Wednesday, November 09, 2005

This man walks into a bar. "Ouch," he says...

Alright, so that's not the funniest joke in the world, but if you're a woman you might have liked it more than a man, because (according to research from Stanford University) women analyse the language of humour more than men. So the hilarious homophone (lexeme that sounds the same as another with a different meaning, or telephone used by the gay community, whichever definition you prefer) in the joke above (that's the word "bar", for those of you in Croydon) might be what women find more amusing.

So what's all this brain gender stuff about? And where does it lead us? I worry a little bit that any biological/genetic discussion about the different behaviour of the genders slips into the "I can't help it; it's in my genes" school of thought. In other words, we make excuses for our dubious behaviour by claiming we're genetically predisposed towards not washing up/leering at young women in short skirts/ not liking David Baddiel (take your pick), when in fact gender is only one part of our make-up as human beings.

And maybe this applies as well to arguments about language and gender, and particularly gender and conversation. How much of our talk is determined by our gender and how much by our status in society, age, ethnic background, our feelings towards other people we're talking to at any one given point in time?

I don't know, but then I'm a man and I'm not programmed to think...

Useful for:
ENA3 - Male/female conversation

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