Let women modify

March 09, 2013|By John E. McIntyre | The Baltimore Sun

A colleague, the exuberant Brian White (@talkwordy), tweeted thus earlier this evening: "ONE MORE TIME: WOMEN IS NOT AN ADJECTIVE. IF YOU WOULDN'T SAY MEN DOCTOR, MEN FRIEND, OR MEN LAWMAKER, DON'T USE WOMEN."

Fearing that this post may lead to undue strain on his caps lock key, I nevertheless suggest that he has made one of those sweeping flat statements that is not quite the case. English is generous in allowing nouns to modify other nouns. 

In the Anglican skirmishes of the War Between Men and Women, for example, women priests has been used the in the trenches on both sides for forty years. Don't just trust my battlefield reportage; you can look at the Google Ngram. Same for women bishops. The Corpus of Contemporary American English turns up fifty-seven citations for women priests to fifteen for female priests.

Usage trumps theory.


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