This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Who are you? a rant.

I don't know who you are.
Okay, that's not entirely true. I know the ten countries in the world where The Word Den is most commonly read (it varies quite a lot, but yesterday it was the USA, Ukraine, France, Turkey, UK, Russia, Taiwan, China, Germany and Sweden); I'm pretty sure you can read English; you probably have an affection for words.
But man or woman? You're probably one or the other: but which?
For that matter, which am I? The photograph looks female (I hope) but is it really me?
Marc Brysbaert, director of the Center for Reading Research at Ghent University, reckons he can tell. He has got over half a million people to take part in an online vocabulary test. You get shown a series of words. Some of them are real, and quite a lot of them are made up.
The results of this vast survey has turned up the fact that some words are known by a greater percentage of men than women. Here's a list of the words with the biggest gap between the percentage of men and the percentage of women claiming to know them. The figures in brackets show these percentages (male, female).
  • codec (88, 48)
  • solenoid (87, 54)
  • golem (89, 56)
  • mach (93, 63)
  • humvee (88, 58)
  • claymore (87, 58)
  • scimitar (86, 58)
  • kevlar (93, 65)
  • paladin (93, 66)
  • bolshevism (85, 60)
  • biped (86, 61)
  • dreadnought (90, 66)
    These, on the other hand, are the 12 words known by a greater percentage of women than men:
  • taffeta (48, 87)
  • tresses (61, 93)
  • bottlebrush (58, 89)
  • flouncy (55, 86)
  • mascarpone (60, 90)
  • decoupage (56, 86)
  • progesterone (63, 92)
  • wisteria (61, 89)
  • taupe (66, 93)
  • flouncing (67, 94)
  • peony (70, 96)
  • bodice (71, 96)
    The test concludes: "These 24 words should suffice to find out whether a person you are interacting with in digital space is male or female."
    Well, that would be an interesting conversation, wouldn't it?
    Do you plan to go to the party with taupe peonies in your flouncing tresses, or decoupaged wisteria on your taffeta bodice? Or in a kevlar jacket and claymore in case of the arrival in a humvee of a scimitar-bearing paladin?
    Ah well. At least it'd probably be enough to persuade any dodgy types to back off.
    Actually, it'd persuade anyone to back off.
    Wouldn't it.
    Word To Use Today: solenoid. This word comes from the French solénoïde, from the Greek sōlēn, a pipe or tube.


    1. Is that a vocabulary test, or a subject test? Because a lot of those seem like stereotypical male/female subjects. If that's so, you could get just an accurate gender assessment by asking someone: Do you like football? Do you like clothes shopping? Would being a florist interest you? Would you like to fire a rocket launcher? Are you interested in Russian history? Etc, etc.

      1. Dear Edwina,

        That's true, though I fear most anonymous web-based evil-doers would see through the do-you-like-football line.
        Obviously none of them are able to use a dictionary.