Words that men are most likely to recognize over women

by on June 20, 2014 at 1:20 pm in Data Source, Education | Permalink

  • codec (88, 48)
  • solenoid (87, 54)
  • golem (89, 56)
  • mach (93, 63)
  • humvee (88, 58)
  • claymore (87, 589
  • scimitar (86, 58)
  • kevlar (93, 65)
  • paladin (93, 66)
  • bolshevism (85, 60)
  • biped (86, 61)
  • dreadnought (90, 66)

That is from Christina Sterbenz.  Here are the words women are most likely to recognize over men:

  • taffeta (48, 87)
  • tresses (61, 93)
  • bottlebrush (58, 89)
  • flouncy (55, 86)
  • mascarpone (60, 90)
  • decoupage (56, 86)
  • progesterone (63, 92)
  • wisteria (61, 89)
  • taupe (66, 93)
  • flouncing (67, 94)
  • peony (70, 96)
  • bodice (71, 96)

…The male words tend to center on transportation, weapons, and science, while the female words mostly relate to fashion, art, and flowers.

The article is here, hat tip Yana.

1 FE June 20, 2014 at 1:43 pm

I think you mean the male words tend to center on Dungeons & Dragons, which is where I learned the words golem, scimitar, and paladin.

2 dead serious June 20, 2014 at 1:46 pm

I knew every word except flouncy/flouncing.

I don’t need to know those.

3 joshua June 20, 2014 at 1:49 pm

is Claymore the two handed sword or the mine? Points for recongnizing both? I think I had to explain it to my wife.

4 bartman June 20, 2014 at 2:31 pm

I thought it was an oil rig.

5 Andrew' June 20, 2014 at 2:34 pm

I of course recognize both as well, but I’m not sure if one should get points from getting their knowledge from video games.

6 JWatts June 20, 2014 at 4:48 pm

Do you recognize the word curmudgeon? 😉

7 Handle June 20, 2014 at 5:25 pm

Don’t forget the Manga series!

8 Dave June 20, 2014 at 1:51 pm

This male knew every word on those two lists.

9 Nick L June 20, 2014 at 7:49 pm

We’re all very impressed

10 prior_approval June 20, 2014 at 1:52 pm

Shouldn’t that second to last sentence be in quotes, since it is a direct citation from the link?

11 Patito June 20, 2014 at 6:37 pm

the thin gray line implies quotation… unless it’s been modified since you posted this, then my apologies

12 Dave Barnes June 20, 2014 at 2:03 pm

Silly test.
Took it.
I think everyone should know 90% of both lists.

13 JWatts June 20, 2014 at 2:07 pm

Well, I’m sure they do … in Lake Wobegon.

14 Jordan > LeBron June 20, 2014 at 3:42 pm

I didn’t. Am I stupid?

15 msgkings June 20, 2014 at 4:53 pm

Well, it doesn’t help your case…

16 Mitch Berkson June 21, 2014 at 10:52 am

Also how to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly.

But, well, here we are.

17 Adrian Ratnapala June 20, 2014 at 2:05 pm

Hmm, I can think of two meanings for “bottlebrush”, but now I have a nagging feeling that there is a third, girly meaning that I am hilariously innocent of.

18 karl June 20, 2014 at 3:37 pm

I tried using a bottlebrush once and still have the scars to prove it.

19 dead serious June 20, 2014 at 4:54 pm

A sure sign that you’re reading too much Urban Dictionary.

20 Jachin June 20, 2014 at 2:06 pm

Guys learn all those words playing video games.

21 JWatts June 20, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Maybe not bolshevism, but I’ve certainly seen every one of the other words off of the Male list in either a board or video game.

22 Andrew' June 20, 2014 at 2:36 pm

What kind of video game has words like “decoupage” “progesterone”? Oh, and you misspelled “Gays.”

23 So Much for Subtlety June 20, 2014 at 8:20 pm

Steve Sailor has written a computer game based on World War T? That would about do it.

In fact “World War T: The Bloodening” could credibly use every single one of those words.

24 ummm June 20, 2014 at 2:21 pm


go to a walmart or michael’s and as a woman what a ‘mascarpone’ or a ‘decoupage ‘ is and expect blank states. Maybe 1/2000 women would know what those are. ditto for the male list

not sure how you would make a generalization for obscure words unless you sampled a ton of people

25 The Cranky Professor June 20, 2014 at 3:50 pm

Actually I’d expect women at a craft store like Michael’s to recognize decoupage. Mascarpone? Intensely regional. I’d never seen it in America until I moved to Upstate New York, in Wegman’s range.

26 dead serious June 20, 2014 at 4:55 pm

It’s rife on the Food Channel. Not that I watch.

27 Z June 20, 2014 at 2:23 pm

There’s a difference between recognize and knowing the meaning. I may know that taffeta, tresses and bottlebrush are real words used in English, but I could also not know the precise definitions. The article indicates it is just recognition so that makes it more interesting. These are words one sex or the other thinks are not real words.

28 Z June 20, 2014 at 2:24 pm

Real alpha males don’t need to be told this.

29 The Z Blog June 20, 2014 at 4:03 pm

I make a crack about sexually ambiguous beta males and I get a stalker.

30 Thor June 20, 2014 at 2:25 pm

I knew a couple of these words. And have used some in a sentence: “I removed her taffeta bodice at mach speed with my scimitar” (after the appropriate invitation to do so, of course).

31 Adrian Ratnapala June 20, 2014 at 2:43 pm

I see you have choosing more refined weapons in these centuries Thor. I guess these modern-day taffeta-clad Valkyries don’t go in for hammer chic.

32 Dan Weber June 20, 2014 at 3:23 pm

Ye regards the faire maiden reading yonder scrolle in ye pub, drinking from ye flask.

33 Cliff June 20, 2014 at 8:54 pm

Y is really thorn and it’s pronounced like th!

34 Andrew' June 20, 2014 at 2:32 pm

I recognize women over all those words!

35 Hook June 20, 2014 at 2:32 pm

I have very high confidence in defining the words on the male list. On the female list, there are a couple I couldn’t even hazard a guess and others in which I’m not very confident. Interestingly enough, my wife had the opposite experience. Our vocabularies are so stereotypical.

36 The Other Jim June 20, 2014 at 2:45 pm

>Our vocabularies are so stereotypical.

By which you mean typical.

37 Urso June 20, 2014 at 2:52 pm

Stereotypical, meaning typical on both sides.

(Get it, because stereo is music that comes from both the left and right sides? *tap tap* Is this thing on?)

38 Urstoff June 20, 2014 at 3:05 pm

monotypical if you’re single

39 dbg June 20, 2014 at 3:46 pm

prototypical if you’re a fetus.

40 dead serious June 20, 2014 at 4:56 pm

Atypical if you’re not.

41 andrew' June 20, 2014 at 10:31 pm

Ectopical if one thinks outside the box.

42 Contemplationist June 20, 2014 at 3:03 pm

Sexism! Gender Binary-ism! Fascism!
Lies, all of these.
Also, all socially constructed. In twenty years the opposite could be true. YOU DONT KNOW THAT IT COULDNT!

43 Contemplationist June 20, 2014 at 3:05 pm

To be more serious, I missed 1 word in the male list, and 5 in the female list, so this works for me.

44 GiT June 20, 2014 at 8:20 pm

Clearly vocabulary is genetically controlled, not socially contingent.

45 So Much for Subtlety June 20, 2014 at 9:06 pm

Studies in monkeys show that infant monkeys prefer gender-normative toys. That is little baby girl monkeys will play with dolls, little baby boy monkeys, not so much. In humans an interest in something usually means acquiring a larger and more complex vocabulary relating to that interest. There are not a lot of places a person of either gender is going to come across taffeta unless they are seeking out interior design tips.

So, basically, yes and no. Vocabulary may be socially contingent, but that social context is determined to some extent by genes.

46 edb June 20, 2014 at 3:26 pm

Calling the first set of words related to “science” is a stretch—perhaps an indicator of subtle bias at work.

“Codec” and “solonoid” versus “progesterone.” Science v. flowers?

47 JWatts June 20, 2014 at 4:05 pm

“Calling the first set of words related to “science” is a stretch”

Maybe you could pedantically insist that codec and solenoid should better be classed as related to technology, but I think most people would find that a quibble.

And if you’re going to make a pedantic criticism, then perhaps you should read the article with better attention to detail.

“while the female words mostly relate to fashion, art, and flowers. “

48 edb June 20, 2014 at 5:59 pm

Chill out there bud. I wasn’t trying to be pedantic—just noting that one more arguably “science” word in the men’s list versus the women’s seems to me a pretty weak reason to draw a distinction. And noting that there’s a longstanding bias against and underrepresentation of women in the sciences.

And I noticed that he used the word “mostly,” just like he used the phrase “tends to center on.” I read the two as equivalent in that sentence, meaning: these are the concepts from which the words in this list are primarily drawn.

My point was about bias confirmation, not about whether to classify codec and solenoid as technology or science.

49 JWatts June 20, 2014 at 7:30 pm

Hmm, ok fair enough.

But then wouldn’t the more apt comparison be: weapons v. flowers?

50 Mo June 20, 2014 at 4:24 pm

I would guess 80% of the male recognition of codec is related to intern pr0n.

51 Mo June 20, 2014 at 4:24 pm


52 Adrian Ratnapala June 20, 2014 at 4:56 pm

Tell that to Bill Clinton. And you have to admit, that when it comes to intern porn, he knows all about coding and decoding.

53 Tim June 20, 2014 at 3:45 pm

I’m really puzzled why bottlebrush keeps coming up in this thread. It’s a compound noun. A brush for cleaning bottles. There is also a plant that looks like a brush for cleaning bottles.

Also chalk a win up for the religious right with progesterone being on that list.

54 JWatts June 20, 2014 at 4:12 pm

“Also chalk a win up for the religious right with progesterone being on that list.”

Could you explain this comment?

55 Ryan June 20, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Easy. All Christians want to get pregnant and harvest offspring. All atheists like to abort and kill babies.

56 Tim June 20, 2014 at 7:01 pm

I expect more men would know what progesterone was if we had more in depth discussion of birth control methods at the high school level.

57 Tim June 20, 2014 at 7:05 pm

Most forms of the pill are various levels of progesterone and estrogen.

58 Adrian Ratnapala June 20, 2014 at 4:58 pm

This is why I am now convinced that there is a third meaning that you are I are oblivious to. That means that your comment has just demonstrated your utter folly and ignorance. I am at peace with my own ignorance.

59 Finch June 20, 2014 at 5:06 pm

The major application of bottlebrushes is cleaning baby bottles, right? So I thought that was the girly usage. And the cave thing and the plant are guyish.

But I’m not willing to Google this at work, lest I’m horrifically wrong.

60 Tim June 20, 2014 at 7:03 pm

You’re not. Google’s full of pages and pages of plants and baby bottle cleaning tools. It might be the safest search you ever do on Google.

61 Finch June 20, 2014 at 8:14 pm


62 Sigivald June 20, 2014 at 3:59 pm

My background in historical re-creation (and thus sewing), and graphic design pays off.

I knew all the words on both lists.

But relevantly, Z is right.

This is not a list of words each gender could define or use in a sentence – it’s a list of gendered recognition on a split second, in a field of potential nonsense words; that’s rather different.

I’m not sure it’s more interesting, but it’s different.

63 ed June 20, 2014 at 4:01 pm

The men probably got confused between decoupage and decolletage.

64 So Much for Subtlety June 20, 2014 at 7:05 pm

Really? Decoupage isn’t what you do when you separate the railway cars from each other and send them to their different destinations?

Thank God for that. I was beginning to be worried about my sexual orientation as I knew all the one’s on the women’s list and the only one I did not know is in the men’s list – codec. But then a lot of them have rather vague definitions. Does it count as knowing if you say a solenoid is an electronics-thingy found in, you know, electronic things? How precise does a definition have to be before it counts? And perhaps I am just fooling myself – perhaps this is a case of Rumsfeld-type known-unknowns?

65 Jay June 20, 2014 at 4:37 pm

We need a French economist to teach us how we can rid the world of such unbearable inequality. It is simply immoral!

66 gregorsam June 20, 2014 at 4:37 pm

The last word in the second list suggests that the respondents to the survey were mainly adults living alone in their moms’ basements.

67 Steve Sailer June 20, 2014 at 4:46 pm

Well, those lists sure Shatter Stereotypes!

68 A Definite Beta Guy June 20, 2014 at 4:56 pm

“The male words tend to center on transportation, weapons, and science, while the female words mostly relate to fashion, art, and flowers.”
Thank you for the Y Chromosome, Dad.

69 Alan Gunn June 20, 2014 at 5:09 pm

I thought I recognized decoupage, but I was really thinking of decalage. Hmm.

70 Noumenon72 June 21, 2014 at 2:03 am

I was thinking of “decolletage”…

71 Claudia June 20, 2014 at 5:13 pm

I am confused about the design of this study … and thus am not sure how to interpret these results. I clicked through to BI and learned the gender differences above are “statistically significant” (I would hope so with 500k sample sizes) but when I clicked on to the research center’s page I cannot find info on the sample design (I may be overlooking it). It is clear they have a ton of online tests completed but I can’t figure out by whom (that is, what population are they sampling from). These results may not tell about vocabulary differences in English-speaking men and women … they may simply tell us that the men and women who frequent the Internet speak ‘different languages’ or have more divergent interests than the general population (not sure I needed a survey to tell me that). Still it is kind of an interesting word test.

72 andrew' June 21, 2014 at 5:56 am

It’s not really about men and women as much as it is about those particular words. At best what this post is about is what if anything those words say about men and women. But it is basically what we already knew.

73 dearieme June 20, 2014 at 5:14 pm

I had assumed that “decoupage” was like embonpoint.

As for the words one learns from computer games: aren’t you using “men” in some narrow, technical sense?

74 David Wright June 20, 2014 at 5:21 pm

Definitely holds true for this male. I instantly recognize all the male words and understand their referents and usage in great detail. After a moment, recognize the female words and think I know basically what they mean, although not with great confidence or in great detail.

Taffeta: Frilly stuff on clothes, I think. Is it a special kind of frill or any frill?
Tresses: Aren’t those cross-beams on a roof or bridge?
Mascarpone: A desert ingredient, kind of sweet cream cheese, I think.
Taupe: A color, kind of a brown, I think, although I don’t know what kind.
Peony: Misspelling of pony? Oh, wait, some kind of flower, although I don’t know what kind.

75 So Much for Subtlety June 20, 2014 at 7:10 pm

That would be a truss, not a tress. Which I would use (or rather not use) to refer to women’s hair.

A peony is a type of flower common in East Asia. There is a Chinese play named after it. I would not recommend it for my worst enemy.

76 joan June 20, 2014 at 6:18 pm

They seem to be saying that solenoid, which is a part for car, and mach, which is a measure airplane velocities, are a scientific terms but names of flowers are not.

77 jimmy June 20, 2014 at 11:43 pm

Nice point.

78 Hayabusa June 26, 2014 at 9:11 am

And, gee, here I was all this time thinking that airplanes and cars were both forms of transportation.

Stupid me.

79 Your Husband's Cane June 20, 2014 at 6:50 pm

Is there an age component to the word recognition? I don’t have the book handy, but I’m pretty sure that a cat in one of the Harry Potter books is described as having a “bottlebrush tail”. Female author, but I’ve never heard that the readership tended strongly toward one sex or the other.

80 slip June 20, 2014 at 7:06 pm

I recognized peony as a type of burst pattern in a firework, and I recognized the taupe because I once briefly owned a taupe-colored jeep.

81 Bill June 20, 2014 at 8:04 pm

I challenge the findings of this study:

Ask any red blooded man:

Do you understand what a flouncy and bouncy taffeta bodice is and they will tell you,

You betcha.

82 Mesa June 20, 2014 at 8:36 pm

Bill took his flouncy taupe codec downstairs – as a biped he was well within his right to take a bottlebrush to it – maybe even a scimitar. The codec had shown too much cleavage and excessive attention to its tresses and he was having none of it. This flouncing stuff was over for good. He wiped the mascarpone from his face, kicked the planter filled with wisteria his wife had made at her lame adult-ed class, and pondered his potential new existence as a kevlar solenoid should he now take action. Moving quickly, he grabbed his claymore and excised the offending bodice at mach speed in a decisive rejection of the impending bolshevism. Now he planned his escape. Alertly chugging a bottle of progesterone, he wrapped himself in a tafetta scarf, started his humvee and headed for parts unknown. He may not have been a golem, but his dreadnought had clearly sailed.

83 Bill June 20, 2014 at 9:23 pm


84 Ron H. June 21, 2014 at 4:09 am

Hm. Just one question: was that a “lame (adult-ed class)” or a “(lame adult-ed) class”?

85 Casey June 20, 2014 at 9:13 pm

When n = 60,000, by random chance you are going to get some hits at the p<0.05 level.

This is a good example of the validity of published, peer-reviewed papers in fields like psychology and economics being about 0.05

86 Steve Sailer June 20, 2014 at 9:18 pm

No, because the words where there are huge sex differences (e.g., scimitar) are obviously legitimate rather than inexplicable randomness.

87 Bill June 20, 2014 at 10:18 pm

Often, academic studies have little relevance in the real world.

This study is an exception.

It tells you not to name a woman’s perfume


By Coty.

88 JWatts June 21, 2014 at 8:35 am

Maybe, but I bet you could name a tavern “The Flouncing Bodice”.

89 Bill June 21, 2014 at 10:18 am

+1 My dreadnought gets aroused just thinking about it.

90 Devil's Dictionary June 21, 2014 at 4:28 pm

+1 So does my claymore.

91 Mesa June 20, 2014 at 10:44 pm

Or instead of “Polo”, imagine “Donkey Basketball”.

92 Richard Mason June 20, 2014 at 11:11 pm

I once started a robotics company and called it the Golem Group. In my naivete, I thought that many people knew what a golem was: if only from Dungeons & Dragons.

I can now absolutely guarantee it is NOT true that 89% of men know what a “golem” is.

Probably most of that 89% thought they were recognizing a character from The Lord of the Rings.

93 andrew' June 21, 2014 at 6:00 am

I would be like “stone golem or mud golem?”

94 Matt June 21, 2014 at 4:28 am

In terms of words women and men use, the most diagnostic in predicting gender (for a unrepresentatively youthful sample!) are

kinship related positive emotion terms and words that portray them as unformidable (women)


conflict terms, large scale political terms and words that help them portrary themselves as formidable (males)


That doesn’t mean that’s what they feel* but that’s certainly what they seem to use communication relatively more for – women for building and maintaining kinship and nurturance relationships and appearing unthreatening, men for building and maintaining (and defusing?) competitive and political relationships and appearing too dangerous to mess with.

*More on this – women seem to use more positive emotion words, yet may not necessarily feel more positive. You see higher diagnoses of depression and anxiety in women and comparable levels of anger. However, women are more committed to not stressing out their support, even as they generally tend to be more mutually supportive, so you see this kind of communication bias. In the same way, men may not actually *feel* more bellicose.

95 Baeowulf June 21, 2014 at 5:37 am

I will claymore your claymore with my claymore.

96 Justin Millar June 21, 2014 at 6:00 am

Weird that women are less likely to understand “Bolshevism”. That doesn’t seem to fit with the other words on the male list.

97 JWatts June 21, 2014 at 8:37 am

Bolshevism has a pretty strong relationship with killing, neh?

98 Matt June 21, 2014 at 8:47 am

Men tend to have more political-economic interest than women. Strange that this word in particular slipped into the top twelve, though.

99 Claudia June 21, 2014 at 10:25 am

I stil think this looks like a sample of male gamers and female Pinterest users … the probabilities attached to a lot of these words look strange to me. I suspect differences would emerge in a representative sample too but it might not be as stark. Oh and even in this research I bet the different by gender words are tiny fraction of all the recognized words (we are more alike than we are different).

100 Marie June 23, 2014 at 11:34 am

Women pinterest users — that made me laugh — pretty spot on.

101 battleship June 23, 2014 at 10:55 am

Definition of DREADNOUGHT
1: a warm garment of thick cloth; also : the cloth

102 Marie June 23, 2014 at 11:35 am

Can’t believe I almost missed this comment thread. Brilliant.

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