When you consider the words king and queen, which one is diminutive? If you guessed queen, you are correct. Think about it. The word pair king/queen is always in an order where king is almost always referred to first, a placement that seemingly creates a hierarchy where the word queen is less significant. Many elements in our culture offer a diminutive connotation for one part of a word pair, known as the process of semantic derogation.
Other word pairs follow the same hierachy: lord/lady, sir/dame, master/mistress, bachelor/spinster, governor/governess. The semantic derogation is evident when you picture the first image that comes to mind when you read each word of the pair. The male term has a reference to power while the female term infers servitude.
With reference to the word pair bachelor and spinster, spinster represents the absence of sexuality and fertility, while a bachelor makes a last stand for showing his prowess and domination. A desirable man is a bachelor: a woeful woman is a spinster.
Today a spinster is a bachelorette, a metamorphosis of a woeful woman to a party girl, matching the festive image one imagines when he/she thinks of the word bachelor. Is that change a good one?
The connotations of the signs above, you might visualize four queens as innocuous language that refers to characters in a deck of cards. The strength of the words in the sign can be determined in the cards’ value, a value that, again, has you assessing kings verses queens. In a poker game, which do you want to have from a choice of the two?
Finally the sign below uses the word king, again, to indicate a man’s prowess. Where do the women stand in this situation, or is ladies a better term?by