Unit 11 Semantic Development of Words for Each Sex and What It Shows
1) A word once reserved for female persons in high places is generalised to refer to people of all levels in a society:
The titles of women are more likely to undergo this generalisation than the titles of men.
For instance, under the entry "lord" in Collins Cobuild English Language Dictionary (CCELD), ten meanings are listed, all associated with nobility, authority and power. However, its counterpart "lady" is not so fortunate as to be reserved specially for the females of nobility.
Lord is the title used in front of the name of British earls, viscounts, marquesses, etc. In Britain, you address a man as “ My Lord” when he is a judge or bishop, or if he is an earl, viscount, marquess, etc.
The word “lord” is also used as part of the title of certain officials of very high rank in Britain. • If someone “lords it over” you, they act in a way that shows that they are better than you.
A “lord” is a man who has a high rank in the British nobility. • In former times, especially in medieval times, a “lord’ was a man who owned land or property and who had power and authority over other people.
The “Lords” is the House Lords; used in slightly informal British English. In the Christian church, “Lord” is used to refer to god and to Jesus Christ.
In the 19th century, George Eliot described “lady” in Silas Marner ( 1851 ) as: " She had the essential attributes of a lady--- high veracity, delicate honour in her dealings, deference to others,and refined personal habits."
Here, the connotation of " woman of refinement " can be felt. However, now, the connotations of the word "lady " are rather different from those of the word "lord" or "gentleman". As far as usage is concerned,"lady" is in many respects actually an equivalent to " man".
Shop assistants in Britain may be referred to as "sales ladies", but not "sales gentlemen", or " sales lords".
“cleaning lady ” , “cleaning man” and “cleaning woman” are good English,but not “cleaning gentleman” or “cleaning lord”
From these examples, it is evident that the term "lady" has undergone pejoration, lost its original glory and become a title for every female.
2) Some female terms reserved for female persons in high places have slipped past respectable women, and acquired obscene references:
The older use of " Madam" as a form of address showing respect still survives as in the greetings by shop assistants, hairdressers and waiters or at the beginning of official letters, however,its primary meaning has changed to " a keeper and procurer of women for men to use for sexual purposes "( Elaine Chaika,1982)
The same fate has also befallen "mistress", a title which used to be the counterpart of "Master". According to CCELD (p.926), a man's mistress is now " a woman who he has a sexual relationship with but is not married to", as is shown in the example: He keeps a mistress.
King and Queen A king is a crowned head. But queen has unfavourable meanings. The first is " male homosexual who acts like a woman". A female homosexual who acts like a man is not called a king, however. Rather, she becomes a butch, an older nickname for a tough, lower class boy.
Master/mistress These were once counterparts of each other, as shown in the children's rhyme " Mistress Mary quite contrary, how does your garden grow?"
The modern Mrs. was originally an abbreviation of Mistress, although today they can seldom, if ever, be interchanged.
Rare survivals of the original meaning of mistress do occur, as in : " The walls are full of pictures of famous people, all of them autographed to the mistress of the house, former movie star Shirley Temple Black".
The first meaning of mistress today is " woman kept by a man for sexual purposes." It is probably not without significance that the surviving pronunciation for the abbreviated spelling Mrs, hides the original derivation from mistress.
Governor/Governess Although governor degenerated briefly in nineteenth-century Cockney slang, the term still refers to men who “ exercise a sovereign authority in a colony, territory, or state". A governess, on the other hand, is chiefly "a nursemaid", operating in a realm much diminished from that of Queen Elizabeth I, who was acknowledged to be "the supreme majesty and governess of all persons" ( OED )
In such words the female term does not take on an immoral sexual connotation, but , instead, adding the feminine ending makes it applicable to a more trivial or low- ranking function than its male counterpart.
In the above example, the actual role denoted is different, but in some words denoting identical functions the feminine ending often carried the implications of less seriousness, as in poetess, sculptress, authoress. Apparently for this reason, many of the older-ess words are rarely used today.
Racial terms like Jewess or Negress sound archaic now. It is not without significance that in earlier times, females of he despised minority groups were designated with the -ess endings, much like females of animals species ( lioness, tigress). There was never, so far as I can tell, *Christianess, *Frenchness, *Italianess, *Caucasianess.
Uncle/Aunt Aunt was generalised first to mean “ an old woman” and then " a bawd or a prostitute". It is the latter meaning which Shakespeare draws upon in lines: " Summer songs for me and my aunts/ As we lie tumbling in the hay" ( Winter's Tale, IV,3,11-12 ).
Man / Woman “man” and “woman”are not symmetric in meaning. While “man” can be used to refer to a servant, it can also be used to refer to a person of high social status, but the word “woman” can not be used to stand for a female of high social status : Do you know that a man must be either a man or a mouse?
“man” also contains the meanings of “courage”，“endurance”，“control”. This is especially true when it is used as a verb. Well, I must man it out. ( to bear up manfully) Only that is poetry which cleanses and mans me. (to fortify the spirit ) Happy is your soul if Christ man the house…and command all. ( to rule )
Collins English Dictionary woman”进行释义时，没有一条释义可以表明 “woman”具有“重要人物”之意。只要是“妇女”似乎就一定“缺乏勇气”，“胆小如鼠”。虽然Collins English Dictionary并没有明确指出妇女的本性是懦弱，但是这本字典对“woman”提供了如下第六条释义： “a man considered as having female characteristics, such as meekness or cowardliness.”，即“具有诸如懦弱，胆小等女性性格的男性”。从这一定义中不难看出这一蕴意。
In English， “woman” not only means“a female servant”，but also“a mistress”. “woman of the street” is a “prostitute”. Cf: She is my woman, so don’t mess with her. * She is my lady, so don’t mess with her.
3) The terms which originated from the words denoting either sex undergo pejoration when used specifically to females now:
Harlot? Often , when they began to undergo pejoration they referred only to women. Take "harlot" for example, it was originally a fellow of either sex, referring more to men than to women in Middle English.
Then, it degenerated further. Shakespeare's harlot king (Winter's Tale II) was characterised as "lewd". However, after Elithabethan times, the word was specialised for women only, meaning first "a disreputable woman" and later " a prostitute". The word " gossip" has also experienced the same pejoration.
Originally, the old English word that lies behind "gossip"(godsibb) meant " a godfather or god mother". This usage can be found in Evelyn's Diary (1649), who once described a child's parents as " being so poor that they had provided no gossips for its christening".
Because godparent was a familiar figure to every family, it gradually took up the meaning of "well-known acquaintance" by the 14th century, with its original meaning gradually forgotten.
Later, in A Midsummer Night's Dream (1590), Shakespeare used " gossip" to refer particularly to a woman's female friends who had been invited to be present at a birth. He was also the first to use it as a verb, as in:
With all my heart, I'll gossip at this feast. ( The Comedy of Errors 1590 ) It is from this use that word has come to mean " talk idly" and specially associated itself with women.
4) The same terms change meanings when applied to each gender: Consider " tramp " for example. CCELD (p.1553) defines its meaning as " a person who has no home or permanent job and very little money" or " a woman who is thought to have sex with a lot of men."
While a person who is homeless, jobless and poor may be a female, a male tramp is generally understood as having no job or no home, however, a female tramp is often interpreted as a loose woman. A loose man is casual, but a loose woman is one who has sex with many men.
Take " Professional " for another example. If you say that a man is a " professional ", you suggest that he is a member of one of the respected professions. If you call a woman " a professional", the implication of her following the oldest profession is dropped.
“pirate”： • 1) a person, especially in former times, who sailed on the sea and stole from other people’s ships. • 2) someone who take and use someone else’s work or property without having the right to do so. • 3) a person or a company that broadcasts illegally.
2．近义词使用与性别歧视 性别歧视不只是表现在词的语义变化之中， 它也表现在词的选择和搭配之中。交际中准确选词十分重要，这是因为同一个事物或概念等在一个社会中有时会有不同的两个或两个以上的词从不同的角度去承载这些语义。各近义词之间客观上存在的细微差异可能是所指语义上的， 也可以是社会意义，情感意义等方面的。 对这些词的研究同样从一个侧面揭示出妇女在社会中的形象。
以英语的 “talk”为例， 它的相关词有 “chat”, “gossip”, “nag”, “gabble”, “prattle”, “babble”, “chatter” 等。 根据Collins English Dictionary， 它们的所指语义为： Chat: to talk in an easy familiar way gossip: to talk casually, idly and maliciously about other people nag: to scold or annoy constantly
gabble: to utter words rapidly and indistinctly prattle: to talk in a foolish or childish way babble: to talk foolishly, incessantly or irrelevantly chatter: to speak ( about unimportant matters) rapidly and incessantly
从以上定义不难看出， 所有这些词汇表示的都是一种无聊的，无实际性内容的闲谈，不包含任何“以学术为目的”的，或“以商业事务为目的的交谈或谈判”之意。所有这些词汇都蕴有 “not desirable” 和 “stupid” 之意。有些词， 如: “prattle”, “babble”和 “chatter”还具有 “childish”的意思；而另一些词，如：“gossip”和 “nag”还具有 “triviality” 和 “nastiness” 的意思。
那么这些词在字典中的使用情况又是怎样的呢？那么这些词在字典中的使用情况又是怎样的呢？ 以Chambers Universal Learners’ Dictionary (1980, edited by EM Kirkputrick, Chambers Ltd. Edinburgn) 为例： Chat: They chatted about the weather. We had a chat over coffee yesterday. He says women’s chat bores him.
Gossip: I never pay attention to gossip. She dropped in for a cup of coffee and a gossip. She is a dreadful gossip. I don’t like people who gossip. She spends the whole day gossiping with her neighbors.
Nag: She nags (at) her husband about their lack of money. Gabble: She was so upset, she was just gabbling. The lady was obviously upset as she gabbled out her story to the policeman.
Prattle: She prattled on about nothing. Babble: The speaker was babbling in a language I couldn’t understand. What are you babbling about now? Chatter: The children chattered when the teacher left the room.