"I have absolutely no control over my _public_ muscles."

Ronald Butters ronbutters at AOL.COM
Tue Dec 7 18:58:16 UTC 2010

Not only does it not "speak volumes," as it stands it says virtually nothing about American education.

Couldn't it just have been a one-time slip of the tongue? (or ear?)

Could it have been a joke? a euphemism?

But even if it was a mispronunciation or this young woman's merger of "pubic" and "public," can we really generalize that education has failed young people "in volumes" simply because one person confused two confusable words? Are we justified in believing that in some golden age in the past (say, 1960), "gender education" was so much better than it is today that no one of comparable education would ever confuse the two words?

In the 1980s I was told about a woman who had who had a difficult childbirth who told her doctor she needed a diagram to ward off another pregnancy. OMG! 

And how, by the way, do we know that the woman was white? And why do we need to know that, anyway? Are we supposed to be more surprised that a white woman would confuse "public" and "pubic" than if a nonwhite woman had made such a mistake?


On Dec 6, 2010, at 10:31 PM, Wilson Gray wrote:

> Spoken by a young white woman of 23, a college grad, who had
> self-diagnosed herself via Google as being afflicted with vaginismus.
> Apparently, she'd never had occasion to hear the word "pubic" spoken,
> being familiar with it only as a consequence of her research.
> "That speaks volumes," to coin a phrase, about the depth and breadth
> of gender-education in the United States.

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

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