Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Feb 5 01:21:10 UTC 2003

At 10:44 AM +1000 2/5/03, Prof. R. Sussex wrote:
>On political correctness: "temptress" isn't much used. I had an email
>from a friend (female) who works for a computer distributor, offering
>various deals; I emailed back "Temptress!" and then realized that
>it's problematic to correct that to "tempter" - though to be sure,
>"temptress" has some arch connotations which are not consistent with
>gender equality.
>"Princess" can't become "prince". "Actress" is still in place with
>the Oscars. Are there more?
>Roly Sussex
Actually, a growing number of women who act on stage or the silver
screen call themselves "actors" these days, on the general theory
that to be an actress is to be compared only to others in the
intersection of the set of women and the set of those who perform for
a living, so that a great actress isn't necessarily great at acting
(as with "poetess", "sculptress", and other feminine nouns that are
moribund or extinct).  True, the Academy still considers (male)
actors and actresses in distinct categories, but it does get
complicated, as some may remember in the case of Jaye Davidson in
_The Crying Game_, among others.  And at least one female ruler
objected a while ago to the sex-limitation imposed by the suffix of
"princess"--recall Queen Elizabeth I's declaration "We are an
absolute prince", which I've always treasured for the problems it has
with number AND gender.  In the current era, you can compliment a man
by "You're a true prince" (sincerely or ironically), but the
corresponding "You're a true princess" doesn't work in the same way
(or "prince among men" vs. "princess among women").  So there's no
real symmetry in these cases (besides the fact that you can become a
princess (or a queen) through marriage to a prince (or king), but a
man can achieve princehood or kinghood only on his own.  Another pair
that for some is still used along the traditional lines is
"waiter"/"waitress", but many have become uncomfortable with those,
opting for "server" or "waitron", as discussed a while ago on the


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