More random gender-giri

....continued from here.

You almost never hear the epithet 'bastard' being hurled abusively at a woman, do you? It's always a man who's one. It's almost as if it's de facto rule, which is rather strange, given that in the purest sense, both genders can be born to the title.

Is it something about the word, perhaps? Maybe the hard ending syllable that makes it feel more masculine? (hmmm...could words themselves have genders? Find linguist. Discuss.)

Or is it a subsconscious way of balancing the scale, given that there's one definitive abusive term for females ('bitch'), but there isn't for males? Like the way we've almost-universally allocated the word gay to mean only male homosexuals, even though it defines both.

I mean, Gay and Lesbian Parade/Ball/Rights? Redundant usage, surely (although I can see why it might have been done - it probably made it less of a shocker to the fence-sitters than if it were announced as a Homosexual Parade). Come to think about it, even the word homosexual is now more or less coopted by males of such a persuasion. People mostly seem to declare themselves to be hetero-, homo- or lesbian.

...Ok that's it. Go do your own thinking now.

Edit: Some of the comments reminded me that I might have posted something related to this a while back. And I was right. Apparently, I'm now down to recycling old content.


Purely Narcotic said...

given that there's one definitive abusive term for females ('bitch')Do you know/have any clue how offended all the women knocking themselves out over the 'swine' in swine flu would be?

??! said...

Actually, that's the meta-term. Technically, it's boars and sows.

But that goes to prove my point. Another word co-opted to refer to one gender, when it refers to both.

Aishwarya said...

Which comes first? Do we gender the neutral terms male after the female-only ones are invented, or do we have to invent female-specific terms because anything neutral ends up defaulting to male?

??! said...

Ah, very valid points. And one that perhaps you're better qualified to talk about. So....

Mystique said...

most languages other than english DO have masc n feminine words.

Shefaly said...


I think it is the "tard" (phonetic pun) in bastard that makes it a male-sounding thing. ;-)

Yes, words can have genders, and there can be and are gender-specific words (there was a whole long discussion over at Usha Vaidyanathan's blog about why there is no word in Tamil for 'infertile man' while there are words for 'infertile woman'. Apparently infertility and impotency should have two separate words so my suggestion that the word 'napunsak' existed in Sanskrit for an infertile man wasn't deemed enough; then it started getting technical etc so I checked out).

At the very least least, apart from the bald English language, adjectival words have gender-declensions in all European and most Indo-Germanic languages. Many animate and inanimate things (nouns) also have genders. Often the same gender may describe two things which may 'appear' to be different genders - die Bank is both the bank (male somehow) and the bench (more feminine). C'est la vie (fem. Fr, lit. life).

??! said...

My error here - I should have explained better.

I do know that words describe things in a masculine and feminine form. But that's the masculine and feminine of that particular object/feeling/whatever. My musing was whether words themselves can be said to be intrinsically male or female, rather than merely defining something as male or female.

Semantics, and possibly pointless, but fun.

Veena said...

Not sure about balancing the scale. I thought bastard / SOB etc. are aimed at offending person by maligning his mother. When the person in question is a woman herself, then you don't need to go to her mother as you can call her a bitch. No?

Shyam said...

Go do your own thinking nowAw, do we have to? Seems more fun when you do it. And write about it :)

km said...

Have you read the Wiki entry for the word? Some interesting facts in there.

(However, when the word is used as a non-pejorative, it is used for both sexes. Like "actor".)

This argument over gender-specific "gaalis" should be extended to our desi terms of endearment.

km said...

Forgot to add:

My musing was whether words themselves can be said to be intrinsically male or female..Now we are getting into Metaphysics territory here :)

A map is not the landscape it describes...a map drawn on a scale of 1:1 would be redundant, not to mention unfoldable.

Remember Bruce Lee's immortal words about the finger and the moon?

That said, the Bible ascribes much power to the Word.

??! said...

But then you can insult a woman that way too na? Or is it because of the whole mama's boy thing?

Also, I would've thought the insult was more to the person, implying that they were a mistake, and were unwanted.

You sure want this blog to keep going, huh?

Shefaly's point comes into play when you discuss Indian abuses. I can certainly think of a couple which have male/female options, although most are generic too.

And also, you can have the idea of love, but you can also have the idea of the idea of love. Self-determination forever baby.

km said...

but you can also have the idea of the idea of love. Ever asked the idea of idea of love out on a date?

DewdropDream said...

In a hurry, stopped by to say you've been linked to in a post. Shall come by again and have my say on tis post later.

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Sigh. Opening up whole new avenues of thought - crowded, hazy, honking avenues - on poll day. Must you?

And KM, I do NOT like the unisex use of 'actor'. Just because Cate Blanchett plays Bob Dylan, we can't have actresses any more?


brinda said...

It's always a man who's one Probably because women are seldom so opprobious? Sorry, couldn't resist that! As for the rest, don't words have genders? From what little I remember, Sanskrit and some other languages attribute genders based on word endings. Or am I hopelessly confused? Damn, have to go fish out the linguistics books now!
Oh, and Aishwarya, do we have to invent female-specific terms because anything neutral ends up defaulting to male? The word 'actress', apparently, was made up because the gender-neutral 'actor' was considered masculine by default...

??! said...


I was actually wrong there. I meant to say "there's love, and then there's the idea of love". Not that it matters.

I saw, I saw. And post.

One's timing has been off for a while. Much apologies.

And with you on the KM thing.

This reminded me that I had posted on something similar a while back. Here it is.