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Man up?

March 30, 2010
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Man up. Grow a pair. Stop being such a pussy. Put on your man pants.

David and I have been discussing these idioms lately (well, not the last one–that one’s just me) and in particular, why it’s so difficult to develop new ways of insisting that someone act more maturely and/or take responsibility and/or stop wallowing that are both evocative and just.

I suggested that the emotive force of these idioms is derived their gender connotations. So, it’s nearly impossible to convey “stop acting as though you were a woman, because acting like a woman is bad” without using sexist language. “Grow up,” even though it’s already commonly used, has none of the bite of these other phrases. Calling someone a “coward” instead of a “pussy” is in a completely different register.

What do you think? Do you agree with my hypothesis? Do you have other idioms to replace these problematic ones?

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 30, 2010 3:58 PM

    I like “put on your big girl panties” – but is that sexist too? Oh well, I like it.

  2. March 30, 2010 5:21 PM

    “Grow up” doesn’t work well in practice. A lot of teachers used this expression on students throughout my school career & the thing is…

    Once I did grow up,
    It became clear that the other adults all around me acted no better, and in many cases, even worse, than we students had.

  3. adam permalink
    March 31, 2010 5:09 AM

    i must say, “grow up” always cuts me to the quick. and as for “pussy,” it’s been used as a joke so much in my life that i don’t even take it seriously anymore.

    then again, i’d say a lot of it depends on who’s saying it. someone i respect could get me with anything. well, maybe except “pussy” …

  4. April 5, 2010 12:34 AM

    “Man up” bothers me a lot (kinda went all ranty about it last year). It’s basically telling that guy that if he does not perform said act then he is not a man.

    And as for the uses of words “pussy” (a coward) and “dick” (jerk) they both need to go. Trying to associate cowardice with being female and unlikeable behavior with being male by way of slang terms for genitals is just wrong.

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