestern Americans have been heard saying Dee-notation.” I have no idea how valid that is; it’s hard to argue with “have been heard,” but (e.g.) Daniel Jones’s Pronouncing Dictionary (pretty standard for UK usage) has only the dee- version, and that’s the only one I’m familiar with, despite having spent a lot of time on the West Coast. Important caveat: it’s not a word you hear all that often.

  3. J. W. Brewer says:

    It’s not just the “political correctness,” it’s the unexamined and unsupported pop-Whorfian minor premises. If gendered third-person-singular pronouns tend to lead to inequality and patriarchal oppression, Hungarian-speakers would tend to be notably more progressive/egalitarian than their IE-speaking neighbors. Well, are they? If the generic use of “man/men” tended to lead to ditto, English-speaking cultures would historically have tended to be more oppressive for women than classical cultures whose languages possessed those useful vir/homo/femina and aner/anthropos/gyne tripartite distinctions. Well, have they been?

  4. I know these things often don’t follow any logic, but when I read denotation, a word I think I’ve never used, I pronounce it like I pronounce denote, i.e. “den-ote”.

  5. It’s not just the “political correctness,” it’s the unexamined and unsupported pop-Whorfian minor premises. If gendered third-person-singular pronouns tend to lead to inequality and patriarchal oppression, Hungarian-speakers would tend to be notably more progressive/egalitarian than their IE-speaking neighbors.
    With respect, this is exactly the kind of intellectualized resistance I myself used to practice. What do “pop-Whorfian minor premises” have to do with it? Women find it offensive to be treated as a lesser subset of the species, whether linguistically or in the world at large; Hungarian is neither here nor there, and Hungarian women have their own problems.
    Look, if someone is insulted by something, you can take it seriously or not. If someone (to take a salient example from recent history) finds the word “niggardly” offensive, you can either make a note of it and avoid the word around them and others who might be offended (thinking to yourself “That’s kind of silly,” because of the etymology and history of the word) or you can insist on using the word anyway while making a point of letting everyone know how silly the idea is, giving a little lecture about the etymology and history of the word. I prefer the first approach.

  6. Anyway, the idea is not that using certain linguistic forms will magically transform your mentality, the idea is that paying attention to sexist language will probably lead to paying attention to sexism in other spheres, and thus helping create a better world for everyone. Using “they” instead of “he” (for example) is just one piece of a large puzzle.

  7. Tim May says:

    Anybody else say ‘den-otation’ rather than ‘dee-notation’?”
    Yes.

  8. I say “dee-NOTE”, too, with an unreduced vowel. (English has stressed vowels, unstressed but unreduced vowels, and unstressed and reduced vowels.)

  9. Here’s Fred Brooks back in 1975, describing how the specifications for OS/360 (an IBM mainframe operating system) were going to be written and by whom:

    The architecture manager had 10 good men. He asserted that they could write the specifications and do it right. It would take ten months, three more than the schedule allowed.
    The control program manager had 150 men. He asserted that they could prepare the specifications, with the architecture team coordinating; it would be well-done and practical, and he could do it on schedule. Furthermore if the architecture team did it, his 150 men would sit twiddling their thumbs for ten months.
    To this the architecture manager responded that if I gave the control program team the responsibility, the result would not in fact be on time, but would also be three months late, and of much lower quality. I did, and it was. He was right on both counts. Moreover, the lack of conceptual integrity made the system far more costly to build and change, and I would estimate that it added a year to debugging time.

    Now that’s a lovely tale that points an important moral. But whenever I read it over to myself, or quote it, I’m always bothered by the repeated use of “men”. I have to keep reminding myself (a) that all the employees on both teams back in the early 60s were in fact men, and (b) that all or almost all of them would be men if the project were being done today.
    Nevertheless, I can’t help it: reading “men” here has the same impact on my mind’s ear as if he had said “10 good whites”, although that was likewise true then and would almost certainly be true today if changed to “10 good whites and Asians.” In other words, ugh. And yet Fred Brooks is no moral monster. His wording is just out of date.

  10. I managed to make a very stupid comment on Zwicky’s blog and get banned in the process. Stupid me.
    –o–
    I think I have a rather idiosyncratic distribution of short and long vowels/diphthongs in both chemistry and maths. I much prefer /’mɛθɪl/ to /’miːθaɪl/ for instance, but I don’t think I’m consistent on /’mɛtə/ vs. /’miːtə/ (/’bɛtə/ vs. /’biːtə/) (“I never met a better I didn’t like.”)

  11. J. W. Brewer says:

    I have no idea what “intellectualized resistance” means, but I certainly take the point that once a sufficient number of people have decided to take offense at a particular usage, then that offense-taking just becomes a social fact you need to take into account in deciding how to speak and write, regardless of whether the reasons for taking offense seem well-grounded to you. It’s not all that different from the point that if there’s a meaningful risk that what you’re writing is going to be evaluated by someone who thinks split infinitives are evidence of stupidity, you should consider not splitting infinitives in that particular piece of work. But it’s always an empirical question as to whether that critical mass has in fact been reached with respect to any given usage, which may of course depend on what subsegment of society you happen to be dealing with in what context. And even if the polite and/or risk-avoidant thing to do is to play along, that doesn’t mean the underlying peevological claim you have decided not to challenge was actually true.

  12. The more I’ve thought about denotation, the more inclined I feel to pronounce it ‘den-’! As you say, it’s not a word one hears very often, and I have been singing the song…
    Sexist language reflects sexist culture. Swift’s efforts were not about particular pronouns leading to inequality and oppression but about sexist language making it easier for these pervasive problems to continue. From Chapter 2 of Words and Women (which she co-wrote with Casey Miller):
    “Those who have grown up with a language that tells them they are at the same time men and not men are faced with ambivalence – not about their sex, but about their status as human beings. For the question ‘Who is man?’ it seems, is a political one, and the very ambiguity of the word is what makes it a useful tool for those who have a stake in maintaining the status quo.”
    Generic he etc. also led to some astonishing absurdities, such as this one which I blogged about after coming across it in the same book.

  13. > […] if people don’t much talk about “all men” (meaning “people in general”) or “our fathers” (when they mean “ancestors”), it’s in good part thanks to her efforts.
    > Look, if someone is insulted by something, […]
    > Anyway, the idea is not that using certain linguistic forms will magically transform your mentality, the idea is that paying attention to sexist language will probably lead to paying attention to sexism in other spheres, and thus helping create a better world for everyone.
    What a dizzying array of assumptions. They all seem plausible, but clearly not everyone shares them, and it doesn’t seem reasonable to pull out your clue-bat on people who don’t.
    On the one hand, I don’t think we can take for granted that now-sexist language did insult people before the advent of women’s lib; and on the other hand, I don’t think we can take for granted that people who say “all people” and “our ancestors” are really thinking about the sexism in the alternatives. So it doesn’t necessarily make a priori sense to thank her for her part in the current usage situation, because the current usage situation isn’t a priori good. It’s only clearly good because people are now insulted by the alternative, whether or not they were before, and whether or not current usage actually involves the thinking that you endorse.

  14. (By the way, I’m not saying that people weren’t insulted by sexist language, even before women’s lib. I wasn’t around then, but my experience in my own lifetime has been that people in power always like to claim that the disadvantaged aren’t bothered by inequality. “I have a black friend, and he totally agrees with me that the reason blacks are poor is that they’re lazy and can’t speak good English!” But I think it’s a statement worth making explicitly, since it’s not a view shared by the people who are opposed to non-sexist language, and without at least stating it explicitly, you can’t have a conversation with them.)

  15. Current medical texts tend to use ‘gender’ where ‘sex’ is more appropriate and exact, and ‘ethnicity’ where the same is true for ‘race’. (I mean, very few diseases differentially affect Bosniaks compared to Croats, or Swedes compared to Norwegians, while the list of diseases that differentially affect blacks compared to whites, or South Asians versus Europeans, is long.) Examples:

    “Risk factors associated with increased bone loss [in osteoporosis] may be considered as endogenous or exogenous.

    • Endogenous factors include ethnicity, female gender, advancing age, family history of fracture.”

    “Men have a higher incidence of coronary artery disease than premenopausal women. However, after the menopause, the incidence of atheroma in women approaches that in men. The reasons for this gender difference are not clearly understood, but probably relate to the loss of the protective effect of oestrogen.”

    (I’m reasonably sure living as a pre-op MTF transsexual doesn’t confer the protective effect!)

    “Gestational diabetes
    This term refers to glucose intolerance that develops in the course of pregnancy and usually remits following delivery. The condition is typically asymptomatic. Women who have a previous history of gestational diabetes, older or overweight women, those with a history of large for gestational age babies and women from certain ethnic groups are at particular risk, but many cases occur in women who are not in any of these categories.”

    (All the above from Kumar and Clark’s Clinical Medicine, 6th Edition.)

    “In both genders, the roots of the external genitalia, the сlitоris and the реnis, are firmly anchored to:
    • the bony margin of the anterior half of the pelvic outlet; and
    • a thick, fibrous, perineal membrane, which fills the area

    (From Gray’s Anatomy for Students; this is certainly true of both genders, but since a pre-op MTF or FTM will have the opposite equipment, the qualification was essentially useless…)
    I’m mildly irritated by this in the same way as John further above (and with more reason, as far as I can see), but it’s not something I can change.

  16. Bathrobe says:

    Perhaps Hat is right about ‘sexist language’. But of course, part of the problem is politicisation. If someone has shouted their indignation long enough, people end up avoiding what they’re complaining about. Otherwise, tough luck, you just have to put up with it.
    I knew non-Americans in Japan who got highly offended at being automatically identified as Amerika-jin. And it’s true that it’s highly ignorant to make unwarranted assumptions about a person’s nationality. But in the end it probably doesn’t matter than much and going into high dudgeon (or steely resistance, for that matter) is a waste of time and not terribly character-building. Sometimes it’s enough to point things out quietly for changes to take effect, slowly, little by little over time.
    As for JE’s example, I didn’t even notice the ‘men’. What if it had been the sewing department of a clothing manufacturer, where all the sewing machines were manned by women. Would it matter if the manager said “My women can do this job in three days”? Any manager knows the composition of his or her workforce. If half his/her department were women, would he/she really be so obtuse as to say “I have 150 men”?
    (Yes, I noticed the ‘manned by women’, and it doesn’t strike me as particularly odd at all, although anyone supersensitised to sexist language would pick it up immediately.)

  17. Bathrobe says:

    I think I would say ‘dennotation’. Perhaps by analogy with ‘connotation’?

  18. Bathrobe says:

    Or ‘detonation’.

  19. Sometimes it’s enough to point things out quietly for changes to take effect, slowly, little by little over time.
    It’s standard practice for those in a privileged position to counsel patience to those suffering the abuses. Blacks got told about “little by little over time” endlessly back in the halcyon days before they decided enough was enough. I’m not comparing you to a racist (obviously, I hope!), just pointing out that such advice, while well meant, is often not comforting (or, in many cases, practical).
    Yes, I noticed the ‘manned by women’, and it doesn’t strike me as particularly odd at all, although anyone supersensitised to sexist language would pick it up immediately.
    You say “supersensitised” because (I’m guessing) you think too much fuss is being made over not very much. Again, I submit that this is because it is not your ox that is being gored. I myself would leave off the super-, and I think being sensitized to sexist usage is unequivocally a good thing.
    And I’ve read enough discussion of life before “women’s lib” to know that many women resented both sexist language and sexist behavior but felt there was no point talking about it because men would resent it and nothing would come of it. Once they realized that, hey, we can complain about this and actually get things to happen, a lot of feminists magically came out of the woodwork; they might not have called themselves feminists before, or even thought of themselves in those terms, but they knew they didn’t like being treated as second-class citizens, condescended to, and denied better careers (or any careers at all in some fields, like science).
    Sorry to gallop around on my hobbyhorse, but this is (obviously) a topic about which I have strong feelings!

  20. J.W. Brewer says:

    In the half-century since OS/360 was being developed, the percentage of women in medical school has gone from < 6% to right around 50%. Change has been, shall we say, rather less dramatic in terms of the rate of female participation, even at the entry level, in software development. Is this because of differences in language usage between the two fields? If only the IBM dudes had heeded “non-sexist” usage advice to the same degree the MD’s did (if in fact they did . . . and 50 years ago many feminists might have told you that the medical field had a higher MCP factor than the nascent tech industry) the numbers would have played out differently? I’m not trying to argue with Hat’s triumphalist Boomer narrative about how much better things are for (many) women than in the Bad Old Days; I’m simply questioning whether changes in language usage had much to do with it as a matter of actual causation.

  21. @Aidan Kehoe: Good point. Though I think this applies more to “gender” than to “race”. “Race” suffers in a potentially not minor aspect. When you think about different races, you think in a very rough way, about Blacks and Whites and Asians and whatnot. But AFAIK Blacks with ancestry from different parts of Africa are quite different from each other, and among Whites there are endogamous groups like the Ashkenazim with their own particular diseases.

  22. I’m not trying to argue with Hat’s triumphalist Boomer narrative about how much better things are for (many) women than in the Bad Old Days; I’m simply questioning whether changes in language usage had much to do with it as a matter of actual causation.
    The question about actual causation is a good one to which I have no answers, but your rhetorical presentation about “Hat’s triumphalist Boomer narrative” suggests you don’t accept it even if you don’t feel like arguing with it. Do you seriously doubt things are better for women today?

  23. I think Language makes a persuasive argument but I hate giving in and giving up words (especially to people I don’t like). You can’t use the word “race” in everyday English, and even in Norwegian, when I ask people what “race” their dog is (hva slags rase er hunden din?), I always feel like we’re talking about apartheid. Norwegians, on the other hand, don’t find the word rase to be in any way odd. They can still use it. When I was younger “cunt” was a useful everyday expression for me and my friends, male and female. Sometimes it meant nitwit: “you silly cunt”, sometimes it meant asshole: “my Latin master’s a total cunt”, but nowadays I have to think twice before I even say it. The people who politicised cunt have taken it over, and in my opinion to reduce the number of meanings of a word cannot be good for the language.

  24. Gender and ethnicity / ancestry are fine in publications, but as always with the live languages, one also has to understand the common people’s usage to interpret their words correctly.
    In genetic research, we offer people a pre-approved multiple choice of PC “ancestries”, and it turns that a large fraction of white Americans can’t choose “European” ancestries for themselves. Doh, they aren’t some friggin’ Europeans, that’s for sure. They frequently choose “Native American” instead, or select the “Other” box, writing in things like White, Caucasian, even WASP.
    To interpret this world correctly, it’s just not sufficient to learn the “most appropriate usage”. One needs to understand the not-so-appropriate ones too.
    Then of course your approved-n-perfect usage grows stale over time, sprouts a plume of negative connotations, and the cycle of PC displacement starts all over again. Nothing wrong about that; but it’s wrong to forget the no-longer-fashionable words too soon.

  25. “Cunt” has different meanings in British and American English. In Britain it seems to be less-gendered and often used in banter. In American English it’s almost always abusive and almost always applied to women, and it’s the worst thing you can call a woman, worse than “bitch” or “slut” or “whore”. It’s stronger than “bitch”, and unlike the other two, it applies to all women. A woman can deny being a slut or a whore and make her case, but she can’t deny being a cunt.
    Same for “wanker”, which in the US refers to masturbation only.

  26. J. W. Brewer says:

    Well, my rhetorical presentation may have been a reaction to the rhetorical presentation of others. I certainly don’t dispute that things are better on net in many ways for many women, although I also think it’s triumphalist to focus only on the ways in which my young daughters have numerous opportunities their grandmothers did not have without being mindful of ways in which they are perhaps exposed to various risks that their grandmothers were not (and as a parent one sometimes focuses more on risks . . .). It would also be triumphalist to overlook the ways in which the benefits and costs of the last few decades of social transformation with respect to sex roles have not always been evenly distributed by social class. (I mean, my own daughters are on track to be in the yay-MIT-wants-to-admit-more-girls class as opposed to the statistically-at-risk-of-being-crack-smoking-teenage-single-mother class, but the omelette should not forget the eggshells.) And I personally find questions like “why has there been much more of a change in the sex ratio in med school than computer science grad school? is that what one would have predicted ex ante from the vantage point of 1960?” interesting because they indicate that this stuff is all complicated and the result of the interaction of lots of different causal factors, not a simple Whiggish story about Inexorable Moral Progress.
    It may be significant that I came of age after the old order had passed and many of what had been radical assumptions in Hat’s youth (I would guess he’s 15 to 20 years older than me?) had become so commonplace as not to be even thought about. I thus never had to go through the sort of personal project of sex-roles-attitudes-self-transformation that was reasonably common for men of Hat’s generational cohort (although I obviously don’t know about Hat himself), which is perhaps one reason I found the recommendation to deliberately change ones language usage in order to force oneself to be more attentive to other social issues to have such an odd Maoist-self-criticism sort of flavor. But I suppose my subjective reaction doesn’t necessarily mean it wasn’t a useful exercise for some people under some time/place/class-specific circumstances. The problem, as always, is if they start prescribing whatever they have found idiosyncratically useful for their own writing/speaking style as mandatory rules binding on others whose needs and tastes may be different.

  27. ‘”Race” suffers in a potentially not minor aspect. When you think about different races, you think in a very rough way, about Blacks and Whites and Asians and whatnot. But AFAIK Blacks with ancestry from different parts of Africa are quite different from each other, and among Whites there are endogamous groups like the Ashkenazim with their own particular diseases.’

    Well, I don’t, and people historically didn’t, though as the educated classes have become less comfortable with using the word race, it is probably true that the educated, non-murderous usages of the past are being forgotten. Cf. Mencken, ‘Certain other parsons, observing the Wilsonian distinction, limited their anathemas to the Kaiser, but most of them vented their Christian indignation on the entire German race,’ or this (from someone quoted by Mencken): ‘His reasons for admiring Englishmen, we are told, were as follows: “(1) The race is the sea-mastering race and the navy-managing race and the ocean-carrying race; (2) the race is the literary race, (3) the exploring and settling and colonizing race, (4) the race to whom fair play appeals, and (5), that insists on individual development.”’

  28. J.W.: Fair enough.
    *tries to resist impulse toward reeducation through forced immersion in Beatles/Stones/Motown and images of Abbie Hoffman*

  29. @Aidan Kehoe: I thought your initial point was that “ethnicity” is a distinction too fine to be relevant. In the older usage, I guess (but I’m not that sure) that you can actually say the Swedish race is more adventurous than the Norwegian race, and vice versa. So I can’t see how these points are related.
    Could knowledgeable people here tell me if my usage intuition is correct?

  30. I don’t see how you could possibly say the Swedish race is more adventurous than the Norwegian race given that Fridtjof Nansen, Leif Eriksen and Roald Amundsen were all Norwegians. Swedes are good at business.

  31. That’s the “vice versa” part, of course :)

  32. Bathrobe says:

    “The question about actual causation is a good one to which I have no answers”.
    Perhaps the problem was never linguistic in the first place. I submit that it was always possible to advance racial and sexual equality without making it into a loud campaign about language. Making it into a campaign about language only served to polarise. Insistence on PC language only drives attitudes underground; it doesn’t necessarily change anything.
    A campaign based on (say) “Women can do it just as well as men, if not better” is far more constructive than one based on “Using ‘he’ only shows that our society is inherently sexist in its attitudes”.
    I’m afraid that I’m less optimistic about the great advances that have been made, or the possibility that they are permanent. Public discourse is now hemmed in by PC requirements on what we say, but much anonymous public discourse, as seen on the Internet, is more scurrilous and disgusting than ever. Where lyics to music used to use mildly sexist language, it now features blatant racism and homophobia.
    I would also submit that insisting on linguistic equality for women hasn’t necessarily made the streets safer for them (and I’ll be sexist here and say that women are probably more vulnerable to lack of safety in public places than men are). The U.S. has a black president, which is a good thing. In the meantime, genocide, rape, violence, hatred, and organised greed continue around the world.
    I know I sound like a grumpy old pessimist, but I’m sorry, I just don’t think such horrendous issues and problems can be resolved simply by telling people to mind their p’s and q’s.

  33. Bathrobe says:

    “Cunt” has different meanings in British and American English.
    So when we are told we can’t say “cunt”, it’s a toss-up between sexism and American cultural imperialism?

  34. So when we are told we can’t say “cunt”, it’s a toss-up between sexism and American cultural imperialism?
    The sooner the sexist lesser peoples bend to the yoke, the happier everyone will be.
    One problem is “race” is that in 19th century people really seriously seemed to believe that there was a Polish race and an Irish race, etc. Probably not a Prussian race and a Hessian race, but maybe.

  35. Bathrobe says:

    I’m afraid that, in the face of the enormity of the issues involved, my comments above veered into the realm of the sputteringly incoherent.
    Let me take a small example from the many that could be raised.
    China is a country where relationships matter. It’s a country where “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is not a cynical observation but a deadly serious principle for getting on in life.
    China is also a country where hard drinking is one of the most important ways to cultivate relationships. Through some kind of social selection, those who hold power throughout the country appear to be a huge collection of ‘good old boys’ whose influence and goodwill is essential to doing anything at all.
    Chinese talk of their ‘culture’ of drinking, guided by social ritual, face-giving, and bonhomie. In fact, it is a tyranny of the heavy drinker over the moderate drinker. The so-called ‘culture’ is almost exclusively oriented to forcing people to drink as much as humanly possible.
    What is more, while it is not explicitly stated, Chinese drinking culture is based on male-oriented values. The drink of choice, at least in North China, is báijiǔ, a potent, strong-smelling distilled liquor. It’s main advantages are that drunkenness comes quickly and it doesn’t give you a horrendous headache the next day. Even if you would personally prefer to drink beer or red wine, it would be a grave mistake to choose either of those in cultivating any kind of business or governmental contact. That is because báijiǔ is the liquor par excellence for ‘male bonding’, which is what it is all about.
    Women are not expected to drink báijiǔ. They are merely required to make a few token toasts with a glass of beer. In other words, they are not taken seriously in the business of cultivating power relationships.
    So the dominance of men in so many aspects of Chinese life isn’t just based on language. It’s based on many things, of which the drinking ‘culture’ is just one part.
    I bring this up because the obsession with PC non-sexist language in Western countries just seems so incredibly trivial and parochial. There are so many more important things to be done than ensure that no one says ‘chairman’ any more.
    As for “cunt”, this seems to me to illustrate the way that the non-sexist language movement easily degenerates into meaningless shibboleths, dissipating its energy on symbols rather than content. When earnest young American women tell non-Americans that “You shouldn’t use ‘cunt’ because we find it offensive to women”, they are just getting the symbols wrong. Nothing is changed. People just get annoyed at Americans telling them what to do — or they join the bandwagon and mindlessly repeat that “‘cunt’ is a discriminatory word” without even knowing that it’s not in their own variety of English. This is not a step towards the light, it’s just bumbling around in the darkness!

  36. I’m with Dressing Gown on this matter.
    One problem with “race” is that in 19th century people really seriously seemed to believe that there was a Polish race
    But John, that ought not to cause a problem with using the word “race” nowadays. Anyway, the race is not to the swift.

  37. “One problem is “race” is that in 19th century people really seriously seemed to believe that there was a Polish race and an Irish race, etc. Probably not a Prussian race and a Hessian race, but maybe.”

    The Irish have higher rates of cystic fibrosis and lower rates of Paget’s disease of bone than Britain. That isn’t from ethnicity! (Though, right, there is some question of environmental factors in Paget’s disease of bone.)

    “@Aidan Kehoe: I thought your initial point was that “ethnicity” is a distinction too fine to be relevant.”

    Not really, rather that it ignores that the genetics, rather than the cultural aspects of these group differences, are typically at the root of the variation. (Though not always, of course, parts of Iran have a much higher rate of oesophageal cancer basically because they drink scalding tea, not for a genetic reason.)
    If the populations share their origins and have been intermarrying for centuries, as is the case with the Swedes and Norwegians, or they share their origins and movement between them has been frequent, as with the Croats and Bosniaks, then you can call them separate races, it’s just not going to be medically useful. (And I get the feeling people typically didn’t, but I’ve no particular evidence for that.)

  38. Expanding a bit on what Adrian said, human genetic variability is actually very small compared with that of, say, chimpanzees, despite the fact that we may think one chimpanzee looks much like another. When genetic studies were done with chimpanzees in one region of Africa they prove to show far more variability than one finds in comparisons of even the most disparate human populations (say Eskimos and Papuans).
    Something that has been known for much longer points in the same direction. If you consider genetic variation within the Swedish population (not considering immigrants) and compare it with variation between the Swedish average and the average for Senegal, you find that 85% of the variation is within populations, not between populations. (There are some problems of definition of terms here that I’m not wholly happy with, but there is no doubt that the qualitative conclusion is correct.)
    This may seem rather surprising, because most of us reckon it’s not too difficult to distinguish a Swede from a Senegalese at first glance. The point is, however, that the only variations we can see at first glance are superficial: skin colour, hair colour and quality, nose shape etc., and these are all characters sensitive to the environments in which most Swedes and Senegalese live — Swedes need to worry about keeping warm and getting enough sun; Senegalese don’t. What goes on under the skin is far closer to identical than we would have guessed.
    So far as metabolism is concerned there are some differences between populations, but less than one would guess. Europeans have a lower incidence of lactose intolerance than most of the world (even some of the African cattle herders shown some lactose intolerance), Ashkenazi Jews are vastly more susceptible to Tay-Sachs disease than other people, inhabitants of islands with small populations often have very high incidences of certain diseases (such as asthma on Pitcairn), descendants of Queen Victoria are prone to haemophilia. However, all these are special cases (and apart from lactose intolerance they are all related to inbreeding) that do not seriously challenge the basic point that humans are remarkably homogeneous.

  39. I submit that it was always possible to advance racial and sexual equality without making it into a loud campaign about language. Making it into a campaign about language only served to polarise. Insistence on PC language only drives attitudes underground; it doesn’t necessarily change anything.
    I submit that, not being a woman, you don’t get to decide on the relative horrors of PC and sexism. Every woman I know is delighted that people by and large think twice before using “he” for the entire human race and assuming anyone under discussion is male unless explicitly indicated otherwise. My belief is that anyone who takes women seriously will take their view on this matter seriously, and anyone who thinks it’s just awful that men have to worry about what they say before they open their mouths doesn’t take women seriously.
    Again, compare the loud comments one used to hear about “first they wanted us to call them colored, then Negros, then blacks, then Afro-Americans, then African Americans… why can’t they make up their minds?” You don’t hear that much any more, and I don’t think that’s unrelated to the fact that America has a black president. Just because causation is hard to prove doesn’t mean that language is irrelevant, and just because some people go overboard (with invented pronouns or “herstory”) doesn’t mean the entire issue can be ignored.

  40. J.W. Brewer says:

    Perhaps it is useful to think of “race” and “ethnicity” as loosely parallel to “language” and “dialect.” As we all know, the latter two words are fuzzy concepts with uncertain boundaries, whose application in practice can be inconsistent and arbitrary due to the contingent effects of historical and political factors. But that lack of pristine clarity doesn’t mean that they’re meaningless or useless (if appropriate caution is employed) concepts. There’s even a loose dialect-chain parallel. A generic Fleming from Antwerp might visually appear as “racially” different from a generic Tamil from Madras as the Swede/Senegalese example given above, but if you travel overland from Antwerp to Madras (taking a ferry across the Hellespont) you will not find a single clear boundary between “races” anywhere along the way, just as in the old days you could supposedly travel from Paris to Rome with each village’s local dialect being comprehensible to its neighbors without thereby proving that “French” and “Italian” were not different “languages.” (Current U.S. affirmative-action beancounting, fwiw, takes the position that the local people stop being “white” and start being “Asian” at the moment you cross the border from Iran or Afghanistan into Pakistan.)

  41. Bathrobe says:

    So, Hat, would you consider this a more serious issue than prescriptivism?

  42. Something I should have made clear is that in referring to “chimpanzees” I did not include bonobos: there are huge (by human standards) genetic variations within the non-bonobo chimpanzees. Genetic differences between them and bonobos are much greater again.

  43. if you travel overland from Antwerp to Madras (taking a ferry across the Hellespont) you will not find a single clear boundary between “races” anywhere along the way,
    Unfortunately one reads a tremendous amount of nonsense on this sort of thing, stimulated by racist or romantic notions, or just by quick glances at things before giving an opinion. When I was a student I took a bus from Konya to Kayseri in Turkey, and about half way between the two there is a place called Sultanhanı, where the bus made a rest stop. I was very glad of that, because my guidebook (French in origin, I think, but no matter) said that in Sultanhanı the people were descendants of Mongols and had a much more Mongol apppearance than other Turks. So I took the opportunity of looking around a bit at the local inhabitants, and was quite disappointed to see that they were indistinguishable from anyone else one saw in Anatolia.

  44. So, Hat, would you consider this a more serious issue than prescriptivism?
    Heh. Why, yes, I would, and you know how seriously I take prescriptivism! But don’t worry, I’m not about to institute a Maoist reign of PC terror, no matter what J.W. Brewer may think. This is a free-speech zone (except for insulting other guests of the establishment), but that includes my freedom to speak my own mind.
    Unfortunately one reads a tremendous amount of nonsense on this sort of thing, stimulated by racist or romantic notions, or just by quick glances at things before giving an opinion.
    Very true.

  45. Language, you’re mixing up two things. One is about euphemism, whether you can say “racial” rather than “ethnic”. Using “they” instead of “he” has nothing to do with euphemism.

  46. In fact, it is a tyranny of the heavy drinker over the moderate drinker.
    Fuck. If I’d ony been born there.
    I bring this up because the obsession with PC non-sexist language in Western countries just seems so incredibly trivial and parochial.
    Both sides are fighting over the same silly little dime. The more extreme manifestations aren’t that common, but they rouse incredible rage. Using ungendered pronouns to refer to mixed groups or groups of unknown gender strikes me as an improvement.
    “Cunt” is like “bloody”. “Bloody” in American English has only a neutral descriptive meaning except for those who affect Britishisms.

  47. The fact that there are some statistical genetic differences between Irish and non Irish white people means that there’s an Irish race. the more accurate your genetic sampling and analysis becomes, the more races you end up with. Icelanders are one of the four most genetically distinct populations in Europe (along with Basques, Sardinians, and Lapps). Is there an Icelandic race?
    There are overlapping national, genetic, cultural and linguistic groups in the world with varying degrees of difference. Littlen good comes from calling these groups races.

  48. The fact that there are some statistical genetic differences between Irish and non Irish white people DOESN’T MEAN that there’s an Irish race.
    My typing fingers are being disobedient again. Back to proofreading, I guess.

  49. Back to proofreading, I guess
    Doesn’t work, alas. I proofread all my posts, but you wouldn’t think it to read them. The only way to make it work is to do it with two peope, one of them reading out loud.

  50. There are overlapping national, genetic, cultural and linguistic groups in the world with varying degrees of difference. Little good comes from calling these groups races.

    Well, it makes life easier to have *some* word to denote them, and for the purposes of medical texts “race” usefully puts the focus on the genetics in a way “ethnicity” does not.

  51. Seriously, you’re saying that because the Irish have a statistically greater incidence of some genetic marker, that justifies calling them a race? By that standard we’d have thousands of races. Any inbred population would a race (that’s how Icelanders became unique in only 1000: their ancestry is 99% known, and it’s close to 100% either Norwegian or Irish.)
    My guess is that geneticists have their term, probably population, and epidemiologists probably have their term. To the extent that I see a need for a popular term allowing certain human groups to scientifically prove that they’re biologically distinct, I see a vivid absence of any need.

  52. J. W. Brewer says:

    I am not actually concerned about our genial host launching a reign of terror and/or forced musical reeducation. (But Dude. Motown instead of Stax/Volt or, say, the Watts 103d St. Rhythm Band? That’s very Big Chill soundtrack of you.) While I don’t begrudge a fellow a hobbyhorse or two, I remain somewhat baffled by Hat’s rhetorical presentation, which is coming off as more patronizing/condescending than I expect he really intends (“if you knew any women, cared about their feelings, and had actually thought the issue through you would necessarily agree with me”). He may wish to consider the possibility that the views of actual women on subjects such as this are not necessarily monolithic, that they may vary significantly with race, age, class, educational background, career field, political/religious/cultural affiliations, etc., and that if the women of his own acquaintance really all seem to be unanimous he may just need to get out more. I mean, I certainly don’t claim to know a statistically representative cross-section of American women, but the ones I do know seem to be somewhat all over the map on language-usage issues.* (And this is based on observing their own usages, not on blithely assuming that their failure to slap me or otherwise affirmatively object means that whatever I have said must not have given offense.) I have no basis for knowing whether I’ve thought about these issues more than Hat has, but he has no basis for knowing whether I’ve thought about them less than he has.
    As to the race parallel, surely it is instructive that while the negro->black transition was almost entirely successful (except for some of the older generation of “Negroes,” as witness the recent kerfuffle about the census form), the black->African-American transition seems to have gotten stuck halfway through because, among other things, the members of the group in question turned out not to have monolithic views and/or had higher-priority items on their agenda. Does anyone at this point really think that in another 10 years “black” will be as archaic/obsolete as “Negro” had become by the 1980′s?
    *And reactions may not be one-size-fits-all. If you picked a list of 20 different allegedly “sexist” usages from an activist/reformist/prescriptivist source, it might perhaps be the case that two or three of them actually did offend 80 or 90% of actual women, another two or three of them only offended a single-digit percentage of the most activist/thin-skinned/misinformed, and the others fell somewhere in between. These are all, in principle, empirical questions.

  53. I would never call anyone “African American” because…
    1. It’s based on “Italian American”, “Polish American” etc., none of which (John may agree) has anything to do with race, they’re about national culture and citizenship (and stereotype).
    2. “African American” is a racial category that only works for US citizens. Black people from Jamaica or Belize or the UK aren’t “African Americans”.
    3. It’s another example of the USA usurping “American”. So while you’re taking care not to offend black people from the USA, you are dissing everyone else, all the way from Newfoundland to Patagonia.

  54. David Marjanović says:

    Norwegians, on the other hand, don’t find the word rase to be in any way odd. They can still use it.

    If German is any guide, it means both “race” and “breed”.
    Talking about breeds of dogs is still mainstream in German; talking about races of people makes the Godwin signal light up above your head.

    When I was younger “cunt” was a useful everyday expression for me and my friends, male and female. Sometimes it meant nitwit: “you silly cunt”, sometimes it meant asshole: “my Latin master’s a total cunt”,

    And why was it an insult in the first place?
    Why was it insulting to call men female genitals?
    Patriarchy is in the details, too.

    but nowadays I have to think twice before I even say it. The people who politicised cunt have taken it over, and in my opinion to reduce the number of meanings of a word cannot be good for the language.

    I haven’t encountered it in meatspace, but on the Internet, where you’re in the company of Americans, I’d indeed avoid it if it were otherwise in my active vocabulary.
    BTW, was it ever a cat metaphor to call a male coward a pussy?

  55. dearieme says:

    It’s really rather droll reading people flailing about trying to work out what “race” means, or meant, or might mean, in English, or at least in American English, based on their understanding of modern genetics. Wrong tool.

  56. Bathrobe says:

    Why was it insulting to call men female genitals?
    Because it’s like ‘fuck’ and ‘shit’ and ‘cock’ and all those other naughty words. It’s STRONG. That’s why it gets used.
    It’s also insulting to call men a ‘prick’ or a ‘dickhead’. Except that, for some reason, ‘cunt’ has much stronger taboo value, shock value, call it what you will, than ‘dick’ or ‘prick’. ‘Cock’ is stronger than ‘prick’ and ‘dick’, but it’s not used in this way. There is, however, such a thing as a ‘cock-up’.

  57. J. W. Brewer says:

    David M.: referring to a male by slang words whose primary referent is male genitals is typically intended to be insulting, at least in AmEng, and it’s hard to blame the patriarchy for that. It is true that you generally cannot (at least per my native-speaker intuitions not actually confirmed by up-to-date corpus research) insult a female by saying, e.g., “stop being such a dick/prick.” But perhaps, as has already happened with “guy” and “dude,” those words will become increasingly usable for female addressees as AmEng evolves?

  58. It’s rather droll to see dearieme flailing around trying to say…. something.
    Many of us avoid the term “race” when talking about humans because of the bad odor the word has because of its use by Nazis, white supremacists, and 19th century scientific racists. The fact that it’s hard to define very precisely makes it even less attractive.

  59. You’re just giving them the word, John. It’s why words like queer and nigger have been taken back by those groups.

  60. J.W.: All good points. But I wasn’t writing a dissertation or particularly trying to convince anyone, just venting and generalizing wildly. This is, after all, Languagehat, not Feminismhat. (And I’m afraid, much as I love Stax/Volt, I do prefer Motown. I am a walking Big Chill stereotype.)
    AJP: But there is no “those groups” to reclaim “race”; people use the word only to express their unscientific view of the world. Which wouldn’t be so bad (people are, after all, inherently unscientific), but this is a particularly unhelpful view of the world (to see someone as a member of another “race” is by definition to view them as “other,” which as we know makes it easier to do bad things to them), so (even though causation is murky and it’s only a word, etc.) it seems better to discourage its use, not that such discouragement will have much effect, which is discouraging, as is the continuing rain here in Western Mass.

  61. (I seem to be losing ground on my parenthesis problem.)

  62. to see someone as a member of another “race” is by definition to view them as “other,”
    I really agree with this. I cannot imagine describing any of my friends as “African American”, either.

  63. There is, however, such a thing as a ‘cock-up’.
    Yes, but although today people may avoid it because they think it sounds indelicate, in the past it was quite happily used by people who wouldn’t dream of uttering a rude word, because it derives from wearing a cocked hat the wrong way round, which was felt to look silly.
    Nowadays we’d be inclined to think a cocked hat looks silly however you wear it, but that’s another story. Anyway, as we have an expert on hats as host maybe he could tell us what he thinks of cocked hats.
    discouraging, as is the continuing rain here in Western Mass.
    Maybe you could parcel up some of the rain and send it off to France, which is on the point of suffering a severe drought. Here in the south we’re OK, however, so don’t send it here. I’ve noticed that places where it doesn’t rain much in normal years tend not to have droughts.

  64. For some reason the server (whether yours or mine I don’t know) has decided that my name is “ir”. It isn’t, but I don’t always notice in time to fix it. Maybe I’ll start emulating AJP and change it every time.

  65. I’m giving the Nazis and white supremacists a word which is basically useless now except for doing harm and spreading confusion. (As far as dogs go we have “breed”, which works fine.) So we have between three and a thousand races, which are sort of like nations, and sort of like peoples, and sort of like language or dialect groups, and sort of like cultures, and sort of like gene pools, and sort of like breeds, and sort of like political factions, and sort of like armies.

  66. Someone thought Athel Cornish-Bowden was one of my pseudonyms.

  67. Bathrobe says:

    So, JE, which breed are you? :)

  68. I’m giving the Nazis and white supremacists a word which is basically useless now except for doing harm and spreading confusion.
    John, if you look up race on Wikipedia, it says

    Race may refer to:
    Race (biology), classification of flora and fauna
    Race (classification of humans)
    Race and ethnicity in the United States Census, official definitions of “race” used by the US Census Bureau
    Race and genetics, notion of racial classifications based on genetics
    Historical definitions of race

    There’s nothing wrong with the word “race”.

  69. I’m not sure how your Wikipedia citation proves your “nothing wrong” statement, or has anything to do with it. Wikipedia has all kinds of stuff, good and bad. Would you prove the existence of god by pointing to a Wikipedia article on god?

  70. I had meant to sign myself “AJP Languagehat.” Oh well, it’s the thought that counts.

  71. My citation has nothing to do with believing what’s written in a Wiki article, it just shows that people who pretty clearly aren’t nazis or white suprematists use the word ‘race’. In fact, it’s even used by and defined by a department of the US government without, apparently, causing any discontent.

  72. Also, Language, it would be very, very confusing for everybody if you were to appropriate my name for your own purposes.

  73. “… (to see someone as a member of another “race” is by definition to view them as “other,” which as we know makes it easier to do bad things to them), …”
    To see someone as a member of another “ethnicity” is different from this in no useful way. But right, you and John hate the word, you don’t want to use it, fair enough.

  74. Yes, fairynuff.

  75. The problem with “race” is that it takes a human social grouping and makes it seem as though it were biologically defined, which is what Aidan tries to do with the Irish above. Little good and a lot of harm has come from that way of thinking.
    No, “ethnicity” is not the same. It does not have the biological implication.
    America’s governmental racial classifications have been a continually-revised mess and are an artifact of America’s sad racial history.

  76. What John said.

  77. J.W. Brewer says:

    Membership in ethnic group A versus ethnic group B is typically (I do not say always) assigned/perceived-by-others/perceived-by-self based on being the child/grandchild/etc. of A’s versus the child/grandchild/etc. of B’s. Why is that not “biologically defined”? If the visual differences are not as stark as differences between “races,” it may be easier to “pass,” and of course there are children of mixed unions — but there are also children of “racially” mixed unions. And a particular ethnic distinction will only persist over time in a particular society if there’s a reasonably high degree of endogamy (this is e.g. why there are lots of WASPs like me with a little bit of Huguenot ancestry but virtually no “Huguenot-Americans” — exogamy ultimately led to the disappearance of an identifiable group).

  78. Group membership is most often defined by surnames, which have some biological content but not much. (By actual descent I am German-American). It’s also defined in terms of concrete existing social groups, and these usually don’t do genealogy tests for degrees of inheritance. Adoptees into a family are normally accepted even if their actual descent is unknown.
    Any actual self-defined descent group will be smaller than a race unless you heavily use fictions. There’s a fairly coherent group in North Dakota called “Russian Germans” or sometimes “Ukrainians” who are descendants of a specific 19th-20th c. immigration. Is this the North Dakota Russian German race, or the North Dakota branch of the Russian branch of the German race, or the North Dakota branch of the Ukrainian branch of the German race, or is it just an American ethnic group? (There’s been substantial intermarriage in the US though not much in Russia / the Ukraine.)
    If there was any doubt, I oppose this sort of terminology for a combination of political and intellectual or scientific reasons. “Race” is a fairly muddy category intellectually and tends to be toxic politically and ethically, for example when people have strong claims to belong to two different races, and especially when race has been used to define warring groups.
    Ethnicity functions as, and for all I know was invented to be, a less loaded term to replace “race” in talking about actual local groups, just because it’s harder to load excess meaning on a neutral coined term.
    In E. Asia none of this terminological quibbling had apparently happened by 1983 when I was in Taiwan, so from time to time I would hear about how Japanese or Koreans or Taiwan aborigines (shan diren) or Uighurs were just naturally cruel or lazy or dirty or devious or whatever because it was in their blood.
    Now there are biological ways of classifying humans, and you can call them races, but they don’t coincide with what are popularly called races. Last I looked (K C Chang) Koreans, Japanese, and N. Chinese were closer to each other than any of them was to S. Chinese. They’re not identical, but not distant. And of course N. Chinese do recognize this difference with S. Chinese, but they don’t recognize the closeness to Koreans and Japanese.

  79. I hereby designate Johannes Emmersohn as my official spokesperson on this issue.

  80. J. W. Brewer says:

    Ethnically-distinctive surnames have biological content only to the extent the ethnicity they are associated with has remained heavily endogamous. German-Americans have by and large not been particularly endogamous for a number of generations now. Not unrelatedly, German-Americanness is not currently a particularly meaningful category in most of the modern U.S. (except for the much smaller subset who are descended from much more recent immigrants). Were German-Americans disproportionately excited or disproportionately embarrassed by the Trump candidacy? If I meet one fellow named Emerson and another named Mueller (and, hey, let’s add another named Miller who may be ultimately descended patrilineally from a Miller from England or a Mueller from Germany) there’s pretty much nothing about them that I’m going to confidently predict will be different based on the ethnicity-implied-by-surname.
    I actually expect that during the first generation or two of a transition from endogamy to exogamy, surnames become particularly unreliable predictors, because a number of major cultural factors that often correlate with and reinforce ethnicity (notably religious affiliation and tastes in food) are more likely to be matrilineally than patrilineally transmitted, at least in the contemporary U.S.

  81. Emerson had always led me to believe he was of Irish extraction.

  82. Emerson had always led me to believe he was of Irish extraction.
    That was Sean MacEmer.

  83. “Many a Pennsylvania Carpenter bears a name that is English, from the French, from the Latin, and there a Celtic loanword in origin, and yet is neither English, French, Latin, nor Celt, but an original German Zimmermann.”
         —H. L. Mencken

  84. I designate mah fellow Amurricans as my spokespeople on this issue too.

  85. Bathrobe says:

    This article on installing lights at a coal washing plant in Mongolia shows some of the ways in which PC language is bringing about change, but only sporadically and in a peculiar way. First, tradesman and tradespeople. Both are used in the same article.
    O’Donnell Griffin’s role was to supervise and train the local tradesmen
    O’Donnell Griffin would normally use its own tradespeople on a job like this
    Each of our engineers supervised between 30 and 40 local tradespeople.
    Then the sex of the Australians posted there, obviously both men:
    The first two staff members to go to Mongolia were Mark Withers and Jacob O’Brien.
    Throughout the article, project manager Stephen Jago refers to “guys”. These days it could refer to women, but somehow I don’t think he had women in mind:
    Temperatures fell to around minus 27 degrees C. Meanwhile, the guys were living in tiny huts heated by pot belly stoves. The food was unfamiliar and there were only a few English-speaking locals. There were days the guys couldn’t work at all because of blizzards or sandstorms.
    Our guys are used to examining situations, then quickly and effectively determining the safest way to proceed. They don’t take risks and they don’t get hurt.
    It was a big challenge but our guys really pulled it off and the local workers proved they were more than up to the job.
    Is this guy just behind the times? Or has PC still got a long way to go?

  86. Guys is now a unisex word. I first heard it used that way something like 40 years ago.

  87. Bathrobe says:

    It’s not totally unisex yet. “This guy came in the door” would surely be interpreted as a male, even if calling “Guys!” could be directed at a group containing both men and women, or even women only. In the article I still don’t think it was meant as unisex, but I could be wrong.

  88. I did a double-take the first time I heard one Spanish woman saying something along the lines of «Hombre, te digo que son insoportables …» to another woman. But I suppose ‘man’ in the same context is perfectly normal in English.

  89. bruessel says:

    But isn’t the article referring to a specific group that actually consisted only of men? How could it possibly be wrong to say so by calling them “guys”? Or am I misunderstanding something?

  90. nice views of Moscow’s ‘China-town’, now non-existent!

  91. J. W. Brewer says:

    That “guy” and “dude” have substantially increased their degree of applicability to females over the same decades that various uses of “man” to apply generically to a referent of mixed (if a group) or uncertain sex have become increasingly controversial is I think a good illustration of how random and contingent developments in this area have been, and why an overall philosophical/political theory/criterion of acceptable then v. acceptable now doesn’t get very far.

  92. “Of course guys can be applied to groups of both men and women. Why, even guys use it that way!”
         —a person of the female persuasion, as reported by Douglas Hofstadter

  93. Bathrobe says:

    But isn’t the article referring to a specific group that actually consisted only of men? How could it possibly be wrong to say so by calling them “guys”? Or am I misunderstanding something?
    See JC’s post about Fred Brooks (comment no. 9).

  94. bruessel says:

    I’m sorry, Bathrobe, but I still have to disagree. Is that supposed to be an achievement for us women, that groups of men can’t be called that anymore?

  95. Bathrobe says:

    I’m not sure what you’re disagreeing with. JC said “Fred Brooks is no moral monster. His wording is just out of date.”
    I was pointing out that, 30-40 years on, the only change I can see (based on the article I quoted) is that “tradespeople” is often used instead of “tradesmen”. That was my question. Is this guy just behind the times? Or has PC still got a long way to go?

  96. Bathrobe says:

    And if you ask my honest opinion, the Fred Brooks quote doesn’t sound strange at all. It certainly doesn’t sound the same as pointedly talking about ‘whites’. That’s why I asked if he was ‘behind the times’, given that JC found that kind of wording out of date.

  97. It doesn’t sound the same to me either, but it does remind me of it. One of the ways of asserting your independence from someone in the U.S. used to be, if you were a woman, to say you were “free, white, and over twenty-one”. That expression is no longer with us, and a Good Thing Too. But it was never much of a male expression: masculine independence was presumed.
    The first and last of all {male, white, etc.} privileges is not to know what your privileges are.

  98. Bathrobe says:

    I think something similar goes for whites living in Asian countries. There are definitely certain privileges accorded to whites that may not be accorded to other races, and sad to say, I think most whites take those privileges for granted. In fact, some people actually go out of their way to exploit them (e.g. expat kids, expat womanisers, etc.), but even if you don’t, it’s still important to keep in mind that you naturally enjoy what others have to work for.

  99. >> Posted by: Dahrann (www.bing.com) at May 25, 2011 01:34 PM
    Whassat? New marketing strategy for money-hungry-after-Skype-acquisition Microsoft?

  100. Yeah, I don’t get all these Bing spammers. What’s the point?

  101. I should google it and find out!

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