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Diminutive Connotations of Word Pairs

What’s the first thought that comes to mind when you see this “4 Queens” sign

 

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?

Many connotations are evident in the wording of this sign.

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