Antedating of "Double Standard"

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Thu Sep 12 22:40:46 UTC 2013

Reminds me of the discussion as to whether "drink" and "drank" are distinct
lexical items in a dialect in which "drank" is the only spoken form.

On Wed, Sep 11, 2013 at 10:48 AM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at>wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: Antedating of "Double Standard"
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> Very nice find, Fred.  But I would argue for a distinction between an
> example like the one below ("there is a double standard of morals") and the
> general (< 1951?) use of "the double standard" to refer to, well, "a rule,
> principle, judgement, etc., viewed as applying more strictly to one group
> of people, set of circumstances, etc., than to another; *applied
> specifically to a code of sexual behaviour that is more rigid for women
> than for men*"--especially with that specific reference.  Even now, if we
> note that a banker who swindles millions gets off with a slap on the wrist
> (and probably a hefty bonus) while the low-level employee caught raiding
> the till gets 5 years in prison we might not feel comfortable saying
> "that's the (old) double standard" without providing additional context
> "that's the old double standard in a capitalist society harking back to
> Victor Hugo [or whoever]", since the primary sense of the expression out of
> context is still the one involving sexual code!
>  s of behavior.   This is especially the case if there are no clear
> examples between 1884 and 1951 in which "the double standard" tout court
> clearly evokes that specific reference to asymmetry in sexual codes.
> One argument for a distinction is precisely that between "a double
> standard" and "the double standard", the "the" assumes uniqueness and/or
> hearer's familiarity (and where there's nothing earlier in the discourse
> for the "the" to pick up on).
> LH
> On Sep 10, 2013, at 10:44 PM, Shapiro, Fred wrote:
> > double standard (OED 1951)
> >
> > 1884 _American Law Journal_ 1: 339 (HeinOnline)  There can not exist a
> healthy state of society where there is a double standard of morals -- one
> standard for the husband, and another, and quite different standard, for
> the wife. ... Making it a serious thing for a husband to trifle with his
> connubial duties, which it always should be, is likely to be far-reaching
> in French society, and cannot fail to bear good fruit.
> >
> > Fred Shapiro
> >
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