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AWADmail Issue 154

February 19, 2005

A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Other Interesting Tidbits about Words and Languages

From: Roderic Williams (rjwill6ATpacbell.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--matrocliny

I thought you'd get a kick out of poet Audre Lorde's comment about gender-specific occupations:
"Being called a poetess brings out the terroristress in me."

From: Evangeline Newton (enewtonATuakron.edu)
Subject: Re: FW: A.Word.A.Day--matrocliny

I sent your "matrocliny" commentary to my husband (a Greek/Latin prof). You might be interested in his comments back to me. (I am a new subscriber, thanks to two colleagues who insisted I would love this. I do.)

    From: rnewtonATkent.edu
    The most egregious example of gender-bias in English is, I think, the existence of two words for students. Male students are students; but female students are co-eds. This originates in schools being for males only. So, when they allowed girls to come "along" (this is what co- means), they were viewed as nonessential appendages. Kind of like Adam being created independently, and then Eve was formed to assist him. I have insisted that all my students expunge this word from their vocabulary. I no longer allow them to say they live in a co-ed dorm, for example, since that implies that the dorms are really there for the one sex only. There are only male dorms, female dorms, and mixed- gender dorms (although this is a misnomer, since gender is not the same as sex; but we can't very easily call them two-sex dorms without raising eyebrows; unisex might work?).

From: Carolyn Jones Silver (carsilverATjuno.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--muliebrity

A clerihew:

Marge Piercy
Treats male chauvinists without mercy.
She's used her well-known muliebrity
To become a poetic celebrity.

From: Melissa Langseth (melissa.langsethATmedtronic.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--matrocliny

What an interesting observation on the degenderization (?) of the English language!

What you said about how feminine equivalents of terms having inferior connotations brought to mind something I'd read about the workings of Las Vegas casinos: In casino vernacular, the "host" is the person who cultivates the relationship between players and the casinos, kind of a personal concierge whose job is to keep their players happy, regular patrons. A female host is always just that, a host: A "hostess" is considered one of those people who seats someone at a restaurant, or who brings a patron drinks. It's generally considered an insult to call a female host a "hostess".

Melissa Emmons
Recent Las Vegas bride

From: K.C. Rourke (lorrettATfantasymakers.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--matrocliny

Hear hear! My own opinion in the matter is, if the activity being presented involves the generative organs, or the result of their use, then in the interest of clarity we need male/female references. But in the interest of getting something else done, it seems reasonable to leave one's focus on sexuality in the bedroom and out of the workplace.

From: Michael Tremberth (michaelt42ATtiscali.co.uk)
Subject: Re: Genderless words

Just occasionally a description falls between two stools. Caroline Aherne, well known as an actor in UK television's The Royle Family, whose portrait has been shown at the National Portrait Gallery, London, was described as "actor and comedienne" rather than "actress and comedienne" or "actor and comedian".

From: Nora N. Stanley (pithyATwebtv.net)
Subject: Executor/Executrix

When my father passed away, I found I was not an executor, but an executrix. I thought my title sounded more like dominatrix. Although my outfits didn't include leather and spiked heels, I definitely was quite in charge.

From: Robin LaTrobe (rlatrobeATiimetro.com.au)
Subject: Witch

I wonder how many proud witches such as myself will email you to say that we are not demeaned by the word. We regard our high calling as an honour. You should also know that the word is non gender specific except in fiction. No male witch calls himself a wizard in real life. He would be laughed out of the circle. Add witch to your list of reclaimed words which were first used as belittling terms and were taken up with pride. My list includes: Christian, Baptist, Methodist, Quaker, Shaker, abolitionist, suffragette, dyke, fairy, queer, digger, feminist, Whig, Tory, twitcher and, at last, nigger. How many more do we know?

From: Len Ratzlaff (leonard.ratzlaffATualberta.ca)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--chiaroscuro

This word also is significant in describing vocal tone. It is used by proponents of bel canto singing technique to describe the combination of clarity and resonance that is so critical to rich tone production for singers. Others with more knowledge of the principles may write in with more details.

From: Barry St.Denis (b.st.denisATutoronto.ca)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--chiaroscuro

It was interesting to see this word, chiaroscuro, used in terms of paintings. As an opera singer in-training, I have known the term for years but in reference to the qualities of the voice. We use the term in reference to a balance of the shimmering brighter (sunlight) aspect in balance with the darker (moonlight) aspect of the voice.

From: Robert J. Nathan (rjnathanATearthlink.net)
Subject: chiaroscuro

I first encountered chiaroscuro in the theatre in the 1950s, where the technique had been long-used in applying greasepaint makeup to dramatically alter the apparent contours of a performer's face, well before the advent of latex prosthetics.

From: D'n Russler (d_nATloryx.com)
Subject: grisaille: Seasons of the Moon (Re: grisaille)

An absolutely stunning set of photos, in awesome grisaille, of the Holy Land are in Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair's Seasons of the Moon. I invite the members of A.Word.A.Day to enjoy this important work that celebrates the 12 months of the Jewish Year.

From: Elizabeth Creith (hedgehog.ceramicsATsympatico.ca)
Subject: art

As a printmaker (one who works with copper plates, linoleum blocks etc. to produce original images by hand, printed by hand in small editions) I have for years ranted against the term "limited edition prints" to refer to what are essentially expensive, signed reproductions produced in numbers so large as to make the term "limited" a joke.

A word has its use, / Or, like a man, it will soon have a grave. -Edwin Arlington Robinson, poet (1869-1935)

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