Women: Bad; Victuals: Worse


To The Editor Of The Nation:

Sir: An obiter dictum in a paper which I read before the Modern Language Association last week has since appeared in a number of newspapers in a curiously distorted version. The following is a sample:

“A professor of the University of Michigan, being desirous of ascertaining the most hated word in connection with spelling-reform investigation, wrote to a thousand persons for their opinion, and was surprised when the majority replied that the most hated word was ‘woman.’ “

What I actually said was as follows:

“A considerable number of persons hate the plural form women, as being weak and whimpering, though the singular, woman, connotes for the same persons ideals of strength and nobility. It is for this reason, perhaps, that woman’s building, woman’s college, and the like have supplanted In popular speech the forms women’s building, women’s college, etc. It is noteworthy, also, that, in the titles of women’s magazines and the names of women’s clubs, the singular in most instances has been chosen instead of the more logical plural.”

It will be noticed that women was not the best-hated word on my list. That bad eminence was reserved for victuals.

I take the opportunity to say that any one who has violent antipathies to particular words or phrases, not traceable to the meaning, will do me a favor by corresponding with me. All that I wish is (1) a list of such verba non grata with (2) reasons for the dislikes, where reasons can be given.

Fred Newton Scott.

Univbrsity Of Michigan, December 30, 1901.