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Those Evil Sexy Genders On:2007-02-02 04:40:06

Right! Now listen up, you lot! I’m going to tell you this, and I’m going to tell you just this once “Words have gender: people (if they are lucky) have sex!!”

You can forget all about namby-pamby descriptive linguistics for a moment, it’s time now for some proscriptive linguistics, and it is time we got all spade-is-a-spady and lowered our mealy-mouth quotient and called a sex a sex and a gender a gender .
You see ‘sex’ has been in the English language since way back in the later fourteenth century when we pinched it from Old French or maybe Latin (according to the Oxford English Dictionary) and has always primarily meant as a noun “Either of the two divisions of organic beings distinguished as male and female respectively” and as a verb what they occasionally get up to, whereas gender is a grammatical term that really has nothing desperately essential to do with sex. It comes into English from French also way back in the fourteenth century; at first meaning (and also according to the Oxford English Dictionary) “Kind, sort, class; also, genus as opposed to species.” and by the end of that century had also got to mean what it meant from then until the middle of the twentieth century: “Each of the three (or in some languages two) grammatical ‘kinds’,” (which it puts in quotes) “corresponding more or less to distinctions of sex (and absence of sex) in the objects denoted”.
And it’s true, you know, even if it is those money-grubbing swine at the OED who say it; indeed some languages have genders for everything, for example in French (whence, remember, we got the word) table is feminine even if it’s a big butch boardroom table pickled in cigar smoke and brandy. Then again take the curious case of das Mädchen---in German all girls without exception are neuter! Which, unless I’ve missed a rather significant aspect of the biology of the Germans does rather hint at their being a difference between sex and gender... at least for German girls. And this difference persisted (and believe me persisted for more than just German girls) right up to, say, the 1960s when poor little ‘sex’ was kicked out and a shocked and embarrassed ‘gender’ was dragged into the linguistic sex trade in it’s place.
Now I blame those feminist guys for this use of ‘gender’ instead of ‘sex’: they’re the ones who made it a frightening word and if you don’t believe me then take a moment to try this little experiment at home. I’ve got my stopwatch ready so listen to me carefully:
Sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex
by now, if the results of my earlier experiments are confirmed, the greater part of you (and for these results it doesn’t matter whether I’m addressing you as a group or as an individual) the greater part of you is now quivering on the floor in a foetal position too traumatised even to turn off the radio in disgust.

So, here we are in the early twenty-first century, seeing that Nancy is now third in line for Pres and dear old Hillary is almost certainly a shoo-in for 2008; and it’s time for feminists everywhere to stop being cruel to those two poor innocent little words and replace political correction with etymological sensitivity and let them slip back to their rightful places and the rest of us resume normal service as soon as possible.

I mentioned those money-grubbing swine at the OED earlier and I must, to my shame, admit that I finally succumbed and paid their outrageous danegeld, so now honour requires that I use the bloody thing as much as possible so I delved deeper into gender and discovered that, of course, if you trace back as hypothetically far as you can, ‘gender’ meets up with words like ‘kin ’ and eventually the Greek γενος and Sanskrit jánas and ends up (or rather begins up), in that ancient ancestor of the Indo-European family with an etymon meaning something like “engender, beget”, which come to think of it is ... is
So just forget this essay and
Cheerio for now
and ...Um nevermind
Richard Howland-Bolton

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