Friday, April 20, 2012


I was looking up the Latin root for victim and victory, thinking if it was the same I could contemplate how these words could become so opposite in meaning. Webster said victim is from Lat. victima. Victory is Lat. victoria, victor. Close, but no cigar.

Then I spied victress: A woman who defeats an opponent. This word isn't used very often. I went on a hunt.

We use heiress but not huntress. Actress but not doctress. Baroness but not conductress. Why don't we use ambassadress? Aviatress? Adulteress? Why have some words that denote 'woman who does ....' fallen into disuse, and others stuck?

Will women reclaim these words in the future? Will we be happy with gender neutral descriptors: doctor, lawyer, banker, president?

What would an alternative universe be like if women had held power in the past and men were struggling for equality? Would they want to be doctresses?


Sheila Tenold said...

Interesting thought, Morgan. If women had ruled the world I'm sure men would fight for equality just as women have fought. Personally, I'm fine with gender neutral descriptors. I want males and females to pull together not apart in this crazy challenging world.

Mona Risk said...

Ana, this is a delightful post. Women are nurses. Some men are nurses now, but they haven't found a masculin word. LOL

Angela Kay Austin said...

I'm one of those gender neutral gals. But, truthfully, I didn't know about some of these words. It does make you wonder what the world would've been like if these words and attitudes weren't forgotten.

Ana Morgan said...

Words carry power, hidden and underlying as well as overt beat-over-the-head. We assume correctness based on our past experiences.

eg. Conjure an image of the President. How many of us picture a white male Protestant? Someday a woman will change the stereotype. Permanently, I hope.

Josie said...

Interesting post. Yes, some words are "tresses" and some are not. it should be more consistent.