RonButters at AOL.COM RonButters at AOL.COM
Mon Jan 26 03:35:04 UTC 2009

Admittedly a Google search is only a very rough indicator of linguistic 
reality, but it presents useful empirical evidence nonetheless--and indicates that 
many more female actors call themselves "actress" than "actor". Here are some 

"I am an actress"--52,400 hits
"She is an actress"--93,000 hits
"I am an actor"--93,000 hits
"She is an actor"--10,800 hits.

This indicates to me that the identification of female actors as "actresses" 
by third persons is roughly NINE times the identification as "actor." While 
one cannot determine what percentage of hits for "I am an actor" was actually 
uttered by women, a cursory check of the first 20 hits indicates that the 
utterers are primarily men, not women. Still, the fact that the lower number for "I 
am an actress" (as compared to "I am an actor") could be taken to mean that as 
many as 20% or so of the "I am an actor" respondents are women.

In the end, though, 52,400 hits for "I am an actress" seems to disconfirm 
Ann's perception that "women actors call themselves ... 'actor'...". The 
statistics seem to indicate that most do not. So, if the criterion is 
self-identification, then "actress" would seem to be more popular among female actors than 
"actor," though "actor" hopefully represents a healthy (and, I personally hope, 
growing) minority. 

Given the relatively low numbers for "She is an actor," however, I don't 
think that I can agree with Larry's claim that "best actress" is a narrower 
category than "best actor," though I am also powerfully influenced buy the Academy 
Awards distinction (as I am sure the public in general still is).

In a message dated 1/25/09 9:34:43 PM, ann at writes:

> On Sun, Jan 25, 2009 at 4:05 PM,  <ronbutters at> wrote:
> > ---------------------- Information from the mail header 
> -----------------------
> > Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> > Poster:       ronbutters at AOL.COM
> > Subject:      ACTRESS vs. WAITRESS
> > 
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> >
> > But there is a difference between what one might prefer and actual usage. 
> If dictionaries & style manuals are accurate, ACTRESS is still widely 
> accepted, whereas WAITRESS is increasingly avoided as "sexist."
> When I listen to what women actors call themselves, it's "actor", so
> that is what I call them.

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