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Yarrrg, you scurvy Kripke
Friday, May 25, 2007   10:24 AM

I just saw Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End yesterday. Two things stuck out:

1. The decaying carcass of a giant sea creature (presumably the Kraken from the previous movie) was washed up on a beach. This reminded me of a word I'd just learned a few hours earlier:

globster — a large, beached, unidentified organic mass presumed to be some sort of dead creature.

2. The use of king as a gender-neutral term. I thought this usage was novel but unproblematic: the characters were looking for someone to be the "pirate king" and since the title was unalterable and the election process (or is it elections process?) was gender-neutral, a woman could end up as king. A "pirate queen" would have been useless.

I'd wager that some people in the audience didn't even bat an eye at the movie's use of king. Is the ability of a title to describe someone who would be excluded if we took that title literally another victory for the descriptive theory of names?

I vaguely recall learning about a real-life English queen who quelled doubts about her ability to rule with rhetoric that established the part of her that was ruling as male, but even if she could have said that outright then, she couldn't now. For the vast majority of English speakers king always denotes a non-female.

(Notice that I didn't say "denotes a male" — in some alternate universe I could imagine a "King Robot" or a "King Turnip" where the use of king is not metaphorical.)


I wondered about this when Sheryl Crow sang the line, "I'm still the king of me" in Soak Up the Sun.

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