Friday, August 21, 2015

Is "just" a female word?

It has been many months since I took the time to write a think-piece here. One of my 2015 New Year's resolutions was to save my blog. However, instead, I worked on activating my Picturing English and my Mbote from San Diego (travel and wildlife observations) blogs. I also began a new career path, working in a community college.

A while ago, I ran across this article about Words to Eliminate from your Vocabulary but I never took the time to fully reflect on it here. "Just" and "that" were on the elimination list. Subsequently, I noticed another article re-posted on LinkedIn about the use of "just" in speaking - about how women tend to use it more and how it weakens whatever we express. After Ellen Leanse published results of her informal survey comparing the usage of "just" by men and women in a business context, the idea that women mark themselves as weaker or more tentative when speakking has gone viral.  More significantly to me, I realize that I am one of those women who regularly uses "just." Consequently, now every time I write or hear myself say "just," I remove the word or remind myself to avoid it in the future.

Of course, there has been a backlash to this view. After doing a little "googling" around, I have decided not to throw out all my justs.  Last month an alternative view was published. The article is long because the writer substantiates claims with citations and the research of academics. Krissy Eliot has published another fascinating examination of how women's speech is scrutinized and depicted in American culture. (Watch the video, at least.)

Men's speech is the standard to which my speech is compared. That is definitely something I need to think about before I automatically remove all justs - and you know which "just" I'm talking about, right? (There are many meanings of justbut the one I'm writing about isn't well defined at Merriam-Webster.) 

NB:  As always, I welcome my readers thoughts on any post. I also express my apologies to anyone who has been a follower and stopped visiting me regularly. This year I have only added about four new posts here, most of which have been directed toward ESOL teaching with lesson materials and thoughts about how to be more effective in the classroom. I feel liberated writing again about our many Englishes!

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