Gender vs sex

For a long time I’ve thought that  the currnent fashion for  using “gender” to refer to people as opposed to grammar was a recent fad associated with political correctness. But it seems I was wrong. I’ve just come across this in Tristram Shandy (Ch2.XXVIII).

To those who do not yet know of what gender Bruscambille is – inasmuchas a prologue on long noses noses might easily be done by either…

So that puts the usage back at least to 1759.

Antony Flew’s impenetrable sentence

In a paper titled “Parapsychology, Miracles, and Repeatability” Antony Flew writes as follows about David Hume’s view of miracles.

Since a miracle must essentially involve an overriding of the ordinary order of Nature, presumably by some supernatural power, there is bound to be an irresolvable conflict of evidence. Since all evidence for insisting that some conceivable occurrence (were it, in fact, to have occurred) constituted such an overriding of the natural order must at the same time and by the same token be evidence against the contention that the particular princple precluding occurrences of this particular kind is in fact an element in that order and, of course, also the other way about.

The sentence I have italicised must have a fair claim to be the most opaque I have ever encountered in a professional piece of writing.

[Source: The Hundredth Monkey, edited by Kendrick Frazie (Prometheus Books, 1991]


Mispronouncing “extempore” in “Book of the Week”

Helen Bonham Carter is currently reading LEL – Lucasta Miller’s “account of an infamous female poet in ruthless times – London in the 1820s and ’30s”. She pronounced “extempore” to rhyme with “shore” instead of with “Moray”. Is this ignorance or the latest example of speak as you spell? Either way it jars. It’s all the odder because a little later she pronounced another Italian word with scrupulous correctness.

Doris Day – “que sera, sera”?

The speaker in today’s “Thought for the Day” said that Doris Day had taught him how to pronounce Spanish correctly. Actually, it should have been Italian, although it is now widely said to be Spanish. It was cited by Christopher Marlow in his 1604 play Dr Faustus.  The Italian phrase is “che sarà, sarà”, although even this is gramatically incorrect – see