Cometh the hour, cometh the man-word

‘Man-words’ have become very popular in recent years. These are terms like man flu, mancession, mancation and mancessories. Jumping on the man-wagon, I’ve written a short piece about them for the Macmillan Dictionary Blog, called ‘Watch your manguage’. Here’s an excerpt:

the Urban Dictionary lists hundreds of man-words and man-phrases, such as man hug, man-girlfriend, man-tourage, and manbroidery. An initial m can be enough to manify a word – as in mandals, a contraction of man-sandals; mirdles, which are girdles for men; and Movember, a November-moustache charity event (though its m comes from moustache rather than man). There’s a related boom in bro-words, like bromance and bro-ordinate.

In the article, I look at the subcategory of man-brands, link to some expert coverage of the man-word phenomenon, and ponder what it all might mean. I also coined a couple of new man-words along the way – it’s hard to resist, once you’re immersed in them – and I was delighted to see more appear in the comments. If you can’t mendure the manticipation any longer, you can read the rest here.

14 Responses to Cometh the hour, cometh the man-word

  1. Jonathan says:

    Some of the contractions are rather bizarre, aren’t they? ‘Hug’, ‘sandals’ and ‘entourage’ are gender-neutral, so I find it hard to fathom why they need a specific male version. Or do some people say ‘woman hug’, ‘womandals’, and ‘womantourage’? I think it’s a bit pointless, to be honest, and probably just an annoying fad (possibly concocted by people who need to bulk out urban dictionaries!). I do have a fondness for Hermes Conrad’s use of ‘manwich’, though! (For ‘hug’, whatever happened to ‘bear hug” to describe a particularly manly way of embracing?)

  2. Keri says:

    As women gain more in equality, men are pressured socially to stand apart and be manly men so they aren’t thought of as effeminate. Women are “allowed” to do manly things now, like wearing pants, working in STEM jobs, etc., so men need to work harder to be perform masculinity. Hence the “manning up” of so many words. It’s still dangerous socially to be seen as effeminate.

  3. John Cowan says:

    At least man hug hasn’t been contracted to mug; the results of that would be fearful.

  4. Stan says:

    Jonathan: Many of them are bizarre or seemingly superfluous; I don’t think need has much to do with it. Bear hug is still around, but its existence won’t stop the appearance of virtual synonyms. It’s definitely a fad, but it’ll be interesting to see which terms, if any, have staying power. The Manwich is quite a vintage item, having been introduced in 1969, so it was amusing to see it recur on Futurama!

    Keri: That’s a good point, and it seems to be part of what lies behind the man-word craze. On Twitter yesterday I quoted Ethel Strainchamps (a feminist linguist, I believe), who said: “Females serve as ever-present reminders to developing males of what they must not become.” Generally speaking, boys are pressured from an early age to be stereotypically masculine. To man up. The consequences are visible all around us.

    John: Unfortunately, it already has, at least in one case, but I don’t think we need fear that this contraction will spread. (Compounding the ambiguity, one of the definitions doubles up the senses: “When a Man hugs another Man just to pickpocket him.”)

  5. An utterly mantastic pot…. Gah what am I saying? what utterly pointless words

  6. Stan says:

    Jams: Pointless to you and me, in the grand scheme of things, but fun in their way, and right now there’s no stopping them. You might say (but you wouldn’t, but I will) that they have manmentum.

  7. Jonathan says:

    To use one example, can only a man manvestigate a problem? Or could he womanvestigate it as well? Can a woman manvestigate? Would a transsexual transvestigate? Perhaps a barbarian would attilathehunvestigate? If you’re an Irish transsexual on the internet, would you hibernotransintervestigate?
    I need a mup of moffee and a mlice of moast after all that…

  8. Stan says:

    Amusing examples, Jonathan, but I don’t think we should demand or expect logical rigour from these mance-formations. In the mentime, I hope your moast is most menjoyable.

  9. Narmitaj says:

    One usefully sharp and punchy manword I’ve seen on the internet is mansplain, which generally arises when a woman is advancing an argument, or several women (and indeed men) are having a discussion (often to do with sexism and male privilege in the workplace, publishing and culture in general) and and aggrieved man pitches in to “mansplain” just where they’re wrong or how they’re exhibiting sexist prejudices of their own.

  10. Sean Jeating says:

    Menorrhea, obviously.

  11. Stan says:

    Narmitaj: Mansplain is a good one. I’ve read humorous lists along the lines of: “You may be a mansplainer if…”, and one of the criteria is that mansplainers feel they must explain why they are not mansplainers, before proceeding to mansplain why. I think it’s mostly, but not exclusively, a male thing.

    Sean: Ha! I think I’d go with manorrhea, though, because it’s available, so we can sidestep the ambiguity.

  12. John Cowan says:

    “In his wanderings, Loocus the Thinker one day comes across an unknown object — a woman. Such a thing he has never seen before, and at first he is wondrous thrilled at her likeness to himself; but then, slightly scared of her as well, he cries to all the men about him, “Behold! I can look upon her face, which is something she cannot do — therefore women can never be like me!” And thus he proves man’s superiority over women, much to his relief and that of his male companions. Incidentally, the same argument proves that Loocus is superior to all other males, as well — but he doesn’t point that out to them. The woman argues back:

    “Yes, you can see my face, which is something I can’t do — but I can see your face, which is something you can’t do! We’re even.”

    However, Loocus comes up with an unexpected counter: “I’m sorry, you’re deluded if you think you can see my face. What you women do is not the same as what we men do — it is, as I have already pointed out, of an inferior caliber, and does not deserve to be called by the same name. You may call it womanseeing. Now the fact that you can ‘womansee’ my face is of no import, because the situation is not symmetric. You see?”

    “I womansee,” womanreplies the woman, and womanwalks away…”

         —Douglas Hofstadter, Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid (1979)

    Loocus is a parody of J.R. Lucas of Cambridge, who believes that whatever machines are able to do, none of it can ever count as intelligence, even in principle.

  13. Stan says:

    Thanks for sharing that, John. I have mixed feelings about Hofstadter, but at least he’s consistently entertaining. There’s more Lucas-bait in The Mind’s Eye (an essay collection co-edited by Hofstadter and Daniel Dennett), drawing on C. H. Whitely’s criticisms of Lucas, but its highlights (for me) are the contributions from Lem and Borges.

  14. […] few months ago I mentioned writing about man-words for Macmillan Dictionary Blog; recently I’ve written some more there, about other things. My […]

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