Male conversations

Male (single sex) conversations

Can you guess who is speaking in this transcript? Analyse the dialogue below.


Uh you know that really gay guy in our Age of Revolution class who sits in front of us? He wore shorts again, by the way, it’s like 42 degrees out he wore shorts again[laughter] it’s like a speedo, he wears a speedo to class he’s got incredibly skinny legs, you know


You know like those shorts women volleyball players wear?  It’s like those it’s like French cut spandex


You know what’s even more ridiculous? When you wear those shorts and like a parka on


He’s either got some condition that he’s got to like have his legs exposed all the time or else he’s got really good legs


He’s probably he’s he’s like he’s like at home combing his leg hairs


He really likes his legs


He doesn’t have any leg hair though


He really likes his legs


Very long very white and very skinny


Yes and oh those ridiculous Reeboks that are always (indecipherable) and goofy white socks always striped tube socks


He’s the antithesis of man

The point of reading this  transcript is that to any normal person they features and the nature of the transcript means that is appears to be a group of females However, actually this was a group of males. This research came from Deborah Cameron, who basically believed you can never know – males and females are very similar.

So what features did we find in this transcript?


  • Intensifiers ‘incredibly’
  • Fixed expressions ‘you know’
  • Filer ‘like’
  • Specialised vocabulary ‘French cut spandex’
  • Support 
  • Empty adjective ‘ridiculous’
  • Knowledge of female topic – apparel ‘Reeboks’
  • Initiation
  • Cooperative
  • Bitchiness 
  • Hedging ‘its like’
  • repetition ‘really likes his legs



Language and Gender: Semantic Derogation

Introduction to semantic derogation

As an introduction, we were a list of words to see if they were used mainly to refer to females or males. The point of this exercise was to be introduced to the sexist aspect of the English Language.

Word – (F) or (M) or (F+M)

Bitch – (F)

Chick – (F)

Cow – (F)

Crumpet – (F)

Honey – (F)

Kitten – (F)

Old biddy – (F)

Stud – (M)

Sugar – (F)

Sweetie – (F)

Tart – (F)

Wolf – (M)

What this exercised showed is that there are more gender specific words for women and as we will see later much of this are in the negative sense and put women down, making our beloved language sexist. 

Janet Holmes 1992

In class we were given an extract from ‘An introduction to sociolinguistics’ by Janet Holmes (1992). 

Summary of her points

  • English metaphors available to describe women in derogatory images are more than those available to describe men.
  • Animal imagery is a key area in which women are belittled compare bitch and cow to stud and wolf. For men at least they show some positive imagery such as wiliness or sexual prowess. However, for women even so called positive terms such as kitten and chick are sweet but helpless pets.
  • Food imagery is another key aspect where women are put down. Saccharine terms are now mainly used in reference to women whereas there is hardly any food imagery relating to men except the odd ‘honey’. Words which clearly has a negative sexual connotations such as ‘tart’ and ‘crumpet’ are solely used against women.

My response to these points

I think this points are valid because they are all backed up by evidence. It makes sense as well because the 21st century society has come a long way in creating equality between male and female social standing. Yet the history has reflected in our language making inequality between the two sexes clearly by the quantitive measure of derogative terms used for both sexes.

Any other evidence need to validate the information?

Personally I don’t think any other evidence is needed and I actually believe because historically all over the globe women have been put down due to various reasons such as religious texts that any language in the world can reflect this. I have some handle on my own language Punjabi and know that women and men use different forms of saying the same thing because gender affects your language use and for me this has always been distressing because I am a feminist and believe that language should be reformed with further equality. But this is a big dream…

Further history of language and gender

1553 – Wilson, grammarian, stated that male nouns should precede female nouns e.g. ‘husband/wife’ ‘brother/sister’ ‘son/daughter’

1646 – Joshua Poole agreed with this because he said ti was more ‘natural’ and ‘proper’ as males were the more ‘worthier’.

19th C – grammarians reinforced this idea by condemning the use of plural pronouns such as ‘they’ and ‘their’. They reasoned by saying words like anyone are singular and thus cannot be followed by plurals e.g. ‘Anybody can do it if they try!’

1976 – Empirical research by linguist Julia Stanley shows that there are numerically more words to describe men than women. Most of this words depict men in a favourable light. She found that 26 words were used to describe sexual promiscuity of men and many of these were complimentary e.g. stud, stallion. Conversely, for women there were 220 words describing female sexual promiscuity which were mostly derogatory e.g. ‘tart’ ‘slag’



Stereotypes are a general set of characteristics that are associated with a particular group of people. These characteristics usually have a negative connotation.

The following texts are taken from the AQA English Language B (AS) textbook.

Read texts A and B below.

Text A

The Mothers and Toddlers Group is a very welcoming and friendly meeting place for mums to chat while their children can play safely and in a fun environment. We welcome mums with children of all ages and would love to see you whenever you can make it.

Whilst the children play, the mums can relax and chat and enjoy tea or coffee with biscuits.Many of our members enjoy this time to talk about their families and share experiences of their children.

Text B

The Mother/Father/Grandparent/Nanny and Toddler Group

Please come and join us for a cup of tea or coffee whilst your children enjoy some play time, refreshment and a craft activity

Only £1.00 for your Toddler (Babies 50p)

We meet in the Pavilion every Tuesday from 9.45am – 11.45am

Everybody is welcome.

If you would like to borrow the tables and chair for a private party at home, they are available. 

To help raise funds a small donation (£2 to £5) would be appreciated


To what extent do you feel that Text A presents a stereotypical view of women (and excludes men) ?

Text A is a stereotypical text. Again and again it stereotypes its audience. 

Firstly, it has a very narrow audience because all the way through the written discourse it address the reader as ‘mums’ ‘mother’ etc. This neglects other relations a child might have e.g. grandma, sister etc. Also, characteristics are assigned to ‘mums’ e.g. ‘talk about their families and share experiences of their child’. This assumption can both work successfully and unsuccessfully because if this what somebody is like they will feel the invitation has connected with them whereas someone with a different personality may feel that this is not for them as that is not they are like.

What do you make of the alternate text B?

Text B has a wider audience because it does not stereotype its audience. Also it does not limit who it attract e.g. in text A it says ‘ we welcome mums’ whereas in text B it says ‘ Everybody is welcome’. Text A is too a certain extent more personal than text B because if that is what the reader is like then it is doing a good job at synthetic personalisation but if not it is loosing out on a wide range of readers. In text B has an unlimited audience but it doesn’t connect with the audience too well because its lack of stereotyping.

Deborah Cameron

Deborah Cameron

Below are notes I have made on her ideas

Deborah Cameron, a linguistic, suggests in her book ‘The Myth of Mars and Venus’ that you can never tell the gender of someone through their language except in 2 situations: (i) women who speak on sex related chat lines and (ii) if someone is having a sex change then they will receive language advice.

She gives a lot of evidence for this and the one I believe really persuades you is the one where their are four boys discussing another boy. (This transcript is analysed in the earlier section ‘male talk’). All linguistic evidence points that it is a group of females when actually they are male. Examples of this include, firstly there is a semantic field of clothes which is stereotypically associated with females and the vocabulary is specialised too e.g. ‘French cut spandex’. Specialised lexis is something that Robin Lakeoff identified as a trade of women yet it appears that boys use it too.

Also, if we were looking at stereotypes then we would see that women are supposed to be bitchy so just by the nature of the conversation, we may just assume it is a bunch of girls when in fact they are boys.

She goes on disproving assumption, stereotypes and Robin Lakeoff e.g. she says how women according to Lakeoff should use intensifiers when yet this group of boys are. So none of these features can actual reveal the sex of the person except in the two situations mentioned above.