Wordwatch Towers

A plain language guide to punctuation, grammar and writing well.


with 6 comments

Diana DeGette
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BBC Radio 4’s flagship news programme, Today, has just told me that BP boss Tony Hayward faced a day of tough questioning from US congressmen yesterday.

I just checked, and those congressmen included:

  • Jan Shakowsky
  • Betty Sutton
  • Kathy Castor
  • Diana DeGette
  • Marsha Blackburn

I could be very much mistaken, but I’m prepared to wager a fairly hefty bet that they’re all women. Er — congresswomen, then.

If the presenter on Radio 4 couldn’t be bothered to say ‘congressmen and women’ (for I’ve no doubt it would have been in that male-first order), then the simple gender-neutral solution would have been to say ‘a day of tough questioning from a congressional committee’.

Sorting the women from the girls

Gratuitous modifiers or the lady bus driver

Top scientist or top female scientist? 

Marketing man — or woman?

She’s so intolerant, but he doesn’t suffer fools gladly

She’s such a tomboy

Ladies first?

Jack of all trades

When is a man not a man?

Am I allowed to say that?


6 Responses

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  1. Congresspersons/people?

    Might be nice if the Beeb asked why BP is there alone, as they are only a 65% shareholder in the Deepwater Horizon well, and why the American companies who were actually operating it are not in the dock too.


    18/06/2010 at 5:54 pm

    • …and as blogged by Andrew Clark in the Guardian yesterday:

      It’s quibbling, really, at this point but several bloggers have pointed out that some of the committee members persist in referring to BP as “British Petroleum” – a name that was dropped after BP merged with the American firm Amoco in 1998. John Sullivan, an Oklahoma Republican, seemed to delight in rolling “British Petroleum” over his tongue. No doubt he picked up the habit from the White House’s spokesman, Robert Gibbs.


      18/06/2010 at 6:01 pm

      • Just confirms my jaundiced view of the US administration – no matter who’s in the White House.

        And it’s not quibbling. It’s as wrong as it would be if we referred to the USA as the Virginia Colonies.

        What it is, is Brit-kicking.


        18/06/2010 at 6:25 pm

        • It does feel uncomfortably like that.


          18/06/2010 at 6:26 pm

  2. I 100% agree. It’s insulting to women.


    18/06/2010 at 6:01 pm

    • Hi, Lisa — thanks for commenting. I agree. Even in the 21st century the generic man lives on, alive and well. Nothing in his life will become him like the leaving of it.


      18/06/2010 at 6:14 pm

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