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Broadcaster: Radio 4
Year: 2010
URL: http://bobnational.net/record/283316

Reviewed by : Lisa Smalley

Fry’s English Delight is a regular radio programme presented by the wonderful Stephen Fry. This 30 minute episode from Series 3 (2010) focuses on the long considered question of difference in language usage by males and females. Contributors to the discussion are:

  • Deborah Cameron (Rupert Murdoch Professor in Language and Communication at Worcester College in Oxford)
    Interested in sociolinguistics and linguistic anthropology.  Cameron discusses the social aspect of language, and comments on the myth of misunderstanding between genders, asserting that the imperfection of language between heterosexual couples is often studied, and therefore fuels the myth of gender difference.
    (Several other radio shorts on language and gender with Deborah Cameron can be found on the BBC Radio 4 website).
  • Jennifer Coates (Professor of the English Language and Linguistics at Roehampton University)
    Discusses early mixed group research, leading to the vulnerable representation of women in linguistics.  Her own research challenged this and also discovered some differences in male and female discourse, for example, self-depreciating humour, and ‘jam sessions’ in female dialogue.  The conversation turns to the use of language in the fields of education and business, with the focus being the influence of gender on language in these arenas and the social outcomes of this.
  • Dr. Guri Sandhu (Gender reassignment Surgeon)
    The idea of identity construction can also be carried through from gender to the type of male or female an individual wishes to present.  Transsexuals have the experience of being both, and Dr. Sandhu explains the procedure of remapping the larynx onto the cerebral cortex to help those in transition to relearn their method of speech.
  • Christella Antonio (Voice Therapist)
    Christella works with patients who are in transition, and explains the process of teaching the change in gender speech.

Examples used in the programme of the view on gender equality from 1960s, through to the 70s and 80s are a Ronnie Barker monologue, ‘Minister of Sex Equality’, and an interview with Sue McGregor, a presenter of ‘Women’s Hour’ through the 70s and 80s.

When considering the myth of misunderstanding between genders, the examples of ‘He says, she says’ are very entertaining, “She says: ‘You’re so manly’. She means: ‘You need a shave and you sweat a lot’”.  The conclusion to this, is that we seem to understand one another only too well.