30 January 2020

-ess

Lion and Lioness
The suffix -ess is interesting. When I was a boy, men who played roles on the stage were known as actors but women were known as actresses. Similarly, on buses men who sold tickets were known as conductors but women were conductresses.

Nowadays we are expected to refer to all members of the acting profession as actors. I don't know when this change happened but  it is now as if the term "actress" is somehow demeaning whereas "actor" suggests gender equality.

It's the same with manager/manageress and poet/poetess. The feminine forms are becoming both archaic and taboo.

Are you with me so far?

Okay, now let's think about some other -ess words. The fellow who is second in line to the British throne is called Prince William. You may have heard of him. You may also have heard of his mother. She was called Princess Diana - not Prince Diana but Princess. I wonder when the politically correct police are going to turn princesses into princes.

Next I think of a lion in Africa lazily flicking his tail under a baobab tree. In his pride there are several lionesses. "Lioness" is of course the term we apply to females of that particular species. It is worth noting that the England women's national football team have happily adopted the nickname  "The Lionesses".

Oh - and here's another one. If you are in a restaurant and a male member of the serving team approaches your table he is of course a waiter but when a woman approaches she is a waitress - not a waiter. Whereas "actress", "poetess" and "conductress" are apparently on their way out, "waitress", "princess" and "lioness" are alive and well in common English  usage.

As Americans are sometimes wont to say - Go figure!

31 comments:

  1. Some of our 'posh' restaurants are now using the strange term - wait staff! Go figure that one.
    Saves the dilemma over calling them waiters / waitresses and one of them being all PC and taking umbrage I suppose.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If I was a waiter I would take umbrage at being called "wait staff".

      Delete
  2. Well, here in the USA we are starting to call anyone who waits on a table a "server." Also, the people we used to call "Stewardess" and "Stewards" are now "Flight Attendants." I love the British use of the word "cleaner" for someone who cleans houses or offices rather than the very old-fashioned word we still often use here which is "Maid."
    Words are powerful.
    I am grateful that in the nursing profession men who are nurses are called "nurses" instead of some sort of bastardization of that word which would indicate which gender they are.
    I guess what I'm saying is- does it matter? I think that it does. The word "professoress" already sounds quaint and outdated. As does poetess.
    The bottom line is this- an actor should be paid the same whether they are male or female. They do the same job. Same for servers. And all of the other examples I've mentioned.
    Now- as to prince and princess- well, some would claim that the very idea of the monarchy is in itself outdate. I'll leave this to you Brits. Frankly, the monarchy amuses me. I would be sad to see it go.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "...outdated." Sorry.

      Delete
    2. I am a feminist and fiercely in favour gender equality - not only in the workplace - but I scorn language changes born of misguided political correctness meted out by people who have not really though things through.

      Delete
  3. You gave me some homework (Go figure) that I don't like. The language changes. There are also changes in English depending on where you live. I've learned a few different words from following the Pudding!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Why not start calling The Micro Manager - The Micro Manageress?

      Delete
  4. If you look to the past you will see that there have always been many generational language changes. Each year new words are added to the dictionary. I get tired of the whole "PC" thing though because what really matters is that people are treated fairly, equally and in jobs they have equal opportunities and pay.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are right Bonnie. The English language is forever evolving but some of that evolution is questionable as in this zone.

      Delete
  5. Like Bonnie says, what matters is how people are treated, not neccessarily what they are called. On the other hand, yes, words are indeed powerful and can shape our conception of a person (individually or as a class/group), so maybe it is not a bad thing that the demeaning forms of address such as the German "Fräulein" disappear.
    Your post made me think of English terms that have always sounded gender-neutral to me, such as teacher, friend, parent, neighbour, passenger, driver, cook, clerk... there are many, and nobody has ever applied an -ess to them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I meant to add that all these words have always had a male and female version in German: Lehrer/Lehrerin, Freund/Freundin, Nachbar/Nachbarin, Koch/Köchin and so on.

      Delete
    2. It is indeed odd how some terms have always been gender neutral whereas others have two forms. Interesting to learn about the German differences and indeed the phasing out of fraulein.

      Delete
  6. Stuff the p/c...gender-neutral b/s.

    Actresses are still actresses to me. an actress is still an actress to me...and I am not changing the descriptions I use fir female thespians for anyone.

    I'm p/c....politely-correct! I'm sick of all the idiotic nonsense that goes on nowadays.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. host/hostess
      headmaster/headmistress
      duke/duchess
      count/countess
      Perhaps the PC brigade will seek to erase these feminine forms too.

      Delete
    2. Headmaster /Headmistress.....now known in many schools as The Principal!

      Delete
    3. Typo alert..."fir" should have been "for"...of course! :)

      Delete
    4. "fir"? I thought that was how Australians pronounced "for".

      Delete
    5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Qx_2I9QBaA

      I almost need a translator to understand this video.....And you make a somewhat sarcastic comment about the way Australians pronounce words? :)

      Delete
    6. This is the comment that I wrote after watching that annoying video:-

      Yorkshire is such a big county that it is home to many different accents and dialect words. There is a sense in which there is no such thing as a general "Yorkshire accent" that is recognisable to all Yorkshire people. I speak as someone who was born and raised in East Yorkshire. The "Yorkshire accent" that you expose is essentially the one that you are familiar with. I don't think Yorkshire accents are strange at all - they are generally earthy and real with clear vowel sounds.

      Delete
  7. And a proper man like you originates from Holdern.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And what about that legendary creature in Scotland? The Loch N Monster.

      Delete
  8. My mum, who in different circumstances I can imagine as a suffragette (suffraget ?!), was very strong in her views that men and women were different and had different societal roles simply because men couldn't bear children . Of course she lived in different economic times too. However she believed absolutely in men and women having equal opportunity in any sphere of economic life. But woe betide the man who didn't open the door for a lady.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nowadays some women may object to having doors held open for them. I like the sound of your feisty mum.

      Delete
    2. A friend of mine was rebuffed very ungraciously for offering his seat on a bus to a very pregnant woman, who declared she was neither old nor ill and he could keep his seat. To have genuine kindness thrown back in your face is rude and does nothing to promote consideration for one's fellow man or woman. He said he would never do it again as he was so embarrassed, which is a real shame.

      Delete
  9. I'm a rebel at heart. I uphold equality at all costs, but you can't change that fact that men are men and women are women from birth. A gender-neutral word is daft. I shall continue to use actress, waitress, headmistress, manageress, hostess and any other -esses. The PC brigade can do one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We are all guardians of the English language. Not all changes should be readily accepted.

      Delete
  10. It's just silly and doesn't help the cause of equality.
    What about man / woman. Woman is short for womb man I presume.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, let's take the political correctness wave to its natural conclusion- woman is man, men are women. Crazy!

      Delete
  11. I'm not fond of some changes in my mother tongue, either, including the ones you have pointed out here, and also including the use, now, of "literally" to mean both "literally" and its opposite, "figuratively". Aargh! In my opinion, that is dumbing down our language.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Actually there is a move afoot to refer to both waiters and waitresses using the genderless term "servers." Kind of like "flight attendants" took over from both stewards and stewardesses. Language continues to evolve (or devolve, depending on your perspective) all around us!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Many Thanks for the shared this informative and interesting post with me.
    io gamesbx 2r 2020 | GamesBX 2 app 2020 | Mobileplaynow 2020 | Trendsgame 2020

    ReplyDelete

Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.

Most Visits