Sunday, 11 May 2014

So when did that happen?

When I was but a whippersnapper, buses (or maybe they were still called omnibuses back then) were staffed by two people.  The driver sat in splendid isolation in his cab, almost as if he were an emperor on his throne.  Come to think of it, a bus driver was considered "somebody" in my world.  The driver was accompanied by somebody inside the bus, the person who was responsible for ringing the bell to tell the driver it was safe to move away from a stop.  That person would also help old ladies on and off the bus, instruct passengers to "move right down inside, please" and, possibly most important of all as far as the bus company was concerned, take the fares and issue tickets.  When I was really young, the tickets were made of card, were pre-printed , came in different colours according to the denomination, and were carried in a wooden rack with spring clips.  When issued, the ticket had to be punched, or clipped, to indicate the stop at which the passenger boarded - or was to alight.  The correct title for the man who issued the tickets was conductor, but he was commonly called a clippie as he had to clip the tickets.  I say "he" was called a clippie, but it was rather more that the women doing that job were referred to as clippies.  And the women were not called conductors; they were conductresses.

In just the same way, actors were men; women who acted were actresses.

So just when did the words actor, author, conductor and the like become bisexual?  Or are they now asexual?  Transgender perhaps?

And just as puzzling to me - in fact, even more puzzling to me, is why did those words change?  What is wrong in calling a lady who acts, an actress, and a man, an actor?  Is it demeaning in some way to have different nouns indication gender?  If we take this to its logical conclusion, we shall have neither men nor women, just persons.


Off now to the Lilac Lark, where Brighton Lions will be running pig races.


(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip, said...

...or we shall have men and women and they will be called persons.

joeh said...

Because everyone is always offended by something these days and they think changing the names will make everything alright.

Cripple - Challenged

Idiot - Retarded - Special

Chairman - Chairlady - Chairperson

Negro - Black - African American (even in the UK?)- Person of color - I think it's back to black

I'm sticking with "Hey you!"

Jenny Woolf said...

I don't understand it either. Nothing wrong with the word actress. But so often when I have sneered at some word like this, I've ended up a few years later using the word myself. Maybe that says more about me than it does about whether the suffix is really a good idea.

Sarah said...

How funny, we had a classic bus day in Taunton yesterday with a fleet of classic buses running free trip around the town and countryside with proper conductors and printed tickets.