Mark Mandel thnidu at GMAIL.COM
Mon Jan 26 15:07:47 UTC 2009

If we are looking at a recent change, raw ghits may be unreliable because we
don't know when they were uttered. 20k hits of Mae West, Katharine Hepburn,
and their contemporaries saying "I am an actress" (to pull numbers out of
the air) would seriously skew the counts. While all the counts would be
blindly spread across a span of many decades, such "time dil*u*tion" would
obscure any changes. We would expect "dictionaries & style manuals" to be
weighted toward older usage, if only because data collection, analysis, and
publishing haven't caught up.

Mark Mandel

On Sun, Jan 25, 2009 at 10:35 PM, <RonButters at> wrote:

> Admittedly a Google search is only a very rough indicator of linguistic=20
> reality, but it presents useful empirical evidence nonetheless--and
> indicate=
> s that=20
> many more female actors call themselves "actress" than "actor". Here are
> som=
> e=20
> results:
> "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"=
> =20
> by third persons is roughly NINE times the identification as "actor."
> While=20
> one cannot determine what percentage of hits for "I am an actor" was
> actuall=
> y=20
> uttered by women, a cursory check of the first 20 hits indicates that
> the=20
> utterers are primarily men, not women. Still, the fact that the lower
> number=
>  for "I=20
> am an actress" (as compared to "I am an actor") could be taken to mean
> that=20=
> as=20
> 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=20
> Ann's perception that "women actors call themselves ... 'actor'...". The=20
> statistics seem to indicate that most do not. So, if the criterion is=20
> self-identification, then "actress" would seem to be more popular among
> fema=
> le actors than=20
> "actor," though "actor" hopefully represents a healthy (and, I personally
> ho=
> pe,=20
> growing) minority.=20
> Given the relatively low numbers for "She is an actor," however, I don't=20
> think that I can agree with Larry's claim that "best actress" is a
> narrower=20
> category than "best actor," though I am also powerfully influenced buy the
> A=
> cademy=20
> 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,=A0 <ronbutters at> wrote:
> -----
> > >
> > > But there is a difference between what one might prefer and actual
> usage=
> .=20
> > If dictionaries & style manuals are accurate, ACTRESS is still widely=20
> > accepted, whereas WAITRESS is increasingly avoided as "sexist."
> >=20
> > When I listen to what women actors call themselves, it's "actor", so
> > that is what I call them.

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