etymology

Why Slut Is the Dirtiest Four-Letter Word

Throughout it's 500-year etymological evolution from the kitchen to the bedroom, "slut" has been steeped in a filthy combination of classism, racism and sexism. No reclamation needed.

The Man Who Coined "Feminism"

In 1837, radical French philosopher Charles Fourier invented feminisme in writing about the indelible link between women's status and social progress ("Liberty, unless enjoyed by all, is unreal and illusory. . ." he wrote). But a true feminist Fourier was not.

Shapely Ankles and Cankles

Why are women getting plastic surgery to slim down their ankles? Cristen and Caroline explore how slender ankles became a feminine beauty standard and the etymology and science behind the dreaded cankles.

Sister Words: 'Vagina' and 'Vanilla'

Why do we call breasts "boobs"?

The Curse of Swearing Women

Swearing and use of profanity is has long been a considered a masculine habit, while women are the "experts of euphemism." Cristen and Caroline unpack the sociolinguistic danger of women swearing and whether the profanity gender gap is closing at home and in the workplace.

Where did the "handsome" women go?

In 1855, PT Barnum organized America's first modern beauty pageant, which sought to crown "the handsomest ladies" of the time. Actually, an unmarried winner would receive a dowry in exchange for her lovely looks, and married gals would get diamond tiara (to wear around the home?). The language Barnum stuck out to me because it's such a contrast to how we might, say, describe the newly minted Miss USA. In Barnum's days, though,that "handsomest" descriptor had developed a striking specificity. In an excellent etymological exploration of "handsome" at The Beheld, Autumn Whitefield-Madrano reveals how:

Why is breadwinning a guy thing?

The first -- and fastest -- answer to the question of why breadwinning is something male heads of households do is that it isn't. Or at least it isn't the case more than ever before, according to new data from the Pew Research Center that has reinvigorated old debates about women and work. Reported on in The New York Times, the Pew survey results found that women are the primary breadwinners in four in 10 American households with children under 18, the largest proportion in history...

In our episode on female astronauts, Molly and I perpetuated a myth during our listener mail segment. Say it ain't so! We read an email about the supposed etymology of the phrase "rule of thumb," linking it to an old law about wife beating. As the myth goes, "rule of thumb" relates to a British law, allowing a husband to beat his wife with a stick, as long as it isn't wider than the man's thumb.