Lan­guage: Prat­tle of the Sexes

Smithsonian Magazine - - Contents -

DID WOMEN STOP BE­ING CHARM­ING THREE DECADES AGO? WE DON'T think so. But the word charm­ing, as­so­ci­ated with women far more of­ten than men from 1910 into the 1980s, was over­taken by words like at­trac­tive by the 1990s, ac­cord­ing to a Stan­ford Univer­sity anal­y­sis of about 79,000 Amer­i­can texts (in­clud­ing nov­els, nonfiction books and pe­ri­od­i­cals). Re­searchers stud­ied more than 500 words re­lated to per­son­al­ity, iden­ti­fied those tied most closely to men or women, and traced how us­ages changed as at­ti­tudes to­ward gen­der have evolved—or haven’t.

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