Tag » Linguistics
In Terry Gross's NPR interview with writer and editor Jessica Grose, professor of linguistics Penny Eckert, and speech pathologist Susan Sankin, the subject on the table was the policing of young women’s voices. “People are busy policing women’s language and nobody is policing older or younger men’s language,” Eckert says. Two of the speech tics discussed are uptalking (ending a sentence like it’s a question) and vocal fry (drawing out, or rasping, the ends of sentences). The clear double standard here? Men often employ these same tics. Read More
From the late 1950s to the mid-1960s, it was common practice for publishers to put out little dictionaries specifically edited and designed for preteen and young teenage girls. Their vinyl covers featured popular characters or aspirational figures (the cute scholar on the white one pictured here is named “Miss Sophista Kate”) and they were often a single item in a whole line of similarly designed accessories, from scrapbooks and photo albums to makeup kits and carrying cases for 45-rpm records. Read More
When I think about words that might be polarizing in the feminist community, “lady” certainly doesn’t top the list. There have been huge campaigns to reclaim other historically salty terms for women, from “bitch” to “slut”—even the dreaded “c-word”. (Nope. Won’t write it out. Won’t do it.)  But figuring out what to do with the word “lady” is uniquely tricky. Unlike some of its harsher sisters, “lady” is still used freely in both the antiquated and ironic sense. Read More
Now that it's not copacetic to throw the V-word around in the realm of American government, I decided to go ahead and make a short list of places where it is okay to use the word "vagina." Feel free to use this as a guide so that you don't startle any unexpected listeners. We don't know what the free use of anatomical terms could lead to, but some possibilities are: maturity, correctness, tolerance and, of course, anarchy.   1) The street. It's totally cool to use the word vagina when you're walking down the street having a conversation. Read More
Flappers knew how to get dolled up and keep it copacetic in the 20s, and today we love them just as much as they would have wanted us to. Besides partying and staying in style, these ladies created a whole new language so catchy that a lot of it stuck around until today. We all know that the Real McCoy is the cat’s pajamas, not to take any wooden nickels, and that no one likes a wet blanket. Read More
Navigating gendered vocabulary can be tricky. I use the term “guys” to refer to just about anyone—men, women, children, even the elderly—but every now and then my poor vocabulary has led to confusion or even discomfort.  But terms for the “fairer sex” are pretty limited. “Females” sounds starchy and medical, and even “women” often feels too official. “Girls” indicates youth and can be belittling when used in reference to adults. Read More