Weekly Word Watch: lady-friendly, peoplekind, and deepfakes
Science news brought some notable terms to our attention this week, like the launch of Falcon Heavy, the dark skin and baby blues of Cheddar Man, the cancer-spreading properties of asparagine, and Jedek, the name Swedish researchers are calling a previously undocumented language spoken in the Malay Peninsula, from one of the terms its speakers use.
But our main lexical prizes this Weekly Word Watch go to words that variously relate to topics of sex and gender:
PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi put her foot in her mouth in a recent interview on the Freakonomics podcast when characterizing apparent differences in the way men and women consume her company’s flagship crisps, Doritos.
Nooyi said women ‘don’t like to crunch too loudly in public. And they don’t lick their fingers generously and they don’t like to pour the little broken pieces and the flavor into their mouth’. To address these alleged challenges of gendered snacking, Nooyi continued, PepsiCo was launching a ‘low-crunch’ crisp easily carried in a handbag. The internet quickly ridiculed them as ‘lady-friendly Doritos’ or simply ‘lady Doritos’.
In response to Doritos lady friendly crisps I shall be eating the biggest crisps I can find crunching really loudly burping and carrying a packet of crisps as a handbag
— kate ford (@kateford76) February 5, 2018
Now, the adjective friendly goes all the way back to Old English, but using it as a combining form to denote ‘something that is adapted for or is not harmful to a specified thing’ appears to be a 20th-century phenomenon. The Oxford English Dictionary finds business-friendly in 1948 and child-friendly in 1977, with the construction X-friendly taking off in the 1980-90s as seen by words like audience-friendly, disabled-friendly, gay-friendly, family-friendly, pet-friendly, media-friendly, and vegan-friendly.
Instances of ‘lady-friendly’ seem fairly rare in the record – and the Nooyi backlash suggests it will stay that way. Female-friendly, however, has been evidenced since at least 1984. That we collectively went with ‘lady-friendly’ for the Doritos debacle, though, definitely underscores that significant semantic distinctions in our vocabulary about sex and gender are underway.
Doritos, for its part, is trying to stay lady-friendly as a brand as it denies lady-friendliness in its products:
We already have Doritos for women — they’re called Doritos, and they’re loved by millions.
— Doritos (@Doritos) February 6, 2018
In other news in the evolving vocabulary of sex and gender, some think Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also put his foot in his mouth right as his government approved gender-neutral lyrics to their national anthem.
At a town hall in Edmonton, a woman wrapped up some comments on the power of women, along with a question related to volunteering, by saying, ‘Maternal love is the love that’s going to change the future of mankind’.
Trudeau interjected: ‘We like to say ‘peoplekind’, not necessarily ‘mankind’, because it’s more inclusive.’
The room cheered, and the woman added: ‘There you go, exactly. Yes. Thank you.’
Not everyone agreed, though. Conservative critics pointed to Trudeau’s peoplekind as political correctness run amok while some liberal critics on social media took Trudeau to task for mansplaining – er, peoplesplaining? – inclusivity to a woman. Lexical critics, meanwhile, puzzled at the term peoplekind. Wouldn’t that be… humankind?
We’ve been long stumbling over our words for sex and gender, though. Take man. In Old English, it could refer to any human being, regardless of sex. Or woman, from the Old English wifman, a compound of wif, which meant originally ‘woman’, and man in its earlier sense of person. That there is a man in human is etymologically coincidental, the word coming from the Latin humanus, ‘human’; there’s no reason to change it to huperson.
Man, woman, wife, human, person – you’d think we’d have a term that included everyone. Oh yeah. People.
Reddit announced this week that is banning the deepfakes community on its site. Deepfakes are pornographic videos in which the faces of people, usually female celebrities or public figures, are swapped onto the bodies of porn actors through artificial intelligence software.
The term comes from a Redditor with the username deepfake who created the subgroup r/deepfakes in 2017 to share his sexually explicit face-swapped videos, which came to be called deepfakes. Fakes is from fake pornography, while deep may allude to deep learning, a type of machine learning that helps generate the content, as well as suggest the depth, or richness, of their quality.
In 2018, another Reddit account released FakeApp, a desktop tool for creating deepfakes, which then flooded pornography websites and social media. After Pornhub and Twitter abolished deepfakes this week, Reddit followed suit by taking down r/deepfakes and related sub-communities, stating they violate their policy against ‘involuntary pornography’.
Disturbing, no doubt, but as AI becomes ever more sophisticated, we might well see more -fake compounds in our media and technology.
Nellie Bowles had an eye-catching lead for her recent story in the New York Times:
They call what they are building Puertopia. But then someone told them, apparently in all seriousness, that it translates to ‘eternal boy playground’ in Latin. So they are changing the name: They will call it Sol.
Bowles is referring to a collective of cryptocurrency and blockchain entrepreneurs who ‘want to build a crypto utopia, a new city where the money is virtual and the contracts are all public, to show the rest of the world what a crypto future could look like’.
The Puertopians, as Bowles go on to call them, thought they’d cooked up a clever blend: Puerto (Rico) + utopia, with the final two letters in Puerto getting a head start on utopia. But their portmanteau runs afoul of how we English speakers break down words.
There is no Latin word puertopia, not to mention that utopia, a Latinized rendering of Greek roots for ‘no place’, was coined by Thomas More in 1551 as the name of his place for an imaginary island with an ideal society. But there is the Latin word puer, meaning ‘boy’.
They may not have intended it, but whoever pointed out the Latin connection to the Puertopians was observing that were used to analyzing utopia blends as -topia, not -pia, e.g., dystopia or the drink brand Fruitopia.
The English language indeed once had a cryptopia, now cryptopine, the name for an alkaloid found in opium. This word also features the same crypto- in Puertopians’ beloved cryptocurrency, but the -op- comes from opium and the -ia a widely used noun-forming suffix.
But the Puertopians still had some successful wordplay fun, calling their 2018 conference in Puerto Rico Puerto Crypto.