Heard on The Judges: "bartend(e)ress"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sun Jan 25 19:33:25 UTC 2009

At 12:53 PM -0500 1/25/09, Bill Palmer wrote:
>the contrastive "but" implies that the -ess morpheme IS needed in "actress',
>which contradicts the "(unfortunately)"

I was observing that many women who act professionally reject the
view that it's needed, just as women (and men) in previous
generations rejected "poetess", "authoress", "sculptress", "Jewess",
"Negress", etc.  It comes down to whether you think sex is part of
the job description, and even if this is still largely true for
casting roles, there is a clear tradeoff.  Describing Meryl Streep as
the greatest actress of the current era is fainter praise than
describing her as the greatest actor of the current era by narrowing
the comparison set. And "waitress" too is also no longer universally
endorsed, leading to the somewhat risible "waitron", "server", and
friends.  Of course, "waiter", like "bartender", contains no
inherently gender-marked suffix and could be reclaimed for general


>what about "host/hostess"; "headmaster/headmistress" , which come to mind
>immediately, and, no doubt, many others which do not.
>Bill Palmer
>----- Original Message -----
>From: <ronbutters at AOL.COM>
>Sent: Sunday, January 25, 2009 12:15 PM
>Subject: Re: Heard on The Judges: "bartend(e)ress"
>>---------------------- Information from the mail
>>header -----------------------
>>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>Poster:       ronbutters at AOL.COM
>>Subject:      Re: Heard on The Judges: "bartend(e)ress"
>>I agree with Larry that "barmaid" and "bartender" have different meanings.
>>But why not just "bartender"? The -ess morpheme is still (unfortunately)
>>conventional in "actress" but not needed elsewhere.
>>------Original Message------
>>From: Wilson Gray
>>Sender: ADS-L
>>To: ADS-L
>>ReplyTo: ADS-L
>>Subject: [ADS-L] Heard on The Judges: "bartend(e)ress"
>>Sent: Jan 25, 2009 12:41 AM
>>Spoken by Judge Joe Brown:
>>"Oh. She was the_bartend(e)ress_ at a bikini bar."
>>There are a lot of us more-mature men who are unable to get ready for
>>the replacement of "barmaid" by "bartender" and who are, therefore,
>>unconsciously forced to try to do something about it.
>>All say, "How hard it is that we have to die"---a strange complaint to
>>come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
>>-Mark Twain
>>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>>Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry
>>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>No virus found in this incoming message.
>Checked by AVG - http://www.avg.com
>Version: 8.0.176 / Virus Database: 270.10.13/1914 - Release Date: 1/24/2009
>8:40 PM
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list