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Robin Lakoff
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Robin Lakoff was born in Brooklyn, and received A.B. and Ph.D. degrees from Harvard. She has been a professor of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley since 1972 and is currently a professor of linguistics emerita.

The topics she teaches and writes on include language and gender; the politics of language; language and popular culture. More academically her work comes under the rubrics of sociolinguistics (the relationship between the language choices available to speakers and their social circumstances) and pragmatics (the relationship between language form and language function).

She has written or edited 10 books, among them Language and Woman's Place; Face Valu: The Politics of Beauty; Talking Power; and The Language War.

She lives in Berkeley, California, with her cat, who wishes to remain anonymous.

Entries by Robin Lakoff

Words Count

(1) Comments | Posted April 8, 2014 | 5:49 PM

In recent years, intelligent and sophisticated people have begun to realize that extending literacy, suffrage, and other basic forms of empowerment to women in less developed countries is more than a kindly gesture of generosity toward women: these changes make it possible for countries to develop economically, socially, and politically....

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The Meaning of 'Bossy'

(77) Comments | Posted March 13, 2014 | 3:41 PM

When I first learned about Sheryl Sandberg's campaign to "Ban Bossy," I was of two minds. (As a recovering academic, that's what I do.) On the one hand, I agree completely with her analysis: the word is almost completely restricted to the description of powerful girls or women; it is...

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Christine Quinn and Gender Politics

(12) Comments | Posted September 13, 2013 | 4:48 PM

In the aftermath of Christine Quinn's resounding defeat in New York City's Democratic primary Tuesday (normally, winning is tantamount to victory in the general election), there is just one thing I want to say:

I am willing to bet you $10,000 dollars that tonight, Charlie Rose will convene an all-...

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My Hero, Chris Christie

(1) Comments | Posted May 10, 2013 | 11:39 AM

Theologians tell us to hate the sin, but love the sinner. I confess to having those feelings about New Jersey governor Chris Christie. I hate the politics, but love the politician.

As a progressive, I detest most of Christie's political positions -- on unions, education, reproductive rights, you name it,...

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Language: More Than Just Words

(0) Comments | Posted February 10, 2013 | 9:35 PM

Click here to read an original op-ed from the TED speaker who inspired this post and watch the TEDTalk below.

Deb Roy's video, "The Birth of a Word," is truly extraordinary. The methods its author has developed offer new ways to examine and understand the complex...

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How to Never Win Another Election

(62) Comments | Posted November 27, 2012 | 3:27 PM

Suppose you have just been defeated in a tough political contest. Suppose further that it was one that, in your heart, you expected and felt entitled to win.

Suppose in addition that most serious analysts attributed your loss, to a significant extent , to your antagonizing several key groups of...

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Talk to the Women!

(1) Comments | Posted November 8, 2012 | 2:25 PM

Americans are rightly proud of their increasingly democratic form of government. But too often, we call ourselves a "democracy" without asking just what that means, or ought to mean. If we were to do so, we might discover that we are less democratic than we think. Occasionally, too, candidates for...

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Was Debate One a Pyrrhic Victory?

(1) Comments | Posted October 5, 2012 | 12:41 PM

Debate One is over, and the pundits have declared Mitt Romney the victor. The only remaining question is: was his victory overwhelming, or did Romney only win because Obama didn't?

That is today's story. But will it be the way we tell it after November 7?

On the surface it...

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Gaffology 101

(5) Comments | Posted September 19, 2012 | 1:35 PM

The world of the early 21st century is one divided by factionalism and suspicion, and connected by new channels of communication that are uneditable, instantaneous and anonymous. Therefore the most important thing a modern president must know in order to be effective is how to use language, both interpretively and...

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Obama in 2012? No, We Can't!

(19) Comments | Posted September 6, 2011 | 2:56 PM

Well, the President has been rolled again -- this time about the scheduling of his speech on jobs.

While the rescheduling of even a major speech may seem a triviality, especially compared with prior cases of being rolled (the raising of the debt ceiling, to give just one example), it...

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The Semantics Of "Submission"

(143) Comments | Posted August 14, 2011 | 8:33 PM

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make a word mean so many different things."

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master -- that's all."

President Obama has been criticized by both left and right for poor communication. That may be true, but the fault...

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Why Women Aren't Pigs

(26) Comments | Posted May 25, 2011 | 1:44 PM

Because of the DSK and Schwarzenegger scandals, there has been probably more than enough public consideration in the last week or two of questions like: Are powerful men pigs and if so, why? But I have yet to see any discussion of a related and relevant question: Why are powerful...

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The Republican Ignorance Agenda

(46) Comments | Posted March 30, 2011 | 9:30 PM

Conservative Republicans have been very busy lately making inroads into teaching and learning at all levels -- a curious program, especially at a time when more serious voices have been urging America to strengthen its investment in science and technology in order to remain globally competitive in the twenty-first century....

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Republicans Are Becoming Democrats

(0) Comments | Posted March 2, 2011 | 7:19 PM

As a Democrat and a liberal, I used to worry about the party becoming ineffectual. Like others, I urged party members to man up, talk tough, avoid falling into the trap of becoming the girlie-party. But I have stopped worrying. We no longer have to worry. The Republicans have --...

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Education: Yes, but Why?

(19) Comments | Posted February 2, 2011 | 7:44 AM

As an educator, my first response to the State of the Union was delight because the president focused so much of his discussion on the importance of education to our economy, present and future. We can only "win the future," he told us, "if we improve our educational system and...

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Head, Heart, Guts and Gonads: Getting Down and Dirty in the Rhetoric War

(262) Comments | Posted December 17, 2010 | 3:17 PM

It is pretty obvious that progressives will not fight for their beliefs. The very fact that we have jettisoned "liberal" in favor of "progressive" (because some people made fun of the former term) illustrates the point. But what is even more unfortunate is that, even when progressives fight, we cannot...

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Election 2010: Man Pants and the Girlie-Man

(0) Comments | Posted November 7, 2010 | 5:26 PM

Now that the midterm elections are over, it is time to decide what they were about. The right answer, of course, is many things. The economy, to be sure. The future direction of the nation, definitely. But I think they were also about something else, the signs of which are...

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It's Not As Bad as All That

(27) Comments | Posted November 5, 2010 | 5:56 PM

If you want to succeed as a pundit, first of all you have to man up: eschew wussy ambiguity and make flat out all-or-nothing statements. So it is not surprising that the election has been described, pre- and post- variously as a "bloodbath," a "cataclysm," and a "shellacking" for the...

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How Not to Give an Oval Office Speech

(0) Comments | Posted June 17, 2010 | 11:07 AM

The reviews of President Obama's Tuesday night Oval Office address are in, and they are decidedly tepid - like the response to many of his presidential speeches. But in this case the response is often one of puzzlement. The President had a golden opportunity to hit a home run: the...

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Day of the Women

(13) Comments | Posted June 10, 2010 | 2:25 PM

A remarkable number of women achieved success in today's primary elections. But what do their victories suggest about the current status of women in U.S. politics, and elsewhere, at this time?

I think there are several possible answers, any, all, or none of which may be true.

First, the predominance...

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