The 12 words that show which sex you are: experts use language to define gender divide

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 July, 2014, 11:21pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 July, 2014, 3:40pm


Do you know what découpage is? Tresses, taffeta, and mascarpone? Then you're statistically more likely to be female. If you're more confident identifying a golem, a paladin, or a scimitar, then you're more likely to be a man.

That's according to research from the Centre for Reading Research at the University of Ghent in Belgium, highlighted by the books blog MobyLives, which analysed the results of half a million vocabulary surveys, and found that "some words are better known to men than to women and the other way around".

As MobyLives put it, "our vocabularies are awesomely sexist".

The 12 words with the largest difference in favour of men (with the numbers in brackets showing the percentage of men who knew the word, and then the percentage of women) were codec (88, 48), solenoid (87, 54), golem (89, 56), mach (93, 63), humvee (88, 58), claymore (87, 58), scimitar (86, 58), kevlar (93, 65), paladin (93, 66), bolshevism (85, 60), biped (86, 61), and dreadnought (90, 66).

The 12 with the largest difference in favour of women were taffeta (48, 87), tresses (61, 93), bottlebrush (58, 89), flouncy (55, 86), mascarpone (60, 90), découpage (56, 86), progesterone (63, 92), wisteria (61, 89), taupe (66, 93), flouncing (67, 94), peony (70, 96), and bodice (71, 96).

These 24 words, wrote the researchers, "should suffice to find out whether a person you are interacting with in digital space is male or female".

The study also revealed the 20 least-known words in English - those words which fewer than 3 per cent of test participants indicated were part of the language.

"Fake words were endorsed by 8.3 per cent of the participants on average," the research found. "So these are words not only unknown to everyone but also unlikely to be 'mistaken' for a true English word." They include cacomistle and didapper, chaulmoogra, gossypol and genipap.