WORDS & WOMEN: New Language in New Times by Casey & Kate Swift Miller

WORDS & WOMEN: New Language in New Times

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Is the language of Shakespeare and Shelley guilty of blatant and subliminal ""linguistic sexism""? Miller and Swift contend that it is--a historically understandable, but to women, damaging inevitability since ""males have been the namers and definers"" at least since ""virago"" and ""shrew"" (once reserved for men) became female and pejorative. They've culled their evidence from the OED, Webster's Third International, the King James Bible, Jacob Bronowski's acclaimed BBC series The Ascent of Man, Air Force recruitment posters, and other diverse sources. Their central argument is that language has been used to shape and buttress ""the myth of humanity's maleness."" The most glaring instance of this is, of course, the generic use of Man to cover male and female humans (both the Hebrew adham and the Latin humanus originally designated an androgynous earthling), a usage which implies that women are a ""subspecies."" Consider little Sylvia who wrote to God: ""Are boys better than girls. I know you are one but try to be fair."" Miller and Swift are cool, rational, and temperate throughout, successfully fending off jocular males like Russell Baker who have gotten a lot of laughs by recasting English along feminist lines--""personipulating,"" ""persondate,"" and the ""praying Persontis."" Neither author is a linguist, but their research is solidly grounded and they make a strong case for the ongoing ""semantic polarization"" by which ""male-positive-important"" attributes have come to be the ""norm"" as against ""female-negative-trivial"" ones. A contribution to the feminist arsenal meriting special attention from educators, writers, broadcasters, et al.

Pub Date: June 4th, 1976
Publisher: Doubleday