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Shouting, screaming, shrieking and Yelling...

PostPosted: Wed Jan 17, 2007 2:38 am
by clknaps
And now for something completely different...

Do you agree or disagree with the following critique I received (not from this forum, in person):

Men shout, occasionally yell, only scream when they are being tortured, and they never, ever shriek.

Woman scream and shriek, only shout when they happy, and rarely yell.

Children shout when they are happy, yell when they are mad, shriek when they are excited or scared, and scream when they are scared.


Then one of my sentences was changed:

Marcus screamed a warning to his companions as he drew his saber...
was changed to:
Marcus shouted a warning to his companions as he drew his saber...

Personally, I was a little stunned. I'd never heard of words being assigned "genders" before, unless you count that old poem:

Horses sweat; men perspire; women only glow,

which I pretty much though was hysterical nonsense the first time I read it.

Now I do love the nuances and subtle variations of the written word, and I do agree that the two sentences listed above are, in fact, different.

So my question is, as a writer, do you find yourself subconsciously or consciously assigning gender to specific words as was suggested to me above? If that is the case, are they other such "genderized" words I should know about?

I will shriek in joy upon reading your responses, CLK

Re: Shouting, screaming, shrieking and Yelling...

PostPosted: Wed Jan 17, 2007 11:26 am
by Qray
I suppose as a general rule, that could be true. However, like they say, there are always exceptions to the rules. Look at that whole "i-before-e-thing."

I guess it would depend on the feeling of the scene and what emotion your trying to convey.

I was recently writing something in which had one soldier patting the other on the back. It was suppose to have a feeling of camaraderie to it, but someone else that read it said "what are these guys, a bunch of poofs?"

So IMO, I hadn't done my job in letting the reader get a feel for the mood of the scene.

For example, your changed sentences...

clknaps wrote:Then one of my sentences was changed:

Marcus screamed a warning to his companions as he drew his saber...
was changed to:
Marcus shouted a warning to his companions as he drew his saber...


I guess I never thought of it before, but I'd rarely have a male character scream. Men can scream, but I'd think it would be only under the most dire of circumstances. In the above example, Marcus shouting a warning could be about any kind of threat that may pop up, but to have him scream a warning would be grave indeed. Seeing a blade wielding nut job emerging from the shadows a foot away from his young child or something. The sheer magnitude of the situation drawing out a scream instead of a shouted warning.

Then again, it can also lend weight to a character's character. An seasoned soldier may never scream no matter how dire the situation, while an inexperienced trooper may more readily succumb to emotion. This is a way further show the character's character.

To answer your question, I'd have to say that I do "genderize" words in my writing, but have been doing so subconsciously and this surprises me as I hadn't realized that I'd been doing it. Veeery interesting, I wonder what Freud would make of this...

PostPosted: Thu Jan 18, 2007 9:37 pm
by Magus
In John Irving's brilliant novel A Prayer for Owen Meany the title character only ever shouts. It's revealed sometime through the narrative that his voice box is fixed into a perpetual state of shouting, and to show this Irving only ever writes Owen's dialogue in all capital letters.

It's just one example, but I think that your general points on how people talk greatly over-simplify voice intricacies and will likewise greatly hamper any experimental possibilities that you might have otherwise taken. Don't limit yourself to those, in other words. If you want to limit what you can do in writing, stick to sonnets. Literature would not be where it is today if individuals didn't experiment with the craft, take risks in their writing or go against commonly accepted conventions. James Joyce (Ulysses) and William Faulkner (The Sound and the Fury) helped pioneer Stream-of-Concious writing; Mary Shelley (Frankenstein) did the same for science-fiction and Wilkie Collins (The Moonstone) did the same for detective stories. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings) alone is responsible for the current state of the entire fantasy genre.

PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 1:55 am
by aldan
Personally, the idea of verbs being pigeonholed into gender roles bothers me. I feel that males and females can and will shriek, but it depends upon the individual character who's venting....

For example, a younger man whose voice is a tenor may, if falling off a cliff, not yell at all, or he may shriek or scream. To me, shrieking and screaming have more emotional force than yelling; yelling mentally sounds less high-pitched, more from the bottom of the gut. An older tenor would likely not shriek, but would probably scream if he were to do one or the other. A baritone might shriek, but it would likely come out sounding like a lower-pitched scream rather than a shriek. A bass I just can't see shrieking, and the scream would sound almost like a yell.

That's the way I'd picture it, anyway.

PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2007 7:50 am
by berry
I always assumed that shouting was for anger or generally to be heard, screaming is for pain and fear. A shriek is more descriptive of surprise or frustration. Yelling is just an American version of shouting, isn't it?
I didn't think any one of them were to do with how high or low a person voice was or whether they were male or female.
What does it mean when one says 'a man will only scream under the most dire of circumstances? I think if that sentence is actually unpacked it will lead to whole lot of sexual discrimination applicable to both sexes.

PostPosted: Wed Mar 07, 2007 1:35 pm
by aldan
"Sexual discrimination"? *aldan shakes his head*

"Gender stereotyping" would be more accurate, I'd say. Oh, and as Q said, there are always exceptions to rules, and I shall add that stereotypes fall into that exceptions formula as well.

PostPosted: Wed Mar 07, 2007 4:04 pm
by Bread Butterbeard
I agree with aldan on this, "Gender stereotyping" is a better way to describe it, more than anything else.

Does that make it right? no probably not but as people and how our language has evolved nothing has occurred for us to change how we stereotype the genders.

If im wrong feel free to correct my above statements.

PostPosted: Thu Mar 08, 2007 2:41 pm
by aldan
Really, while stereotyping gender roles and whatnot is wrong, I feel that we should never simply speak of men and women as being completely the same in all manners but physical resemblance. Women and men simply do not generally think alike. Now, some will say that is because of the way they're brought up, but I feel that women and men, no matter the manner in which they're raised, will think in different ways.

I care not if I am racked because of it, since pain is simply a way of life, but women tend to focus much more on the way they and others appear and feel, while men seem to focus much more on what they do. Now as for the attraction between the sexes, women seem to focus on what men say while men focus on how women appear. It's odd, but makes sense on thinking about it.

PostPosted: Fri Mar 09, 2007 7:26 am
by berry
I would have to agree, you are both right gender stereotyping is a much better way to say it. I didn't feel as though there was any malice or purposeful discrimination going on though. I think it is important to look at those stereo types and unpack them rather than just adhere to them and use them. Yes men and women are different but how they are different is often misunderstood and the stereotypes help keep those misunderstandings in place and leave many of us continually un-represented in many forms of media. Stories aren't just entertainment, they tell how to live and why whether they are fantasy or not. So when it comes to fantasy why do so many authors stick to gender stereotypes when they could set themselves and us free?

PostPosted: Wed Mar 21, 2007 6:25 pm
by orena
Pigeonholing words for a singular purpose is annoying, even if it has nothing to do with gender issues because it makes them harder to write with when I constantly need to remember those rules revolving around them. I would much rather judge a word's effectiveness on a sentence to sentence basis rather then using a static rule about it.

And women can and will yell, I've seen it in real life.

PostPosted: Mon Apr 30, 2007 8:23 am
by SirJill
All right, so I really don't like assigning genders to words, but in this case, I'm kind of leaning toward it.

And here's why: connotation.

There are certain ideas attached to words which one won't find in the dictionary. The word "gay" is a good example; a standard dictionary definition will tell you something along the lines of 'happy' or 'joyful'. However, in modern usage, if you ask someone what it means, most of the time you will get that definition along with 'homosexual'. The GLBTQ community (but specifically the homosexual community) has worked the claim the word as their own. And, I would say, they have. At the same time, however, there is yet another connotation, which is (much to my displeasure) used among younger people. The word "gay" has turned into a synomym for something bad, negative or unsatisfactory. For example: "That english assignment tonight is so gay."

Shout, shriek, scream, yell all have diffrent connotations and I would say that you ought to use them according to those connotations, which, unfortunately, seem to be attached (sometimes, mind you) to genders.

For example: a shriek is defined as "a loud, sharp, shrill cry" (1). Now, as a general rule, women's voices tend to be higher than most men's. This would imply that men would indeed shriek when they are in pain/being tortured. However, that does not set it in stone.


A shout could be anything from a warning, a tone used in an argument, or even a loud noise to get someone's attention (Cocky I'm shouting at you!).

Ack, my time has been cut short. Basically those are my thoughts. I think you ought to decide for yourself, but I think you should also take a careful look at the connotations.

PostPosted: Mon Apr 30, 2007 8:48 am
by RHFay
Hello all!

Personally, I wouldn't want to be pigeon-holed into using only certain words depending on gender. I think it depends much more upon the individual and the situation. Certain male characters can shriek in certain situations, and certain female characters can shout in certain situations. Don't box yourself in by following something that may or may not even be correct.

Think about the situation your character is in, and think about the character's characteristics. Then determine which is the best word to use. Also, maybe stir things up by using a wider vocabulary, but make sure the word fits the character and the situation.

By the way, I've known some very masculine women and feminine men in my time, so I definitely think it depends more upon the individual than upon their gender alone.)

Cheers!