Friday, August 13, 2010

Raising The Barr

Roseanne Barr is running for President of the U.S. Also Prime Minister of Israel. You hadn't heard? What's wrong with the media?

Here's the first half of her announcement:

I actually have nothing to say about the content of her speech. It speaks for itself. I just want to concentrate on the first few seconds. (Sorry if you listened to the whole thing.)

It starts "Greeting, taxpayers. My fellow and sister taxpayers of America..."

She misunderstands "fellow." As an adjective "fellow" simply means "Being of the same kind, group, occupation, society, or locality; having in common certain characteristics or interests."

When the President starts a speech with "My fellow Americans," he's trying to show us we're all equals.

Maybe Roseanne doesn't know better, but the odd thing is, neither does Andy Rooney. I seem to recall several years ago he noted how the President starts speeches with "my fellow Americans" even though he's talking to women, too.

Maybe Roseanne was a fan of 60 Minutes.


Blogger New England Guy said...

I love the discussion of language in the morning...

Well there has been a long-running complaint from feminists and others that neutral words meaning everyone have a masculine affinity- Using "man" to mean the human race, the ubiquitous "he" to refer to a hypothetical person ( I recall my circa 1985 edition of Farnsworth on Contracts containing an editorial note apologizing for this- they didn't have time to go back and fix them all). In literature of all sorts, probably due a greater number of people caring about this (or not wanting to offend or be labelled), you don't tend to see the masculine universal so much anymore.

I would guess that regardless of the linguistic antecedents (and the fact that "fellow" is a convenient word word to mean "I'm one of you"), "fellow" is regarded as a male term which stands for all and hence needs to be addressed. It would be easier if "fellow" got morphed into a more neutral term but like "guy," I think it will continue to have a strong male connotation despite attempts to stretch the meaning. ("You guys" I think is OK to refer to any group informally but the "guys" on this blog as far as I know solely hirsute and masculine and I'm guessing a female contributor here (absent deception) would not use the term.

I wouldn't be surprised to find that "fellow and sister" or some such (My Sibling Americans?) replacing the "fellow" some day but if the only current adherents are Roseanne and Andy Rooney, I don't think that day is today

5:14 AM, August 13, 2010  
Anonymous Denver Guy said...

I have always thougth "fellowship" was the gender neutral version of "brotherhood." Onthe other hand, you never see the phrase "she's a fine fellow," so I guess without the ship, it has a male connotation. But that is the noun. The adjective is clearly gender neutral, and it wouldn't sound odd to say "Barr and her fellow commediennes."

But the real reason I posted is my verification word is "unchesse", which almost describes this blog.

8:16 AM, August 13, 2010  
Blogger LAGuy said...

Fellowship, fellow-feeling, fellow-traveler. Not about sex.

The root word, fellow, was not originally about sex. It just meant partner--specifically, it was built from two words that meant money (fee) and lay--someone who laid money down to work with another in a partnership.

It became associated with the masculine in one of its main meanings, but that's no reason to give up on it. It's not much better than insisting someone says "lip balm" over "chapstick." (Which, by the way, was invented in Lynchburg--I guess that's another name they should change.)

10:26 AM, August 13, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just heard Rice on NPR. She left the Catholic Church after getting so much hate mail because she supported Hillary Clinton.

2:57 PM, August 13, 2010  

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