Rogue Words from A to Z: Furthering Femininity in Fantasy

A to Z Letter FWho here gets irritated at how women are drawn on fantasy book covers?

It’s better than it used to be, but I still run across ridiculous illustrations of supposed swordswomen who would be killed in their first fight because their armour doesn’t cover all their vulnerable parts.

I’d like to use this terrible state of affairs to help explain when you should use farther vs. further.

Farther is used to describe actual physical distances.

Further is used to describe figurative distances.

To show the difference, let’s imagine a one-sided conversation between an illustrated woman and her book cover artist.

Woman: You know I can run farther in these impractical high-heeled boots than you ever could in your sensible footwear. Not that I want to. Seriously, who wears these things?

Artist: Hears nothing. Too busy focusing on the book details. Hmm, maybe the heels aren’t high enough…

Woman: If you push this any further, I’ll be forced to kick you where it hurts. Then you’ll be sorry for giving me these boots.

Artist: Looks up and frowns. After a brief pause, shakes his head irritably, then gets back to work.

Woman: You’re not good at listening, are you. Didn’t you read the book blurb? We’re travelling farther than anyone else has ever journeyed before, through freezing wastelands and frost giant-infested mountains. What possessed you to give me a skimpy top that I wouldn’t be caught dead in? And I will be dead if I wear that. I wouldn’t last through the night, let alone through my first fight!

Artist: Examines the drawing closely. Exclaims in triumph and starts adding a necklace that dangles between her bare cleavage.

Woman: You have a lot further to go in your understanding of women, pal. The modern definition of femininity includes practical clothing and jewelry that won’t strangle me while I’m kicking butt. So put a coat on me already. Or I quit!

Artist: Starts wondering if the cleavage is big enough. Maybe a skimpy vest to help emphasize those curves?

Woman: That’s it, I’m out. I’ll be somewhere far, far away. So don’t come looking for me.

Artist: Blinks at a suddenly empty page. Closes his eyes, then looks again. Maybe not quite an empty page. In tiny letters scrawled at the bottom of the page, he sees a message: These boots are made for walking…

Bonus Word: Femininity

One of my readers has noted that femininity is difficult to spell, and that it’s easy to write feminity. An interesting tidbit you may not know: Back in the fourteenth century, both of these spellings were used. Over time, femininity has become the standard. Probably because it matches the number of syllables in the corresponding word masculinity.

So if you accidentally spell feminity, you can take comfort in the idea that you are right, but have the bad luck to be living in the wrong century. πŸ™‚


Note: This post has a North American slant. In British English, further is often used for both meanings.

This post is dedicated to Lori MacLaughlin and Ameena.

Definitions are from Garner’s Modern American Usage.

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post, where I will grapple with the ghastly letter G…


Β© Sue Archer and Doorway Between Worlds, 2015

63 thoughts on “Rogue Words from A to Z: Furthering Femininity in Fantasy

  1. I had no idea that there was a difference between farther and further, but now I know further is a figurative distance indicator.

    That’s also cool to know about femininity and feminity. (I want to make sure I stay in this century.)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, I do get irritated at how women are drawn on fantasy book covers! If the women protagonist needs to fight, run, travels through rogue land and all weather manifestations, she needs to wear protecting apparel.
    I enjoyed the dialogue between women and artist! Your bonus word was nicely tied in with the subject matter. Keep those bonus word coming! Learning words and discussing Fantasy book – cannot ask for more in one post πŸ™‚ thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Anabel, this post does have a bit of a North American slant…my understanding is that in British English, further is sometimes used to describe physical distance as well as figurative.

      And I’m waiting for the day I can stop being irritated at these things, but I’m afraid that day will be a long time coming…


  3. Another awesome short. I thought of you today when I was having trouble spelling cannibalism (nevermind why…. I’m a writer!) My computer wouldn’t recognize it at all until I spelled it correctly. But double consonants always trip me up. πŸ™‚

    Have you ever seen Chainmail Bikini Squad? I think you might enjoy it.

    Alex Hurst, A Fantasy Author in Kyoto
    A-Z Blogging in April Participant

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ugh, I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but for me it’s an instant turn off. Forever annoyed with how female characters are depicted on book/comic book covers, film posters, and in video games.

    Thank you for the tip on farther/further, I’ll remember it!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m with you on the book covers. It’s not just that it’s sexist, it’s also as cheesy as hell. I understand that sex sells but those Harry Potter books shifted a bucketload and I didn’t see anyone in a bikini on the cover.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They are cheesy! (Yikes…trying to imagine Hermione in a bikini, and that’s just yucky!) A good book should be able to stand on its own merits. When I see these types of covers, I tend to be suspicious of the quality of the writing.


  6. Sometimes I do get the two confused.

    It really does aggravate me when I see so many women who are supposed to be superheroes or a fighter of some kind with cleavage out to here and there crotches nearly showing. It’s terrible how people view women, and how everyone thinks this will sell.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you loved the boots! That one just popped into my head as I was writing it. I love learning about the history of words, because there’s always something surprising to dig up. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hello,

    I do use femininity, but I’m still from a different century πŸ™‚ Enjoyed all your posts, especially the braid/plait one – for me, braid is brayed but plait is platt. Portrayals of women in many places annoy me, not just on book covers. Well illustrated point and liked the humour. Thanks for some great reads.

    Best wishes,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Welcome, Nilanjana! I think many of us are from a different century. πŸ™‚ Thanks for letting me know that plait is platt for you – it seems there are a lot of variations with this word. I’m so glad you liked my posts. I appreciate you commenting!


  8. You are so talented! I need to read your “about” section again. You would be such an excellent high school English teacher.

    i did not know the difference between “farther” and “further”. One of my favorite phrases from my
    favorite part of one of my favorite books is: “Come further up, come further in”

    “β€œI have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…Come further up, come further in!” ― C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much! I have done some training in a business environment, but I haven’t had the opportunity to be an English teacher. πŸ™‚

      I love the Chronicles of Narnia, and I remember that line. (Being British, C.S. Lewis would naturally use ‘further’ for everything.)

      Liked by 1 person

  9. This almost reminded me of the Daffy Duck cartoon when he is having it out with the one drawing him.

    Equal rights starts with equal syllables! Or something like that. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  10. The difference between farther and further is something I’m aware of, but I’m not sure it’s actually taken hold in my brain yet. So your post is a great reminder!

    And, yes, the metal bikinis are annoying. They’re also prevalent in the gaming world (I imagine they’re prevalent anywhere that’s fantasy-related in general). But it is, like you say, getting better. And that’s a good thing. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Oh I didn’t know that was how to differentiate farther and further! I’ve been using further in both cases till now – oops!
    And yes I find it incredibly annoying how women can be portrayed on fantasy book covers. To be fair, I often find it irritating how they are portrayed inside the books too – but that’s a whole other issue πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In British English, further is considered acceptable for both uses, so I wouldn’t worry!

      And I second you on how women are portrayed on the inside of books…that would be a really long post! πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

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