Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Word is Never "Just a Word"

In a persuasive writing class, my professor asked us to make a list on the board of all the words that meant “loose woman” and all the words that meant “loose man.” This is what we came up with:

Loose Woman                                     Loose Man
Slut                                                   Pimp
Whore                                              Player
Tramp                                              Hustler
Hussy                                               Man-whore

Notice anything interesting? All the words for women are extremely offensive. The words for men, on the other hand, are positive and even desirable. The only one that’s negative is man-whore, and not only is that a recently created word, but it only makes sense in relation to women. And it doesn’t pack the same punch when you use it on men.

Morale of the story: Just one word can mean a lot more than you think.

We made a few more lists of synonyms to see what meanings we could notice behind the words we used. One of the lists was for “a person who doesn’t weight much.” We wrote:

Skinny, thin, petite, slender, lean, bony, anorexic, emaciated, malnourished, scrawny, skeletal, twiggy

These words might be synonyms, but they do not mean the same thing. Everyone wants to be slender, but no one wants to be emaciated.

A writer needs to be conscious of word use. Whenever I write, I have a thesaurus open on my desktop. It's like Mark Twain said: “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”

I have a few more things to say about words associated with “loose.” I searched for some words on Thesaurus.com, and while a ton of words came up for women, none came up for men. I tried running a search on Google of “synonyms for loose men,” and the site asked me, “Did you mean to say synonyms for loose woman?”


  1. Yeah, I need to get a thesaurus out.

    and omg, I can't believe Google did that!! It needs a big spank.


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