Re: Stroustrup's Confession (bogus?)

Geoff Smith (
Mon, 23 Mar 1998 15:56:51 -0800

> From: Erik Moeller <>
> To:
> Subject: Re: Stroustrup's Confession (bogus?)
> Date: Monday, March 23, 1998 12:59 PM
> >Don't forget that some languages have masculine, feminine, and
> >neuter. In German, for example, a teenage girl is neuter (obviously
> >invented by a father with a good imagination and not much contact
> >with reality).
> Don't tell me. The German expression for "girl", "Maedchen", is indeed
> neuter. Just one of many examples for repression of female sexuality even
> language.

Hey, I happen to like neuter (not neutering!), so I'm feeling a little
germanly repressed myself! Give me a break, you could equally argue that
girls are neuter because they transcend the distinction between male and
female. I don't think a language represses certain groups, it just lowers
the efficiency of communication.

> Where does the "wo" in "woman" actually come from?

I always figured it was "womb" + "man", but no... it is from Old English
"wifmon", meaning "wife man." That sounds very accurate... in many places
(and especially in ancient times) the line between men/women can be blurry,
but the only consistent difference is that a man can marry a "wifmon," and
of course, he cannot marry a regular "mon." (although rulings in Hawaii,
etc. have changed this)