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2 Comments

  • Disapearing words: what’s up with that? My peeve or one of my peeves is the word Actress. Are there no more actresses? Only actors? It has gotten so bad that even females refer to themselves as an actor and not actress. Even from the “MacMillan Dictonary: ” a woman who performs in plays and films, especially as her job. Many women performers prefer to be called actors rather than actresses.” Now why would that be? Sorry to vent but I’m peeved.

  • Jim: I’m sure you are not alone in regretting the demise of ‘actress’. The -ess suffix used to be widespread, with words like ‘poetess’, ‘authoress’, and even ‘editress’. But the normal ‘agentive’ suffixes (-er, -or) are not inherently male but gender-neutral: think of ‘baker’, ‘advisor’, ‘sprinter’ etc, The argument against -ess is that it draws attention to the person’s gender when this isn’t really relevant to how they do their job. Logically, anyone who acts is an ‘actor’, just as anyone who designs things is a designer. Interestingly, the -ess form is preserved at events like the Oscars (‘Best Supporting Actress’) because it’s necessary here to distinguish the categories on gender lines. But in other award ceremonies, the words ‘male’ and ‘female’ are used instead: ‘best female singer’ (not ‘best songstress’), and maybe that will happen with actress too.