strathspey Archive: Men & Women, Ladies & Gentlemen

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Men & Women, Ladies & Gentlemen

Message 6468 · Lady M. WetNoodle · 30 Jan 1997 22:41:58 · Top

> Obviously "Men" is much shorter and easier to say than "Gentlemen".
> However, why is it that "Ladies" comes out much more easily than "Women"?
>
> Cheers, Oberdan Otto.

Delurking to attempt a linguistics question...
I'm not exactly sure why "men and ladies" is easier to say than "men and
women" but I have a guess or two.
One is the high incidence of labial and alveolar nasals ("m" and "n").
Especially when said quickly, "and" becomes schwa-n so it's "MeN eN
woMeN" which is three very similar syllables with a "wo" in close sequence.
This tends to be something languages shy away from, often deleting one
of the recurring syllables (called "haplology", for example the Old
Latin "stipipendium" became "sti_pendium"). Or, speakers find another way
to say it that's more comfortable to pronounce ("men and ladies").

Sorry to have gotten off the subject!

Mary Tillinghast
-How do I set my Laserprinter to "stun"?

Men & Women, Ladies & Gentlemen

Message 6469 · Jennifer_Sawin · 30 Jan 1997 23:08:34 · Top

Mary Tillinghast had some interesting points, but I suspect that
others were talking about using "men" and "ladies" even when the
phrase "men and ladies" is NOT used (e.g., "first man, followed by
first lady..."). Now, can we coax Mary into de-lurking again to
comment on this one?

Jenn Sawin

Men & Women, Ladies & Gentlemen

Message 6479 · ERBRUNKEN · 31 Jan 1997 10:23:01 · Top

In a message dated 97-01-30 15:48:53 EST, you write:

>However, why is it that "Ladies" comes out much more easily than "Women"?
>
>

It's all in the positioning of the mouth.!

Li (as in ladies) is easier to say Wi (as in Women) and the same goes for
'dies' as opposed to Men ......

E

Men & Women, Ladies & Gentlemen

Message 6485 · Brenda Claridge · 31 Jan 1997 11:31:30 · Top

>
>Obviously "Men" is much shorter and easier to say than "Gentlemen".
>However, why is it that "Ladies" comes out much more easily than "Women"?
>
There's this lingering feeling, isn't there, that "lady" is more polite than
"woman". In a shop, I would never say "Serve this woman first" but "Serve
this lady...". I suspect it's harking back to the British class thing where
a "woman" belongs to the lower classes. The same thing just doesn't seem to
apply to men. Perhaps we need to wait a few more years yet before we're all
happy with "woman".
Brenda
claridge@ihug.co.nz

Men & Women, Ladies & Gentlemen

Message 6486 · Jim & Marilyn Healy · 31 Jan 1997 12:19:59 · Top

Brenda Claridge writes:

> I suspect it's harking back to the British class thing where
> a "woman" belongs to the lower classes. The same thing just
> doesn't seem to apply to men. Perhaps we need to wait a few more
> years yet before we're all happy with "woman".

The other day I was having another look at the Register of
Dances at Castle Menzies of 1749. That uses Men and Women
throughout. While it is arguably a seditious document for the
inclusion of dances such as O'er the Watter to Charly and You'r
Wellcome Charly Stuart only three years after Culloden, I don't
think it was written to upset the Lady of the House as well! :^)

(Harking back to another thread, it uses Pair instead of Couple)

Jim Healy
Perth, Scotland

Men & Women, Ladies & Gentlemen

Message 6496 · Martin Sheffield · 31 Jan 1997 21:00:29 · Top

Alex, echoing others, said:

> The disadvantage of using "men" and "women" is that the
>two words are difficult to distinguish aurally.
>

This says something about our bookish culture (and nothing at all about
dance, but *I* didn't start the discussion!)

The world is a big place and the English used is very varied, but as far as
I know, NO-where are the vowels of "man" and "woman" pronounced alike in
normal speech. The two words have similar spelling, but the long vowel of
"man" his little resemblance to the short second vowel of "woman" --
undoubtedly because for centuries, and not only in the dance hall, it has
been most important to distinguish one from the other. Do we run into
problems in everyday life? Language is based on phonetic contrasts, and we
are all used to distinguishing between words that sound very similar,
without even thinking about it.

Looking for a justification for the use of "lady", many of you have thought
about the way the words looked on paper, rather than thinking about how we
actually pronounce them. The phonetic distinction is quite strong enough
to avoid taking a man for a woman, as society requires.
The same is true of "men" and "women", spelt alike, pronounced differently.

The use of "lady" cannot be explained with phonetics.

Can it be explained by the chivalrous tradition of being courteous and
flattering toward the weaker sex (hence the notion that a dancer must
*lead* his partner down the middle), whereas we don't have to be polite to
the thick skinned males?

Yours,
Martin,
Grenoble, France.

Men & Women, Ladies & Gentlemen

Message 6497 · Alex Tweedly · 31 Jan 1997 22:07:25 · Top

>
> This says something about our bookish culture (and nothing at all about
> dance, but *I* didn't start the discussion!)
>
> The world is a big place and the English used is very varied, but as far as
> I know, NO-where are the vowels of "man" and "woman" pronounced alike in
> normal speech. The two words have similar spelling, but the long vowel of
> "man" his little resemblance to the short second vowel of "woman" --
> undoubtedly because for centuries, and not only in the dance hall, it has
> been most important to distinguish one from the other. Do we run into
> problems in everyday life? Language is based on phonetic contrasts, and we
> are all used to distinguishing between words that sound very similar,
> without even thinking about it.

I think there's a difference in pronouncation between normal speech
and the strongly-projected voice needed to teach in large spaces (or
noisy classes). The very short 'a' in woman tends to lengthen when you
say it loud, clear and slow ....

>
> Looking for a justification for the use of "lady", many of you have thought
> about the way the words looked on paper, rather than thinking about how we
> actually pronounce them. The phonetic distinction is quite strong enough
> to avoid taking a man for a woman, as society requires.
> The same is true of "men" and "women", spelt alike, pronounced differently.
>
> The use of "lady" cannot be explained with phonetics.

Sorry, but I don't buy that.

I *have* myself mis-heard teachers when they used men/women, and have
seen others do the same. That's not based on how the words look -
it's based on observation of actual events.

It's still anecdotal evidence rather than research :-) but it's
definitely not caused by bookishness.

> Can it be explained by the chivalrous tradition of being courteous and
> flattering toward the weaker sex (hence the notion that a dancer must
> *lead* his partner down the middle), whereas we don't have to be polite to
> the thick skinned males?

Yeah - it might be partly explained by that. For that reason, I tried
to use men/women rather than the more common (in this area)
men/ladies. But it just doesn't work as well for me. I have an accent
not local to this area, and many people do find my accent/voice hard
to follow - this made it worse.

-- Alex

Men & Women, Ladies & Gentlemen

Message 6517 · Peggy Hamilton · 2 Feb 1997 10:34:56 · Top

As someone, I think, already noted, even though "lady" and "woman"
have the same number of syllables, "lady" is easier to say. I
involves less movement of the lips and jaw. We get lazy.

As a life-long feminist I have often objected to being called a "lady"
in other contexts (due probably to a childhood where "act like a lady"
meant sit down, be quiet, don't get dirty, and certainly don't have
any fun) I have no problems with it in SCD (unless it's part of a
statement like "Ladies shouldn't wear ghillies",etc.)

As a feminist, I could also make some comments about why there are
more men than lads, and more lassies than women in song titles, but I
will restrain myself ;-).

Peggy Hamilton

Men & Women, Ladies & Gentlemen

Message 6498 · Susan Worland · 31 Jan 1997 22:21:54 · Top

I consider myself a "woman" at work. But I like being a "lady" when I dance
(and I hope my partners enjoy that, too).

*************************************************************
Susan Worland | Phone: (508) 651-0070 x242
Web Development | Fax: (508) 651-0080
Onward Technologies, Inc. | email: susan@onwardtech.com
313 Speen Street | http://www.onwardtech.com
Natick, MA 01760

ONWARD TECHNOLOGIES, INC.
"Online Solutions. Bottom Line Results."
*************************************************************

Men & Women, Ladies & Gentlemen

Message 6499 · Mike Briggs · 31 Jan 1997 23:47:02 · Top

Martin Sheffield wrote:
<cut>
"The world is a big place and the English used is very varied, but as
far as I know, NO-where are the vowels of "man" and "woman" pronounced
alike in normal speech. The two words have similar spelling, but the
long vowel of "man" has little resemblance to the short second vowel of
"woman" -- undoubtedly because for centuries, and not only in the dance
hall, it has been most important to distinguish one from the other. Do
we run into problems in everyday life? Language is based on phonetic
contrasts, and we are all used to distinguishing between words that
sound very similar, without even thinking about it.

Looking for a justification for the use of "lady", many of you have
thought about the way the words looked on paper, rather than thinking
about how we actually pronounce them. The phonetic distinction is quite
strong enough to avoid taking a man for a woman, as society requires.
The same is true of "men" and "women", spelt alike, pronounced
differently.

The use of "lady" cannot be explained with phonetics."

IMHO, this hits the nail on the head. In the dance class, English is a
spoken language, not a written language: in speech, there is a wide
difference between the sound of these two words. For a contrast, examine
"offense" and "defense", which look quite different but, because of the
normal stress on the second syllable, sound alike in normal speech --
which is why, in the abnormal speech of sports broadcasters, the words
are stressed on the first syllable.

Mike Briggs

Men & Women, Ladies & Gentlemen

Message 6521 · Martin Sheffield · 2 Feb 1997 21:59:29 · Top

Alex wrote:

>I think there's a difference in pronouncation between normal speech
>and the strongly-projected voice needed to teach in large spaces (or
>noisy classes). The very short 'a' in woman tends to lengthen when you
>say it loud, clear and slow ....

You don't need to change your pronunciation in order to project your voice.

If MCs and teachers use unusual pronunciation while calling a dance, it is
not surprising if they are misunderstood!

This is the kind of trap that English-speaking English-as-foreign-language
teachers easily fall into -- using non-standard pronunciation in class on
the assumption that it will be easier to understand; for example,
pronouncing the unstressed "that" of "I know that I'm right" in the same
way as the stressed "that " of "That's what I said". Two different words
that happen to be *written* with the same letters -- just like man & woman.

This is no reflection on your own accent, Alex.
(he also wrote: >I have an accent not local to this area,
>and many people do find my accent/voice hard
>to follow - this made it worse.

The stressed/unstressed vowel distinction is a constant to all standard
varieties of English.

Perhaps difficulties with hearing instructions have nothing to do with
pronunciation at all. Perhaps we're all too talkative in class !

Yours,
Martin,
Grenoble, France.

Men & Women, Ladies & Gentlemen

Message 6528 · Sandra Rosenau · 3 Feb 1997 17:13:15 · Top

Thinking about why I tend to use "Ladies" instead of "Women" -- First, my
mother taught me umpteen years ago that all ladies are women but not all
women are ladies, an unPC attitude but difficult to shake off, and one
likes to think anyone with an interest in the manners and graciousness of
SCD is probably a lady. But the more pertinent reason is that when
teaching or calling a dance, the "W" sound is very weak. It takes much
more effort to call out "women" and be heard correctly than "Ladies".

Sandra Rosenau
Dayton, Ohio
sjrosenau@tasc.com

Men & Women, Ladies & Gentlemen

Message 6532 · stasa_morgan-appel · 3 Feb 1997 20:46:09 · Top

First of all, every time I see this subject header, I get a very silly
song with a similar title by a band called "They Might Be Giants"
stuck in my head. I am not a TMBG fan, but my best friend forced me
to listen to said song, which is very repetitive, during a car trip -
and now there's nothing I can do about it.

Secondly, and more seriously, the RSCDS helps to reinforce
"Ladies/Men": for example, we find figures named "Ladies' Chain" and
"Men's Chain," rather than "Women's Chain" or "Gentlemen's Chain."
So, sexist or not, a good chunk of our tendencies may be tradition.

And yes, an awful lot of sexism is often defended as tradition, or
simply by the statement, "But we've always done it that way."

- Stasa

Men & Women, Ladies & Gentlemen

Message 6480 · Alex Tweedly · 31 Jan 1997 10:24:13 · Top

> Mary Tillinghast had some interesting points, but I suspect that
> others were talking about using "men" and "ladies" even when the
> phrase "men and ladies" is NOT used (e.g., "first man, followed by
> first lady..."). Now, can we coax Mary into de-lurking again to
> comment on this one?

I agree that this is mostly an issue when the words are used
separately. The disadvantage of using "men" and "women" is that the
two words are difficult to distinguish aurally.

Sometimes in class, there will be someone else talking, or the teacher
may turn away or mumble slightly, or even (heaven forbid) I may not be
paying full attention. If I just catch the words
"...man set and cast off" it's hard to know if I missed part of that
first word or not.

The words "lady" and "man" can't easily be mistaken for each other.

So that's my preference - even if does sometimes feel gender-biased.

-- Alex.

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