A Gendered Bathroom?

I found this today, at a doctor’s office…


The bathroom is female? This is just the sort of grammar-dork thing that sticks in my craw, dagnabbit…and apparently makes me talk like a ninety-year-old hillbilly, or a pirate. Yar. But this is a perfect illustration of misuse, and overuse.

Let’s look at the misuse, first–female is an adjective. You have female pilots, female plants, female plugs. Female is supposed to be followed by a noun. So in this sense, the sign is saying the bathroom itself, is female. Where is its vagina? Its ovaries? Its sense of being female even if it has no such parts? Okay, okay–there is a common usage thing going on here, in that female is and can be used as a noun (not in MY book, but…) In that case, it would still need a possessive apostrophe S. Either females’ bathroom. Or, if it belonged to a single woman, female’s bathroom.

I get it. No one is going to mistake what it means. But really, it would have been just as easy–easier–to do it right.

Now how about the overuse–and this is a lesson we writers have to learn or be shunned–do we really need the symbol AND the words? Is no one going to get that it’s a ladies’ bathroom, considering the skirted stick-figure? There was no need to then clarify the pictograph. Erroneously. Less is best, especially when more ends up being not only wordy, but grammatically incorrect.

And that is my grammar-dork rant for the day. Feel free to fling peas at me in the cafeteria. I probably have it coming.


Filed under Grammar

6 responses to “A Gendered Bathroom?

  1. But we love your grammar-dork rants. I had the same vagina thought.
    Re: the skirt issue, perhaps in Scotland, where kilted men wander, the skirt might make a man pause and question where he’s supposed to go tinkle?


  2. Haha! Love this post! *gives you chocolate cake instead of peas*


  3. It reminds me of a mistake I often make when I refer to our historical novel that takes place 3000 years ago as an ancient historical novel. So if the historical novel was written and published 3000 years ago, it’d be an ancient historical novel. But I don’t have an alternative for what to call it.


    • Terri-Lynne DeFino

      Ah, that’s where punctuation comes in! Ancient-historical novel could work for a more visual, but really, the lack of a comma says it all. if it were ancient AND historical, there’d be a comma. That there is no comma means it is a novel of ancient history. When speaking it aloud, there are no commas other than voice inflection; not always easy to hear. So why not just say, “A novel of ancient history.” That covers it well enough.


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