The gender-specific adjective


Rob Silver considers the curious case of Karen Stintz.

I can find hundreds of examples of female politicians from Hillary Clinton to Sarah Palin and now Karen Stintz being described as “shrill.” Can you find a single example of a male politician being called shrill? First commenter to post an example gets an autographed Tim Powers sweater vest (in baby blue, needless to say).

A Globe commenter claims to have found one example in Germany.

In general, the male equivalent of shrill might be blustery. Or buffoonish. I would wonder if the difference is merely a matter of what octave the nonsense is delivered in.


The gender-specific adjective

  1. An opinion:

    High pitched and piercing (shrill) speech is all about pitch and loudness. Few human males are capable of shrillness without forcing. The male equivalent is probably the rant. See: Conservative blogger.

  2. I find Jack Layton’s moustache quite shrill.

  3. The word “shrill” has not appeared in a Canadian newspaper to describe a female politician since 2005. It has been used many times since then to describe male politicians, including Harper and Dion.

  4. I think we had a fairly contentious discussion about something like this a while back.

    Anyway, the male equivalent is probably whatever the gang is calling George Galloway these days.

    • Indeed. I think Sisyphus started it by facetiously correcting the Macleans author for not referring to a female politician as “shrill”, and then I (and I think CR) challenged. First prize to whoever can find the thread. I seem to think it was on one of Aaron’s day in parliament round-ups, but I could possibly be wrong (stranger things have happened).

  5. “Whiny” or “whining” might be the equivalent of “shrill” for male speakers. You do get the intonation of a high-pitch, plus the note of petulance associated with immaturity.

  6. “Shrill” is sexist. Karen Stintz is pathetic. We are supposed to pay to make her a more viable candidate? Her CBC interview this afternoon was a stuttering mess of rationalizations. The only lesson she’s taken to heart is – Don’t answer their questions. Stick to your preferred talking points.

  7. Luckily Powers has lots of sweater vests to distribute.

  8. Who was the last female politician to be called a “blowhard?”

    • When was the last time a female politician was a blowhard?

  9. It’s pretty clear that Rob Silver did not bother looking for evidence before he made his claim.

    • Depends on which claim you’re referring to. There’s also the one that someone somewhere is a “socialist”.
      Maybe he had a short course at Conservative Communications HQ.

      • Silver took a Conservative Communications course? Boy, he sure does a good job of hiding it. All this time I would have sworn he supported the Liberals.

        • That’s a distinction , not a difference.

  10. Gore Vidal used to object to “shrill” as a verb, as in, ” ‘Outrageous!’ he shrilled.”

    FWIW, Google yields 8000 hits for “he shrilled” and only 1000 for “she shrilled.” So the males are winning the neologism shrilling contest.

  11. Whatever we conclude, we can’t ban “shrill.” It just looks too cool; and we wouldn’t be able to say

    . . . drumroll please. . .

    Shrill shill’s skill still spills swill.

    • Bravo, but now you’re just being shilly.

  12. It’s not easy to make sense of what you’re saying — CR not being a Liberal troll, for starters — but I’d betcha women politicians are more likely to be denounced as mellifluous than their brothers are.

  13. “Liberals are Fail” is Fail.

    I shouldn’t complain, though. His shrill swill still has a certain mellifluity about it. Also, he seems to be capable of spelling big words.

  14. ‘they are here to help Canadians, not just to try and play on bad news for their own strategic advantage,” he yelped.’ A. Wherry, today
    Seems a good counterpart to shrill.

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