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89 votes
Accepted

The meaning of "half woman, half girl"

The text has nothing to do with whether she has a spouse or boyfriend. She's referring to back to a past time when she was a youth, which is a noun meaning "a young person between adolescence and ...
Canadian Yankee's user avatar
72 votes
Accepted

Can "he" and "man" refer to all genders?

You are opening a "can of worms!" This is a topic that can cause strong emotions. It is also not a matter of grammar, but a matter of style. English doesn't have a pronoun that singular, non-neuter ...
James K's user avatar
  • 226k
47 votes
Accepted

Use "him" or "her" in this sentence about a hypothetical gender switch?

In my personal opinion, you should use 'him' and here's why: "If I were a cup, where would I hide?" Now, the subject is thinking of a hypothetical situation where he is a cup. Now, if that ...
Varun Nair's user avatar
  • 8,278
40 votes

Can "he" and "man" refer to all genders?

Leaving aside current views on gender identity, historically, "man" has been used as an umbrella term for both genders - and it still is, unless someone objects to it. "Mankind" refers to all human ...
Astralbee's user avatar
  • 106k
37 votes
Accepted

How to deal with unknown genders in English?

If you want to sound formal and don't want to be accused of any kind of sexism or if you really don't know the gender of the person you're talking about, I'd recommend using the pattern him or her. It ...
Michael Rybkin's user avatar
35 votes
Accepted

When the Gentle Giant song "Black Cat" refers to a cat as "she", does that mean the cat is female?

In English, there is no grammatical gender that is different from biological gender. However, there is a tradition in what you call 'folk language' of referring to unknown cats as female and unknown ...
Kate Bunting's user avatar
  • 57.1k
33 votes
Accepted

The female equivalent of "don't break my balls"

I'm not sure there's a direct female equivalent, but there's a gender-neutral expression with a similar meaning and level of vulgarity: Get off my ass! That being said, I think it's much more ...
Alpha Draconis's user avatar
32 votes

The meaning of "half woman, half girl"

"Half woman" and "half girl" are not idioms or anything. She's trying to evoke a more literal meaning, using this "half X, half Y" construction similarly to how you could describe a mule as "half ...
Sparksbet's user avatar
  • 1,118
30 votes

When the Gentle Giant song "Black Cat" refers to a cat as "she", does that mean the cat is female?

This cat is 100% a female. There are no arbitrarily gendered nouns in English. The personal pronouns "he/she/him/her..." are only used when referring to nouns that are gendered by definition,...
gotube's user avatar
  • 50.9k
28 votes

How to address a woman in a letter?

Use Ms., not Ms./Miss The "Ms." abbreviation was created in large part to avoid the awkwardness of using Mrs./Miss. I can't speak for all of the English-speaking world, but, in the U.S., Ms. has ...
J.R.'s user avatar
  • 110k
25 votes

Female Devil (and other -ess problems)

Gender isn't as big a feature of English as it is of German. Devil isn't a word with gender, though forms like she-devil or devil woman might be used to counter the default gender assumption among ...
Jack O'Flaherty's user avatar
22 votes

When referring to a gender-neutral entity in a paper such as an "agent", what pronouns and conjugation style should I use nowadays?

APA and others support singular 'they' for cases where gender is "unknown or irrelevant to the context of the usage". Arguments that this usage is broadly incorrect seem to be outdated in ...
Bryan Krause's user avatar
21 votes
Accepted

Female Devil (and other -ess problems)

‘devil’ (with a lowercase ‘d’, with a capital ‘D’ it’s usually a proper name with a specific associated gender) is not inherently gendered in English. It’s often implicitly masculine for cultural ...
Austin Hemmelgarn's user avatar
20 votes

Use "him" or "her" in this sentence about a hypothetical gender switch?

You should use 'him' as that matches the subject of the speculation, which is 'he.' The antecedent of the pronoun 'him' in this case just happens to be another pronoun 'he'. To illustrate: If ...
Brent Zundel's user avatar
18 votes

Why sister [nouns] and not brother [nouns]?

The Oxford English Dictionary shows that this usage goes back to at least the 1500s. It provides the following definition: Appositive, with the sense ‘fellow’, ‘having a close kinship or ...
rjpond's user avatar
  • 23.1k
17 votes

The female equivalent of "don't break my balls"

There are a lot of other options that don't refer to specific body parts, but I gather that you want something similarly vulgar but referring to female anatomy. It's not all that common, but if you ...
Andrew's user avatar
  • 88.4k
17 votes

When the Gentle Giant song "Black Cat" refers to a cat as "she", does that mean the cat is female?

Animals are routinely referred to as "it" if their sex is unknown or the author chooses not to mention it. If this writer has chosen to use "her", it's an explicit indication that ...
CCTO's user avatar
  • 178
15 votes

Why was the feminine pronoun 'herself' used to refer to a generic antecedent who can be male or female?

We don't have widely-adopted gender neutral singular pronouns. The authors are trying to avoid using himself to describe both genders, and so use herself. This is quite a common practice. Other ...
djna's user avatar
  • 7,608
14 votes

Use "him" or "her" in this sentence about a hypothetical gender switch?

I stand corrected. I posted an earlier answer saying that you should use "she," (which I think makes some sense) Nonetheless, a corpus search shows that the correct use is not changing the gender: ...
Azor Ahai -him-'s user avatar
14 votes

Can "he" and "man" refer to all genders?

Rather than "can these words refer to all genders" I'd propose to think of it as "are there texts in which these words refer to all genders", to which the answer is an emphatic "yes". It was long the ...
CCTO's user avatar
  • 2,096
13 votes

Why sister [nouns] and not brother [nouns]?

In describing relations between entities as if they were relations between people, you are personifying those entities. "Sister", "mother", and "daughter" are common ...
nanoman's user avatar
  • 1,287
12 votes

Why was the feminine pronoun 'herself' used to refer to a generic antecedent who can be male or female?

The gender-neutral pronoun is they / them (nominative / accusative), but things get a little confused with the reflexive form because not everyone is entirely happy with themself (they want to stick ...
FumbleFingers's user avatar
12 votes

The meaning of "half woman, half girl"

Briefly, "half girl, half woman" practically equals Britney Spears' "not a girl, not yet a woman" which means that she has almost grown out of her childhood and she is no more a girl, but she hasn't ...
SovereignSun's user avatar
  • 25.1k
12 votes

Can "he" and "man" refer to all genders?

"Man", yes. "He", no - but "him" and "his", yes. From a historical perspective, this is because "man" was a originally gender-neutral word meaning "person" or "human" (incidentally, "human" comes ...
Chronocidal's user avatar
12 votes

Female Devil (and other -ess problems)

I know this answer does not focus on whether one should write "female devil", "she-devil" or "demoness", but as I understand it, the OP was also interested in knowing ...
Mari-Lou A's user avatar
  • 27.8k
10 votes
Accepted

Is "singular they" widely used?

Is singular they widely accepted in English speaking countries such as America and Britain? In the 19th century, singular they became stigmatized. It wasn't until the 1960s that this began to ...
Laurel's user avatar
  • 15.7k
9 votes

Use "him" or "her" in this sentence about a hypothetical gender switch?

Great American Novelist* Jonathan Franzen goes with the hypothetical in his 2015 novel Purity: If Colleen had been a boy, Pip would have slept with him. –Page 251, Purity: A Novel, published by ...
Alan Carmack's user avatar
8 votes
Accepted

Can "Am I the bad guy here?" be said by a girl?

Bad guy is an idiom most common in film but used for any fiction to describe the villain of any sex of a story. "In 101 Dalmations, the bad guy is called Cruella de Vil. In Duel, the bad guy is ...
jonathanjo's user avatar
  • 7,563

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