Nov 5, 2006

Cunning Linguistic Deformations

I was writing the line “pleasant summer sounds like the screeching of harradans and the roaring of neanderthals”. Then I looked up the spelling for “harradan” and found it was actually “harridan”. But I saw an unfamiliar word listed in the synonym section. ‘Virago’. Clicking on that ( is convenient that way.) it brought up that word’s meaning. There were two. The au currant definition was “a loud-voiced, ill-tempered, scolding woman; shrew”. But the Archaic definition, the original one, was “a woman of strength or spirit.”

So before there was a movement to remove gender-disparaging words from our language there was a much longer-term devolution of our language from positive images of women to negative ones.

Not that anybody gets called a virago any more, but it sure is an example of what Tom writes about–the suppression of the Goddess by male-centered religion. A good reminder to us guys that the shrew or nag might be just a strong woman with a message. Not always but we should keep the possibility in mind.