#EngTrivia: English Language and Women

Fellas, March 8 is an annual celebration of International Women’s Day. This year’s theme is: “A promise is a promise. Time for action to end Violence against women.”

Let’s celebrate the day by dedicating our today’s session to women, shall we? I’m going to give you some interesting facts related to English and women.

  1. The word “woman” is believed to have derived from the Middle English term “wyfman”. The term “wyfman” is broken down simply as the wife (wyf) of man.
  2. In Old English, women were described simply as “wyf”, while the term “man” was used to describe a human person, not gender.
  3. The English word “girl” was initially used to describe a young person of either sex. At the beginning of the 16th century, the term “girl” was used specifically to describe a female child.
  4. The English language originally delineated between women in different stages of life with the terms “maiden”, “mother”, and “crone”.
  5. A “maiden” referred to a young girl who was unmarried.
  6. A “mother” referred to a woman in her child-bearing years. A “crone” described a post-menopausal woman.

Anyway, some of you may already know, a linguist Robin Lakoff identified a theory called “Women’s Language”. She proposed that women speak differently from men. Agree or not, here’s the explanation of the theory.

  1. Color terminology: women are apt to use more variety in colors. So, blue isn’t just blue, but also teal, iris, turquoise. Whereas for men, blue is just blue.
  2. Empty adjectives:  these are descriptors that are unnecessary. Women are more apt to use these. Ex: there are terms such as: gorgeous, stunning, elegant, and cute. For men, pretty is just pretty.
  3. Tag questions: women tend to seek conformation more via questions. Ex: A woman would say, “I look good in this dress, don’t I?”
  4. Indirect requests: these would be something like “Oh no, it’s very cold out here.”  Or “I am hungry.” The statements indirectly encourage other people to do something to address her problem.

So, what do you think? Do you agree or not, fellas?


Compiled by @Patipatigulipat at @EnglishTips4U on March 8, 2013

3 thoughts on “#EngTrivia: English Language and Women”

  1. Thank you for this interesting article. What I also learned in sociolinguistics regarding woman language and sexist language, is that women tend to value standard language, in this case standard English. The frequency of the use of slang by women is lower compared to men. However, I don’t think it also applies to Bahasa Indonesia. Concerning the colour terminology, I think there is no proof that women are more knowledgeable about colour. In my opinion, the knowledge about varieties of colour is mostly related to occupation. In terms of the issue of sexism, there are many English words that exclude females, such as the use of the word “man” to refer to humans.

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