language

Recent posts

Why To Keep Using The Word “Feminism”

We’ve all run into someone who says things like, “Yeah, I agree with a lot of feminism, I just don’t like calling myself a feminist because [XYZ].” One common reason given is that feminism is (supposedly) just about improving women’s living conditions, while the speaker considers him/herself a humanist, someone who wants to raise all of humanity. Which is a nice idea, but there are, in fact, specific reasons to describe oneself as a feminist. And no, they do not include hating men. The brilliant blogger Spacefem describes her reasons for doing so in a blog post here. Continue Reading →

Why “They” and “Them” Will Never Work

I’m all about gender-neutral pronouns. The English language, once again, fails us when it comes to those that don’t fit within the norm (see my post on the limits of the English language for reference). Like many languages, English pretty much only allows us two options for singular gendered pronouns: he/him/his and she/her/hers. Those within the queer community (and allies/supporters) have been subverting these language norms for years. In fact, it’s been happening for a lot longer than I thought! Continue Reading →

More Erotic And Obscene Words

As a follow-up to my post explaining folk speech and sexual slang, I thought I would provide some examples of so-called “dirty” words in the English language: George Carlin’s Incomplete List of Impolite Words (link goes to Youtube video). This is, obviously, SO not safe for work due to the various taboo words being pronounced aloud with relish. Though I’m a folklorist and sex scholar, many words in the video were new to me. The endless creativity that goes into describing and naming sexual acts is quite astounding! Follow us on Twitter @mysexprofessor. Continue Reading →

Jealousy And Language

Jealousy is a problem that irks many a relationship. It’s possible to be jealous of many different kinds of people or things, to be jealous of people who have what you want, or are with who you want to be with. You can be envious or someone for being the kind of person you’re not. In many instances, though, jealousy in the context of relationships means feeling annoyed or frustrated or hurt or angry when your partner (or love interest or crush object) pays attention to someone else instead of you, whether that means going so far as cheating or simply flirting. Since I have the good fortune to be a relatively un-jealous person, friends often come to me for advice about how to handle jealousy issues. Continue Reading →

Folk Speech And Sexual Slang

In my field, Folklore, we study not only fairy tales and community celebrations but also language itself. Like linguists, we’re interested in dialect and the regional and cultural variations between language uses and meanings. The term we use for this area is “folk speech.” A guide to teaching verbal folklore defines folk speech as including:

Regional accents, like “Hyde Pork”/”Hyde Park” or “warsh”/”wash”; local terms, specialized language, and other elements that make up the distinctive speech patterns of a region, folk group, or occupation. Children have elaborate specialized language, which includes personalized names for games, such as “butt ball” for dodgeball; distinctive phraseology, such as “let’s bust some moves” for “let’s dance”; and distinctive languages, such as piglatin. Continue Reading →

Sex, Baseball & Pizza: Metaphors Are Confusing

One of my favorite webcomics, Girls With Slingshots, recently had a very entertaining strip .  I think it highlights the importance of establishing common definitions when talking about sex. In many cases, colloquial terminology about sex is intentionally vague because people are uncomfortable talking about it. This can unfortunately cause a lot of misunderstandings and leave all members of the conversation confused about what actually happened. Continue Reading →