Monday, 17 March 2014

Another day, another language ban

    News from the world of language this week: a campaign  from one of the Facebook bosses to ban the word "bossy" as applied to women. It's received the support of  celebrities and a lot of news coverage.
    It's true, "bossy" is used disproportionately with respect to women, and particularly with respect to women who have achieved success. And in that use it is a mild pejorative, a piece of annoying mild sexism rather than a hate word. One that is probably better not used.
    I have to admit I have a problem with the campaign to ban it. Not because of its aim, but because of its futility. However laudable your aim, language does not change just because you say it should. Language use is in the hands of its speakers, not in those of a few people. Like the campaign to suppress a sense of "gay" I wrote about a couple of months ago this campaign risks the opposite effect to its intent, turning "bossy" from a mild annoyance to a word with barbs. MtF transgender people have the unique perspective of having seen male locker room culture at work, and based on that experience I predict the "bossy" campaign will result in more use of the word, not less.


  1. 'the "bossy" campaign will result in more use of the word, not less.' I was even going to say it will myself.

    Shirley Anne

  2. I think the only way language changes is through the way people, you know "real people" use it. We get more changes from using mobile phones and the internet than from any campaigns.

  3. LMAO, farcebook has like already helped like decimate the language i once loved!

    What about bullying males? Why is the word bulling usually missed out?

  4. Hang on, I thought that was us down in Oxford doing that! :)

    What the campaign has done is get people talk about the use of gender pejoratives in this way, which I guess is a good thing.

  5. Language used to change slowly like a cold virus but TV and now antisocial media sites like farcebook can cause a world wide pandemics of bad use of language.

    Are we going the French way and gendering our words? Has bossy become feminine? Surely a little bossiness is a drop in the ocean against the tsunami of belligerent male bulling from political parties to the playground.

    Is bossy pejorative? To me it just gives me a clue as to that persons character, she may use that part of her nature to get things done which may otherwise not, it might just be a warning to keep out of their way!