Maneurism (noun): a volatile male reaction to stress, characterized by grunting, excessive swearing, and pounding inanimate objects. As in, If they’re sold out of Rolling Rock, Billy will have a maneurism.
Man words have sacked the English language. In order to manscape, we must wear mantyhose and manscara and get manzilian waxes. If we’re ever to man up, we must take mancation and shop for mantiques. Mark Peters, a lexicographer at Good, tried to make sense of this trend.
In “It’s A Man’s World: A Linguistic Fix for Fears of Unmanliness,” Peters explains how adding the “man” prefix to words achieves one of two goals: (1) it can render a stereotypically feminine product manly or (2) make something uber-macho.
Those man-words are basically saying, “This is girl stuff, but for guys.” Other man-words emphasize how mega-manly something is, even if it lacks a womanly history. Here, “man” functions like a “girls keep out” sign on a tree house.
No man would buy a brassiere or a girdle, but a manssiere or a mirdle? That’s apparently fine. Why eat a sandwich or use a bar of soap when you could have a Manwich and clean up with some man soap?
What drives this advertising may be something darker than fun with words. Peters interviewed ad expert Nancy Friedman, who claims:
“Men feel uncomfortable (threatened?) about buying and using these products, which have strong feminine associations” and therefore “need to be told in NO UNCERTAIN TERMS that these girly or gay-ish products are OK for men. Nothing more subtle than the word MAN will suffice.”
In 2008, Peters wrote a similar article for The Boston Globe. In it he interviewed Michael Adams, an English professor at Indiana University, who tied the man vocabulary to a “cultural anxiety over issues like gay marriage and partner benefits, etc., issues that prompt some to identify themselves and others more aggressively.”
More women are working than men for the first time in American history. The male identity isn’t as simple as it once was. Man words represent a desire to return to a time of more well-defined gender roles.
On the flip side, I can’t think of any “woman words.” There’s powder puff football, but that’s about it. If she drinks a light beer, it’s a light beer. If he drinks a light beer, he’s a woman.