Creative Genius

Jill Lyon jilyon99 at YAHOO.COM
Fri Nov 12 16:18:45 UTC 1999


I thought that grammer comes from the Latin word "grammatica" which means pertaining to letters or literature, so that in the middle ages it was synonymous with learning in general, especially the knowledge particular to the learned class (male).  Then the Old French word "grimoire" (book of magic) was introduced into the literary language by Sir Walter Scott, so the word "gramarye" was a corrupt form of grammar that became associated with witchcraft (female).  To cast a glamour meant the incantation of enchantment and spells.  Were the grammars of patriarchal English  actually glamours:  rules invented to describe men's ideas of how language ought to behave?

How did I go so wrong?

I'm also wondering about the word prophet, which isn't defined as being male only, but includes prophetess after the definition.  Would that be gendered?

"Karl V. Teeter" <kvt at FAS.HARVARD.EDU> wrote:
Dear Jill, your speculation is interesting, but I fear it is not supported by the etymologies of grammar and glamour. These are variants of the same word and associated because in the middle ages grammar was one of the seven lively arts, and as such  inherently mystical, and glamorous. Some linguists still find it so and not, I think, on a gender-related basis.  Yours, kvt  (=Karl V.Teeter, Professor of Linguistics, Emeritus, Harvard University
At 08:25 AM 11/11/99 -0800, you wrote:

I am an artist interested in how language defines the image of women portrayed an art and women artitsts.  I want to study how the etymology of several words exclude her from the definition of artist and limit ther to being an object on display.  However, I am not a linguist and I was wondering if anyone might be able to help me.  I think that from the histories of grammer and glamour it is evident that the patriarchal culture continues:  man acts;  woman is acted upon; hero saves heroine.  The muse of the artistic genius is a fetished female fantasy.  I don't want to intrude on your listserve, but I have been following it since last spring and I find it very interesting and informative.  Thanks for your time and ideas.

Jill Lyon




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