man+(noun) combining form

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sat Oct 1 17:09:31 UTC 2005

At 3:49 PM -0400 9/30/05, Carl Burnett wrote:
>In the days before gender-neutral nouns like "flight attendant," when
>people wanted to refer to a woman in an occupation or role
>traditionally done by men, they used suffixes like -ess and -ette.
>Occasionally you also hear the prefix/combing form she-, as in "she-
>devil" or "she-wolf."  Another alternative is to use a noun like
>"girl," "woman," or "lady" in adjectival position, as in "Furthermore
>Dawn Pathorpe, the lady showjumper, had a clam called Stafford, after
>the late chancellor."
>But what about when the gender associated with a noun is usually
>assumed to be FEmale, but the speaker wants to emphasize that, in a
>particular case, it is associated with a male?  I can only think of
>one solution to this problem that has been around long enough to have
>made its way into dictionaries: the word "manservant," which
>presumably arose out of a need to distinguish your valet/butler from
>all those female servants.

The corresponding cases involving males in roles for which a female
practitioner is unmarked have standardly taken the form "male X":
"male nurse" (cf. "female/lady/woman doctor"), "male secretary",
"male prostitute".  I don't know if they're in dictionaries, given
the compositionality of the semantics, but the same is true for
"female/woman doctor" (cf. the much earlier "petticoat physician"),
"lady lawyer", etc.  One difference is that the marked-male cases
always seem to involve "male" rather than "man" as the modifier.
(I'm not sure "manservant" was prompted by the previous default of
women as the unmarked servants.)

There's also the back-formation option:  "steward" (for male flight
attendant), "Jewish American Prince"

>Recently, however, I've noticed a profusion of (mostly jocular)
>occurrences of the "man-" combining form -- only one or two of them
>in combination with traditionally female roles, but many more with
>traditionally female body parts, clothes, or accessories.
>For example:
>female roles:
>"man-whore" (213,000 hits on Google) including one-word, two-word,
>and hyphenated variations)
>"man-bitch" (32,300, although not all are relevant)
>"man-slut" (15,100 Googits, In English anyway)
>female body parts:
>"man-boobs" (289,000)
>"man-tits" (45,000)
>"mangina" (man+vagina, 91,300, but not all relevant because this is
>also a surname, believe it or not.  Popularized by the film "Deuce
>Bigalo: Male Gigolo)
>female clothing/accessories:
>"man-thong" (51,400)
>"man-purse" (48,300; popularized by a "Seinfeld" episode)
>"man-panties" (46,000)

not "manties"?

>"man-bra" (32,100)

cf. also "bro" and "manzeer", discussed earlier on this list (and
also on Seinfeld)


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