In the land of Nod

I'm rather late with this month's column, but it's considered bad form to apologise for this, as it draws attention to the fact, so I won't do so...

There's an interesting phrase which suggests that somebody is asleep: we say that someone is in the land of Nod. Sometimes this is a neutral phrase; sometimes it implies criticism. It's a pun: a play on words, recalling the place to which Cain was banished after he had murdered his brother Abel. Cain was banished to the land of Nod, east of Eden. (This, of course, inspired another famous phrase too.) The play of words is on "nod", soemthing that you will do when you fall asleep in front of the television or at a boring meeting. I don't think that Cain got too much sleep, however, as the guilt of his crime stayed with him.

People and women

I certainly don't want to delve into the moral rights and wrongs of either of the issues here: my issue here is grammatical, not moral or ethical. I look at morals and ethics elsewehere on this site and elsewhere on the web.

First, there's the extraordinary phrase heard over and over again from the lips of those not only in favour of but also opposed to the issue. We hear talk about "homosexuals and lesbians" - this talk, sadly, doesn't make too much sense. In this case, "homo-" comes from the Greek and means "the same" and can be contrasted with "hetero-" which means "different". So when we talk of "homosexuals" we mean those whose preference is partners of the same sex. We're not saying anything about what sex they are. So when we talk about "homosexuals and lesbians", it's similar to talking about "people and women".

By the way, "male" is my sex, not my gender. "Gender" is a grammatical term and determines, among other things, whether a French noun can be prefixed with "le" or "la", or a German noun with "der", "die" or das".

I'm also not suggesting (here) whether or not it is appropriate to take vaccines and apply them to people as a method of generating immunity from disease. However, I suggest that those opposed to it, or who question its efficiency, should be referring to it as "vaccination" rather than "immunisation". I contend that "immunisation" suggests that it is effective in causing immunity, which is presumably not what they want to convey.

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