Monday, March 8, 2010

Womn*, etc. (for Women*, Woman*)

Today is International Women's Day, a day originally meant for reflecting upon women's rights and feminist issues. IWD was introduced in 1909, following a declaration by the Socialist Party of America, although in some parts of the world it has become less a political event and more an occasion simply to celebrate women and spring. There are many different kinds of women, and many different ways to misspell them (without even including such purposely reworked variants as "womyn" and "wimmin"). According to Wimmipedia, er, Wikipedia: "In Old English, the words wer and wyf (also w√¶pman and wifman) were used to refer to 'man' and 'woman' respectively, and man was gender-neutral. In Middle English, man displaced wer as a term for 'male human,' whilst wifman (which eventually evolved into woman) was retained for 'female human.' (Wif also evolved into the word wife.) Man carries the old sense of 'human,' however, resulting in an asymmetry criticized as sexist..." (Whatever you call us, just don't call us late for dinner—and thanks for making it, man!) The following typos for woman* and women* were made in OhioLINK several times apiece:

Womn*
Womem*
Womam*
Wommen*
Womman*

(1932 Soviet poster dedicated to the 8th of March holiday, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

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