Creative Genius

Jessica Weinberg weinberg at U.ARIZONA.EDU
Fri Nov 12 22:27:00 UTC 1999

I have to say that I disagree that grammar vs. glamour doesn't have much
in it for feminist purposes.  Word meaning is not just about etymology,
but about current day-to-day usage.  And if grammar and glamour are "the
same word" etymologically, then perhaps the difference in how the two are
used today is related to the phenomenon of gendered lexical pairs in which
the female-associated term undergoes semantic derogation -- e.g.,
master/mistress, governor/governess, prince/princess, etc.  Obviously,
"grammar" is a thing that both women and men use -- today even in the
sense of being grammarians and/or linguists.  But I think there are ways
in which "glamour" is popularly attributed to women more than to men.
It's not clear that "glamour" is a negative thing per se, but the fact
that it places emphases on a woman's looks and social popularity, rather than on
her achievements, intellect, etc., the encouragement to aspire to glamour
may be limiting for women/girls.


Jessica Weinberg
University of Arizona
Depts. of Anthropology and Linguistics
weinberg at

On Fri, 12 Nov 1999, Karl V. Teeter wrote:

> Jill you are not wrong, but basically right. although I don't know about
> "patriarchal English". You still did not get to the L variant of the word,
> which is a dissimilative way of saying "grammar". We grammarians tend to
> feel that grammar is still magic. As for prophet, prophetess is an explicit
> female derivative.
>          As for gramarye, used for grammar schools too: from my folksong
> repertoire, "There was a woman, she lived alone; some babies she had three;
> she sent them off to the north counterey; to learn their gramarye" this is
> a sad song, you know it? Next verse: "They hadn't been there, but about
> three weeks; about three weeks and a day; when that cold death spread
> abroad in the land, and swep' her babes away." No grammatical sorcery here,
> just life... Sorry for grandstanding, but I don't think "grammar" vs.
> "glamour" has much in it for feminist purposes....  Yours, Karl
> At 08:18 AM 11/12/99 -0800, you wrote:
> >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
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>Do You Yahoo!?
> >>>Bid and sell for free at <>Yahoo! Auctions.
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >Do You Yahoo!?
> >Bid and sell for free at <>Yahoo! Auctions.

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