I’ve noticed something interesting. Ever read any Deborah Tannen? Differences in the way women and men use language? Women say ‘sorry’ a lot more than men do, that kind of thing? Somewhat worrying, a tad too similar to the Gilligan-Harding school of feminism which is too inclined to characterize women as big soppy soft-headed damp-palmed lachrymose huggy squishy melty getOFFme fools – but interesting all the same, and she is better at both gathering data and thinking about the data once she’s gathered. Anyway – differences in the way men and women use language. I think I’ve noticed a new one (new in the sense that I hadn’t noticed it before, though Tannen probably has). Here is my theory. [protracted pause to cough and clear throat] When men report on something they’ve done in collaboration with someone else they say ‘I’ve done this (with X).’ Women say ‘X and I have done this.’ I find that really profoundly interesting, and indicative of something or other. (Well, it’s fairly obvious of what, but it would be unkind to spell it out. snigger, snerk.) It reminds me of a guy I used to work with at the zoo. He once did a written report of something we had worked on together – and he used the pronoun ‘I’ throughout. ‘I did this, I did that.’ I pointed out to him that actually we had done this and that – and he was entirely uninterested. There’s something hilariously funny about that, in a tragic sort of way.
(And no, that still does not mean that Mileva Marić collaborated with Einstein!)