The word of the year 2013 – gender

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Gender – the word of the year 2013

After much deliberation and discussion, the jury, composed of professors of linguistics: Jerzy Bartmiński, Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin, Jerzy Bralczyk, University of Warsaw, Andrzej Markowski, University of Warsaw, Jan Miodek, University of Wrocław, Walery Pisarek, Pontifical University of John Paul II, Renata Przybylska, Jagiellonian University, Halina Zgółkowa, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań [>>] made their choice.

Other honoured words are: ekspert, Euromajdan, janosikowe, podsłuch, słoik, tęcza. The most repeated word in the Internet plebiscite was gender. The following words were also proposed (in order of submitting):tęcza, Franciszek, kibol, ekspert, Euromajdan (EuroMajdan, Majdan Europejski), słoik, projekt, orkan, naród, miłość, kryzys, jakby, związki partnerskie, zboczenieczamach, węgiel, wykluczenie, wiśnia, weganizm, szczaw i mirabelki, referendum 6 latków, przeciek, porażka, po prostu, pedofilia, papież, obłuda, młotek, majdanlike, lew, leming, lapsus, konklawe, komisjajesteś cały?, janusze, innowacyjny, heca, grafen, genderyzm, epicki, dylemat, chrzan, brzoza, ateistyczne dewotki, abdykacja, Smoleńsk, Polska, OFE, Donald.


a comment from prof. Walery Pisarek (Pontifical University of JPII, Cracow)

Gender A frequent use of the word gender was, and is, being favoured both due to its vague (or intentionally persuasively blurred) meaning and its varied emotional marking. Describing this word in term of flagship words, we notice that for some part of Polish citizens it belongs to miranda, which are words for things that should be admired, while for some other part it belongs to condemnanda – things that should be condemned. This word, becoming more and more popular, wins many supporters, at the same time pulling together many opponents, which in turn raises interest for this word in the rest of society. As for the society, the word gender becomes one of disputanda – the words which should be discussed. Thus, it has become one of the dominant and expressive slogans of Polish public discourse in 2013, especially in its second half.

Janosikowe As some may know, janosikowe (from the name of a legendary outlaw and highwayman who lived in Tatra mountains at the turn of 17th and 18th century, robbing nobles and helping the poor) is a kind of a solidarity tax paid to the national budget by the wealthiest local government units, which is later divided amongst poorest units. This would be the embodiment of the idea of the famous outlaw who equalised the world by taking from the rich and giving to the poor. In times of prosperity, the payment of janosikowe is not considered a huge burden, as it is in the times of crisis. This was the reason for the local parliament to revise the corresponding law. Fortunately for the poorest local governments, the idea of Janosik has won. Fingers crossed the word janosikowe has no chance to become the word of the year in 2014.

Podsłuch (Eng. tap) Last year saw tapping affairs revealed to the public, along with video recordings and collecting personal information, in an unseen scale. Among the words of the month in our National Corpus, this was shown by the word podsłuch. The psychosis of being tapped and watched causes some people cover the “Skype eyes” in their computers. We are the first generation to be listened to and watched on such a scale – say twenty-year-old people, adding with a hint of pride – and the last one to be bothered with it.

A comment from prof. Halina Zgółkowa (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań)

The word gender entered fiercely into idiolectal lexicons of many Poles belonging to various age, environment, regional, etc. groups and it will probably stay there for good. Despite the word’s fuzzy, unclear semantics, it has a clear bipolar axiological marking (probably even more polarised than the word tolerance). For this reason, nolens volens, it has become the word of the year, what we, the jury, have only diagnosed.

A comment from prof. Jan Miodek (Univeristy of Wrocław)

I knew, I felt gender had to win. This word has been beating all records in past weeks. I cannot be delighted that, like tęcza (rainbow), it wakes extreme emotions and divides our society. As a result, everyone who have had enough of Polish divisions and quarrels start using gender as it was the case with Russians or atoms in Polish People’s Republic. “It is all gender’s fault, man” – like once “it is all Russians’ fault (or atoms’, as in Kazimierz Grześkowiak’s song).”

A comment from Prof. Jerzy Bartmiński (Maria Curie-Skłodowska University, Lublin)

Gender is for me an interesting example of an instant career of a foreign word, which nonetheless remains a “quotation” rather than a “loan-word”. It should help us distinguish social sex (gender) as a social phenomenon resulting from social habits, from biological sex, for which we already have an assimilated word seks (sex). Can gender be substituted with something native? Rather not, at least for now. It is enough to mention that university studies on social sex, on images of masculinity and femininity, are still labelled with a foreign name of gender studies. The word gender (it will probably stay in the Polish language for good) owes its recent popularity to the bishops’ letter to the faithful, and previously to a rather bizarre right-wing press campaign against gender, which was full of semantic simplifications, or even slanders, which raised a protest of the scientific community.

Jakby (Eng. kind of) From among the words-candidates for the title of the word of the year, I would single out the word jakby, as it seems to reveal our tendency of escaping from clear yes-yes, no-no. “Trochę go to jakby zastanowiło” (“It kind of made him wonder”), Zbudował jakby domek” (“He built a kind of a house”), “Stał się jakby łagodniejszy” (“He has become kind of gentler”), “Stracił jakby zainteresowanie dla sprawy (“He has lost kind of interest for the matter”), “Ktoś jakby się zgodził, ale odwołał” (“Someone kind of agreed, but he withdrew”) etc. Jakby – a kind of sign of the times.