1. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    Some words are too good to be true

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Cacian, Dec 13, 2011.

    I always find some words catchier then others
    like CHILD

    My first instinct is to think it is a masculin word.
    No idea why.

    For Example:
    The child was playing outside.

    what would your first reaction be?



    The person/the individual/the friend/the school teacher all underline a masculin feeling about them.
     
  2. AmsterdamAssassin
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    AmsterdamAssassin Contributing Member

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    Uh, girl? :D

    Any sentence without context is open to interpretation. I tend to suspend gender specifics until I get an inkling what gender the character is supposed to be. And if the author fails to do so within the first few sentences, I tend to put the book away and select another book.
     
  3. AmsterdamAssassin
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    Double post, please delete.
     
  4. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    That is again not enough context because you are now assuming that only girls play with dolls.
    Am I being too pedantic?
    What I mean as writer shoud we be propagating myths and cliches or shall we write to modernise an audience by adjourning all traditional dated stereotypes?
     
  5. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    None of these have a solely 'masculine' feeling about them.

    Now I won't say that when I hear words like 'nurse' or 'builder', I don't have expectations on what gender they may be..

    But 'child'? Or 'school teacher'? Nope. Same for many other jobs.
     
  6. AmsterdamAssassin
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    AmsterdamAssassin Contributing Member

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    I don't assume, I associate. I have a boy and a girl. Both were offered both miniature cars and dolls. The boy likes to take cars and have them violently collide, the girl drags a doll everywhere she goes. And in the mind of most people, cars are associated with boy toys, and dolls with girl toys. If I have nothing else to go by, I associate a child playing with a doll to be a female child, unless I receive information that negates that association.

    Writing is an association game. That's why you write something like: Frank looked out the window at Mary playing in the courtyard. The child was dragging a cart over the cobblestones, the teddybears inside bouncing around, almost spilling out. Taken by itself, the second sentence could denote a boy or a girl, but the first sentence sets up the gender specifics.
     
  7. AmsterdamAssassin
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    Again, experience counts here. In the Netherlands, the majority of school teachers are women, not men. So if I read, John's teacher told him to stay after school, I associate teacher with female, not with male. However, someone who was raised in the English boarding school system might have other associations.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i don't see how or why anyone would assume those words to refer to males...
     
  9. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Those terms are gender neutral to me. I find the idea that words like person, individual, or friend have a masculine association to be bizarre.
     
  10. Ocean Seven
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    Ocean Seven New Member

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    Quite a good point. When I see "The child was playing outside.", I automatically see a girl because of what I typically see around where I live, and to a degree, who I am. I see more girls playing outside, while most of the boys are inside. As well, who I am- a once-was hyper little kid who could not and would not shut up, now a five-seven skin-and-bones guy who would much rather sit inside and brainstorm than go outside and wound himself (as well, my writing is horrible so I have to type)- also influences my perception of which gender I associate with 'child' with little context.

    ...Okay, maybe it also has a little to do with the fact that I keep seeing this annoying eleven year old- er, to be socially correct, my sister- in such a case, which likely has to do with the fact that I'd rather her appear elsewhere than in my face.
     
  11. lostinwebspace
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    I dunno about not having any suspensions. I think everyone does with almost every word.

    There are social stereotypes bound to words, so I find it hard to believe anyone can totally suspend gender specifics. I know you said you tend to, which implies you try to suspend them but not suspend them every time, but it's harder than you make it out to be. For instance, at least in my mind, I'll automatically associate--and I'm sorry if this sounds sexist because that's not my intent--police officer, surgeon, soldier, stunt car driver, heart attack victim, Nazi, and brat with men or boys. I'll automatically associate nurse, little angel, fiery redhead, stylist, gospel singer, and teacher with women or girls. Let's face it. I'd bet every one of us would think someone who is "frogs and snails and puppy-dog tails" to be a boy even though the person could be a girl.

    So, until the writer breaks my preconceived notions, I'll always picture one gender to a character. I don't know if it's necessarily bad if the author fails to tell me, but only if the author is playing to my preconceived notions. It's just like we fill in the blanks about any character. If a story introduces a surgeon, we don't have to be told about the coat or the steady hands. So if the story introduces a boxer, do we necessarily have to be spoonfed the gender (unless the person turns out to be a woman, i.e. breaks our expectations)?

    Anyway, about the OP, my first expectation/what I picture first about a child playing outside is a boy of about six or seven bouncing a ball around the yard.
     

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