Tuesday, August 04, 2009


GENDER, n. The sex of words.
A masculine wooed a feminine noun,
But his courting didn't suit her,
So he begged a verb his wishes to crown,
But the verb replied, with a rigid frown:
"What object have I? I'm neuter."
2009 Update: The first in a series of certainties that confuse us as we grow, or seem to.


Ariel the Thief said...

There are two genders, the same and the opposite. One is for dinner. :)

Jim said...

Our world is full of neuters. In more ways than one!
Third line, "So he begged a verb his wishes to crown" reminded me of buying a vowel on the 'Vanna White Show.' Either might be of help, especially the sexy ones.
I hope this is a long series, confussion is the better part of ... (something).
Thieves in the morning keep me honest. :-)

TLP said...

Gender: A socially constructed concept generally used to limit all of us.

the amoeba said...

GENDER, n. An encumbrance largely purged from the English language - because English speakers prefer pictures, as five minutes of English-language television will demonstrate to the interested observer.

On the other hand, it is sometimes difficult to understand how speakers of other languages (German, for example) reproduce, for after a whole day of wrestling with the genders of their speech, surely all they wish for at the end of the day is for everyone else to go away and leave them alone.

... a tree is male, its buds are female, its leaves are neuter; horses are sexless, dogs are male, cats are female -- tomcats included, of course; a person's mouth, neck, bosom, elbows, fingers, nails, feet, and body are of the male sex, and his head is male or neuter according to the word selected to signify it, and not according to the sex of the individual who wears it -- for in Germany all the women have either male heads or sexless ones; a person's nose, lips, shoulders, breast, hands, and toes are of the female sex; and his hair, ears, eyes, chin, legs, knees, heart, and conscience haven't any sex at all. The inventor of the language probably got what he knew about a conscience from hearsay.

- Mark Twain, The Awful German Language.

Mutha said...

There's a reason it rhymes with "bender."

Anonymous said...

I hesitate to comment at all. This certainly is a confusing post.

Nessa said...

Doug - You know how gender confused I am.

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cooper said...

It's clear, from reading blogs, that words are often as confused about their gender as human beings are.

Doug The Una said...

Ariel, I can think of at least two ways you could mean "for dinner" and both are funny.

Jim, Miss White was pretty well gendered as I recall. You're right, lots of neutrality going around.

Really, TLP? Did society construct the fur on my back?

Amoeba, I hope one of our German associates will reply. Ich werde ganz still bleiben.

Because it drives you to drink, Mutha? Then why isn't "child" spelled "champage?"

Actually, Nessa I don't. But I'll take your word for it.

And their purpose, Coop.

pia said...

Love Cooper's comment. Gender neutral always confuses me. So I love your update also

TLP said...

TMI Doug.

But gender is different from sexuality. Sexuality concerns physical and biological differences that distinguish males from females. IMHO

weirsdo said...

TLP: I hate it when you go all poststructuralist on us. From a phenomenological point of view, there is no way to distinguish the "objective" from the "socially constructed" nature of gender.

Tom & Icy said...

They took Icy's gender away.

Jamie Dawn said...

It's nearly 2 a.m., so I'm late, late, late getting by here.
I cannot be responsible for anything I might write at this time.

Gender: Male and female. That wasn't too hard.

This female is gonna go nighty night now.

Karen said...

That was sensible, Jamie Dawn. And your Arkansas lawsuit -- how's that going?

Doug The Una said...

Pia, gender neutrality is bound to confuse someone.

Yeah, Actonbell. I mean, it's practically the first question on the SAT. Happy birthday, by the way.

TLP, I though sexuality was behavior.

Oh, I don't know, Weirsdo. I'd think some of what's "objective" would be apparent. If you make a "vroom vroom" noise looking, that's cultural.

Icy, look to the cats to see how lucky you are.

Goodnight, Dawngirl.

Karen, if we're lucky and she's allowed, I bet she'll post about it. I'm curious too.

weirsdo said...

Simply calling some things "objective" and others "subjective," or "culturally constructed" is a human judgment. Our awareness of biological, physiological details as "objective" already alters, "constructs," them. It is also possible that what TLP might interpret as a social construction is actually a neurophysiological result of a biologically "objective" fact, like the action of hormones on the brain.
Poststructuralist theories suffer from other problems, too. What is this totality such theorists call "society"? Many philosophers and sociologists today acknowledge that no such totality exists. Further, why are we such dupes as to unconsciously buy into its "constructions"? We're not, and there may be many other explanations for ideas TLP calls "constructions."

Minka said...

I love Bierce's take on this one. If I were to think of him in terms of Gender, he'd definately be Genitive Plural plus subclause!